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Lunch Hurts.

Lunch hurts, lunch scars,
Lunch wounds, and marks,
Any heart, not tough,
Or strong, enough
To take a lot of pain,
Take a lot of pain
Lunch is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Lunch hurts, ooh ooh lunch hurts

Im young, I know,
But even so
I know a thing, or two
I learned, from you
I really learned a lot,
Really learned a lot
Lunch is like a flame
It burns you when its hot
Lunch hurts, ooh ooh lunch hurts

Some fools think of happiness
Blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess
They’re not foolin me

I know it isn’t true,
I know it isn’t true
Lunch is just a lie,
Made to make you blue
Lunch hurts, ooh,ooh lunch hurts
Ooh,ooh lunch hurts

I know it isn’t true,
I know it isn’t true
Lunch is just a lie,
Made to make you blue
Lunch hurts, ooh ooh lunch hurts
Ooh ooh lunch hurts
Ooh ooh…

(Sorry, Nazareth).

When I was a kid, we went home for lunch (not an option for me, a deprived latchkey orphan), we had hot lunch, or we had cold lunch. Hot lunch generally involved exotic foods never seen in the home, such as Hungarian Goulash and City Chicken. There was also a small carton of milk with silver pull-off tabs that read “homo,” much to our collective amusement. Cold lunch, for me, was packed by my father who favored Deviled Ham sandwiches or peanut butter, and felt that removing crusts was likely to cause us to lose all sense of morals and responsibility.

I have now been the packer of lunches for six (long) years. Sam did not historically favor hot lunch because it was both repellent and skimpy; a “serving” of carrot sticks was three baby carrots, and there were chicken nuggets that resembled nothing so much as tiny brown sponges for scrubbing miniature pots and pans. Ketchup was rationed to prevent abuse. More recently, the schools have moved to Healthy Lunches which are, in general, even more inedible than the unhealthy version. They tend to involve turkey hot dogs and pizza with wheat crust. If I were a better person, Sam would embrace these opportunities to load up on low-fat protein and fiber, but I am not, and he hates them.

If I were a better person, I would also be more enthused about packing cold lunch. Part of the problem is the high standard set by other mothers who are clearly reading Martha Stewart publications when they should be shopping or drinking. “Ted’s mom takes all the grapes off the stem and washes them and packs them in paper towels inside the plastic bag.” “Matt always gets Lunchables.” “Alan’s mom packs the meat and the bread separately and gives him those little packages of mayo and mustard so he can make his sandwich fresh and it doesn’t get mushy.” Bully for them.

There is also the issue of peanut allergies which, while real and somewhat terrifying, impose severe limitations on what can be packed in a lunch bag. Peanut butter is out, baked goods with peanut butter are out, peanuts are obviously verboten, and its also necessary to scan labels to be sure that cookies, crackers and other unhealthy starch snackage is not manufactured in a place where there even are peanuts. Since a peanut butter sandwich is the easiest thing to throw together when one has, hypothetically, neglected to construct a lunch until five minutes before its time to head off to school, the allergy situation is a blow to Bad Moms everywhere.

Last week, I bought ham, bread, juice boxes, Cheez-Its, pickles, baby carrots and bananas. I though a ham sandwich with three fruit-vegetable servings and some crackers was a pretty good lunch. When I was feeling benevolent, I would throw in the chocolate mints I got with my lunch bill the day before, or a pack of gum. I meticulously packed the bread, ham and mustard separately, and froze the juice bag to keep the sandwich from growing lethal bacteria that would cause my only child to drop dead during Computer Lab. For five golden days, it worked.

This past Monday, I flaunted the fates and packed the lunch so beloved the previous week. When I asked how lunch was on the way home, there was a long silence. “Well, that ham isn’t really my favorite.” (It was the same ham). “The pickles were weird, too. I traded them for Kellan’s Powerade.” So. The ham was no good, the pickles were trashed, and I had nothing else to put in sandwiches besides peanut butter. (See Peanut Butter, above).

I found myself, at 10:00 on consecutive nights, frantically hunting through refrigerator and cupboards for things that would taste good to Sam and not result in the relinquishment of my parental rights to Child Protective Services. Was that apple too old? If it turned brown, would he just throw it away? Do oyster crackers count as a food? If I used Tahini in a sandwich instead of peanut butter would it still kill the kids with allergies? Its made with sesame seeds; is that like a nut? So I’m on the Internet checking out whether Tahini triggers anaphylaxis in people with nut allergies, and I have packed a bag with Chiclets, a bag of crushed oyster crackers from soup lunch at a restaurant, two juice bags, a suspect apple and a chunk of Parmesan cheese. I give up, in despair. He won’t eat the damned Tahini, anyway.

The next day after school, he told me it was “the best lunch ever.” Wednesday and Thursday I continued to make what I came to think of as Pioneer lunches (because I was foraging) and included things like hard boiled eggs, leftover barbecued chicken in a tortilla, and a colorful assortment of Nerds and Mike & Ikes in lieu of fruit. Today I gave up, and his father took him something from McDonald’s.

I will work all of this out right around the time he gets his drivers’ license and a part-time job, and leaves school for lunch every day to take some undeserving but cute blond clarinetist type to Arby’s. Until then, I try to assuage the pain lunch has brought into my once idyllic life.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

8 responses »

  1. Ann, this post brings back so many memories of lunch at Kinawa and then at OHS. I remember getting my driver’s license and thinking it the height of cool to invite my friends to go to McDonalds instead of the school cafeteria. One of those friends was Diane Scott, a cute, blonde clarinetist (at least in middle school). Did I tell you this brought back so many memories? This is so real. Thank you.

  2. As a fellow foodie, there have been many, many days where it has wounded me to the core to pack, for my son, the same lunch I have packed for nearly 6 years. He only wants to eat the same thing, over and over. In fact, he subsists largely on two foods year round, namely PBJs and crepes with lemon and sugar.

    Reading this made me really glad I have a kid who, at least at lunchtime, wants the same danged meal every single day.

    And you know what’s easy about a kid who will only eat super fresh vegs and fruits? In summer, you send him out in to the garden and say “go eat!” and he goes and eats. Only he takes ALL the raspberries and green beans and leaves me none.

  3. Alice, you sound like you’re sending your horse out to pasture. laff

  4. Eric, you would love Alice’s son. She and I are raising the Perfect Men of the Future, right here in this very neighborhood. They’re cute, too.

    Alice, do you know how many people would love to have a kid who would even look at crepes or care whether veggies were fresh? One of these days, I am going to have him show me where the raspberries and green beans are in your garden. I like them warm from the sun. Think of me as a large and annoying bunny.

  5. Eric, you’re right — it is indeed grazing. Last year he was even willing to try a carrot since it was fresh from the garden.

    Oh, Ann, warm raspberries right off the bush are indeed the ultimate mouth-orgasm food. Ours may have gotten slaughtered in last year’s construction, but they will be back by next year. No matter how messy they look and how impossible they are to weed (because of the pricklers), the mate knows to plant lots. I will keep you posted! Meanwhile, extra herbs are being planted for you in the herb garden happily created by the hellish construction. Quick–figure out how to can sage! (Just kidding.) So as long as the bunnies don’t eat it all, the big bunny can come right over when she needs fresh thyme, rosemary, dill, sage, cilantro, parsley, oregano, or lavender for dinner. šŸ™‚

  6. Eric Williams

    Alice, that’s an herb garden Michael Chiarello would love (and I’m jealous). Our next door neighbor from years back let blackberry brambles take over his yard. I remember sneaking over (he was on a 3 month vacation) and picking enough blackberries to make two pies for a party we were having. Everyone raved. Sadly, the new neighbors tore out the blackberry bushes and replaced them with cactuses. People consider blackberry bushes here as invasive weeds. Go figure!

  7. imagineannie

    Alice, I am SO there, and we can’t can herbs, but we can freeze them. You know I’ve already been inhaling your Rosemary…why would anyone do drugs when they could just stand around smelling Rosemary? I ask you.

    Eric, who the heck takes out blackberries and replaces them with cacti? I’ll tell you who (she said, darkly) people. who. don’t. cook.

  8. Eric Williams

    I thought “cactuses” looked wrong. Of course, I should have remembered the plural is cacti. We have a stunning rosemary bush or shrub that overhangs the stairs up to the back yard (I live on a hill and the backyard is higher than the house) and whenever I go up, I always brush against the rosemary and look so silly sitting up there sniffing my shoulder where the aroma rubbed off. IT IS THE BEST.


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