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]