Saturday, September 12, 2009

Box Lunches

Today I present to you a NY Times article about Bento lunchboxes that raises the bar on mothering. Check it out:

With cookie cutters Ms. Chen makes her daughter star-shaped vegetables; and with decorative skewers, a plastic top hat and pieces of nori (dried seaweed), cherry tomatoes become smiley faced, mustachioed creatures.

What I resent about this article (aside from its making me look like a complete slacker, lunch-wise) is the implication that a meal needs to be cute in order to be palatable to our precious offspring. Listen:

“I have to make her food look like something she recognizes,” said Ms. Chen, 42, a stay-at-home mother in San Leandro, Calif. “If her boiled egg is shaped like a bunny and it is holding a baby carrot, she’ll eat it.”

I don't know about you, but trying to even imagine a "boiled egg...shaped like a bunny" makes my brain feel weird. Explain this to me, will ya? Her child recognizes a bunny, but not an egg? Could that be, perhaps, because her mother keeps dressing the egg up as something else? And why will this kid not eat an egg but happily consume a poor, defenseless bunny? Does anyone understand the above statement? Because I am getting confused.

Some bits of advice, then, born of my many years experience in the feeding of offspring (sometimes successfully, sometimes not):


If your child doesn't eat her lunch, that means she isn't hungry.

Believe me, hungry children do not need bunny-shaped comestibles; personally, I would just take the egg and douse it in ketchup . Also,

Spoiling your son with elaborately constructed meals to appeal to his fussy palate will earn you no points with your future daughter-in-law.

Picture it - 20 years from now, some sweet girl who was raised in a semi-normal fashion will place a plate with a sandwich and some potato chips in front of her husband (your son) and hear: "That's not how Mom used to do it." I mean, you do want to see your grandchildren, don't you? Finally,


The more you slice it, or present it, or cook it, the less your child will appreciate it.

I have cooked an uncountable number of meals for my children, pouring my heart and soul into the preparation of the food that will go to nourish their bodies. Their favorite meal, however? IKEA's frozen meatballs (heated up, of course) on a heaping bed of boiled spaghetti, covered with canned tomato sauce (but I bet ketchup would do in a pinch). That, my friends, will be what they fondly remember as Mom's "cooking."

I beg you, do not fall prey to this Bento fad. Myself, I'm too busy yelling at my children in public restrooms and photographing the contents of my refrigerator to have time to indulge in this particular culinary hobby. So you know you can count on me to resist the peer pressure to cute-sify my children's meals. But can the under-achieving mothers of America count on you? Will you help us keep the world safe for boring lunches?


Remember, if you Bento - the luncheonistas (and their adorable rice pandas) win.

[photo lifted from farm3.static.flickr.com]

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29 comments:

  1. As a lunch duty aide at an elementary school, I'm happy to say I've never seen a lunch like that. That is scary!

    I do see lots of kids not eating...sometimes they are not hungry, but sometimes they complain to me that "I don't like this" like I am a waitress and they are dissatisfied with their order. I smile and politely say, "Ask your parents to give you something different tomorrow." But I don't think they would want a bunny egg!

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  2. She prolly fashions her child's toilet paper wad into some origami flower too.

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  3. I think those Bento box things are sooooo cute, but I would never, ever, ever have the time or the inclination to actually make them for my kids. Plus, how can they eat that cute little panda bear?

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  4. ***Her child recognizes a bunny, but not an egg? Could that be, perhaps, because her mother keeps dressing the egg up as something else?***

    That was HIGH larious.

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  5. When we lived in Korea my daughter was friends with a girl whose mother would do that kind of stuff to her lunches and bring them. Every day. I mean really every day! The mother would leave her house 10 minutes before lunch and drop off a very lovingly decorated bento box for her precious daughter.
    FA-REEK!!! I was good if I remembered to give mine $2 for the day.
    That poor kids spouse!
    dawn

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  6. INSANE! I cannot begin to express the amount of crazy this is! My kids make their own lunch, I only cook one meal a day. And making a boiled egg into a bunny? She obviously only has one child...

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  7. Some people just have way too much time on their hands. See, if you slack from the start, then your kids never know they're missing the fancy-schmancy lunches. Just throw 'em a peanut butter sandwich and some carrot sticks and call it good. Put in a container of pudding if you're feeling especially generous that day.

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  8. EEWWWWWW!!! This women is freakin creepy!!

    Run away! Run away!!

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  9. Yes yes yes!! I just got an issue of Mothering from the library, not the latest issue, one or two back, and it had an article on bento lunches, and I thought, yep, insanity. I'm all for experiencing other cultures, but not the insane bits, y'know? Plus, I totally agree with you--why turn a kid into a picky eater? I don't even cut crusts off. If they don't want to eat the crusts, don't eat them, but don't expect me to trim them. And I am NOT breaking out the cookie cutters for sandwiches. What about all the wasted sandwich? How good is a bento lunch for the environment if you're throwing out the part of the sandwich that doesn't fit in the cookie cutter? Or is that mom's lunch, later on?

    Yeesh. I could go on and on and on.

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  10. This post made me doubt myself also, but in a different way - did I feed my kids lunch today? Hmmm...

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  11. OK, I always read but hardly ever comment these days, but seriously, this was TOO much. For one thing, my kids complain about me cooking them a hot breakfast. "Why don't you buy us some cereal!?" Do you think I'm going to spend my time on something like this when hot breakfast is under-appreciated? Second of all, I think it all plays into the entitlement issues kids have these days. Kids should not grow up expecting Mom to put that much (wasted) time, effort, and thought into their meals. (Beyond the normal planning, purchasing and cooking.) I'll tell ya how I'd give that kid her egg, and it wouldn't be pretty.

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  12. Holy crap, what's the world coming to?? I read on one mother's blog her description of how proud she was for winning the "stare-out competition" that her 5 yr old daughter "forced her into" over dinner---it ended at 10pm with the daughter losing. The mother allowed a 5 hour competition to take place because the daughter wouldn't eat her dinner. That means the daughter sat there sulking for 5 hours, and the mother allowed it to go on that long, thinking she was going to show the daughter a "thing or two." I ask you, what the hell happened to a smack and being sent to your room with no dinner if you wanna play stupid games? I still can't get over that....

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  13. a little too tightly wound i would say- she reminds me of the mother who even when her kids are in their 40s goes to their house to do the laundry to make sure they are folded right...eek

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  14. My poor child. He'll never get into a good college. And all because I didn't make his lunch let alone make it interesting. I see years of therapy ahead.

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  15. Are those really hot dog "flowers" in the front of that box?

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  16. There was a day when I probably would have considered this, but never fear - acting upon my consideration would never have happened. I'm currently considering making fun cupcakes for the kids each week but I think that'll only go as far as buying the book with fun cupcake decorating ideas in it. Making them seems like a lot of work.

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  17. One of my least favorite chores is packing my children's lunches...thinking about making bunnies out of eggs makes me want to stick a fork in my eye.

    P.S. There is no way in (well, you know) that my kids would eat seaweed. Would yours?

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  18. i am thanking my lucky stars that this is a trend that developed looooooooong after my kids were small enough to care.

    good lord! i hated making lunches as it was. bentos? please kill me.

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  19. Amen, sisters! Also keep in mind that this poor child will soon be a social outcast. I mean, what other kid will ever trade their Lunchables and Twinkies for any of that stuff she brings to school?

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  20. Mrs. Ohtobe's comment... ROTFL!!

    My future daughters-in-law will love me for the low standards I have set, because anything they do will be wonderful!
    My kids' favorite supper? Top Ramen, cooked with minimal water, with canned pork-n-beans stirred in at the end. I get thanked for this meal! (Not so much for anything that takes ever-so-much longer)

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  21. These are clearly people with only one child (and perhaps a healthy dose of resentment for only having one)

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  22. Sign me up for the Anti-Bento. I know for a fact there is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend preparing food for my family and the amount of food they'll eat--which is why we like our veg raw and au natural and our sandwiches WITH the crusts!

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  23. This post made me laugh! I do bento!! Last year I only had to make one a week, so I thought why not try it? :) This year I do one every day, so the cute little faces are a thing of the past, but I just can't get over how CA-UTE the little boxes are! I just throw leftovers in it, but it still makes me smile. I linked to you today- on my post about Bento!

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  24. Don't worry--I'm on your side. I am just impressed that they are GETTING lunches, so far every day. Phew! And most days there is a fruit in their lunch. I consider that practically bento-like in its effort.

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  25. ha ha ha, I thought the same thing--an egg is unrecognizable?

    I think Bento is seriously cute, and I have a strange part of myself that could become obsessed with it. It's probably for the best that I'm not willing to fork out the dough for the cute color coordinated bento lunchboxes I have been eyeing for 2 years now.

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  26. I thought I already commented on this, but I think instead I treated my husband to a long rant about "moms like those". Wish I could remember it now because I'm sure you would find it fascinating.

    Ha - lunchonistas!

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  27. I do not need to shape my son's food in order for him to personify it. The other night, he deemed his cut-up meat to be the "baby meat" while my big pieces were the "mommy meat" and the "daddy meat."

    By the way, I enjoy reading your blog when I feel like my life (with 3 kids 3 and under) is chaotic. Yours takes the cake, every time!

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  28. Never in a million years would I do this. To me this just falls into the scary trend of pampering our children to the point that they can't deal with real life and being adults.

    I can feel myself gearing up for a rant about how these pampered kids as late teens and young adults can't cope with real life, failure, and anything that doesn't go the way they think it should...I should stop now before I write an essay.

    ps - I actually know a Mother via Twitter who does this for her 5 year old

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