Not long ago, Paula posted about a preschool in Britain who took away a 2-year-old’s sandwich because it didn’t boast any lettuce or tomato. Last night, I packed up my own kids lunches, wrestling, as I always do, with what constitutes a “protein” (our school’s daily requirement) and slapping a few slices of lunch meat onto some bread (or, in one case, just into a container, as one child doesn’t eat sandwiches). Today’s NYT, with its spread of beautiful, veggie-based sandwiches, really brought it home: I almost never put any form of vegetable in my kids’ lunch.
Once in a while–usually when there’s no fruit in the house–I’ll include some sliced carrots, pepper or cucumber and ranch dressing (or, again for the weird child, ketchup). And that’s it. I have never added a slice of lettuce or tomato to a sandwich, never included a container of salad, never even considered basing a sandwich around the veggies themselves–and now I feel like it’s too late. They don’t think a sandwich includes those things. They believe a sandwich consists of meat, bread and mayo. They like ‘em minimal, tidy and with the crusts cut off–and after years of getting them back with the cheese peeled off, or with a single bite taken out of the crust free middle, I have conceded. They eat vegetables, and even salad, at dinner, but at lunch, especially knowing that when they’re done they get to go outside and play, I just can’t see them forking in the zucchini squash or squishing together an unmanageable-looking sandwich to take a bite. Nor can I see myself now, this late in the year, changing the lunch-packing system to amp up the green quotient. Am I really going to slice up an apple and a tomato?
Next fall, I will improve. With all of the impetus of a fresh new school year before us, maybe we will add “a veggie” to the current list of lunch-box musts (protein, fruit, snack, drink). It just sounds so complicated. My mom made five identical sandwiches at the beginning of the week, froze them and then stuck one in every day along with my pre-packaged bag of chips, my Coke and and my Twinkie. I’m pretty sure packing that lunch today would mean we’d have to switch schools.
Image Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times