A recent highly personal attack upon one mum's quest to brighten up her kid's school lunch caused a bit of a stir. Our verdict? It's nice to see someone care enough to make the effort.
Packed lunches are things that many of us grew up with, and indeed many of our children will as well. Remember the sense of excitement when you used to open it up and see whether your mum had put in a little surprise for you? A chocolate biscuit? A slice of cake? Well, certainly one blogger never used to get that surprise. A recent article was a harsh criticism of Grace Hall, whose blog and twitter feeds get lots of views from people looking to make their children's lunch just that little bit more exciting. Grace is something of a food artist, helping to inspire some of us to make food a little more interesting for kids.
The article (now pulled but available here thanks to Yahoo caching) had a few choice quotes that show how mums view things differently.
Grace certainly goes the extra mile - perhaps further than many of us would. However, whilst not all of us will be able to achieve her level of artistic and culinary success, it gives us something to aim at. Just because I am not David Beckham doesn't mean that I shouldn't want to play football and nor should I criticise David for being "a bit sad" for wanting to kick a ball around with a bit of panache.
I'm not a fan of Japanese cuisine (yes - I am a fussy eater) but the Bento box is a great idea, splitting up the regular-shaped lunch box into little compartments. This allows mum or dad to put portions of different foods in each one and keeps them nicely separated. Remember the days when your cheese sandwich was contaminated with the flavour of the banana slices? Those days are now banished. Whilst Skip Hop isn't always the cheapest option, this Bento Pack comes complete with a freezer pack and six separate containers. Shop around though - there are lots of options out there.
The great thing about Grace's creations is that she has different themes all of the time. Doofy is a massive sheep fan and would love the one on the right. There's no limit to what you can do, as she adequately shows on her blog. Star Wars Day, TV characters etc are all fair game. A simple look at different fruit and veg will help you to realise that there are shapes in everything - tomatoes are spheres (or discs if sliced); celery sticks are rectangles etc etc.
Colourful foods catch children's attention
You only have to walk into a sweetshop to notice that companies use colours to attract children. Bright, gaudy colours are very important for establishing "brand awareness" and at the end of the day, a packed lunch is a meal made and prepared by Mum™. Getting them interested in healthy food early on is really important as it embeds good habits. Fruit and vegetables have great colours naturally.
You don't have to make a fancy lunch every day, but nothing is nicer to small children than a surprise. Let's face it, all that she is doing is taking the ingredients that SHOULD be going in anyway and arranging them nicely.
So back to the article...
"Has she no life?!" says Sally, a working mother of two. "It'll all be jumbled up by the time the kid gets to school. Then I bet he swaps them for Quavers..."
Sally - you are missing the point of the cunningly designed Bento Box! Though at least if you think that he can swap them then you at least understand that the lunches appeal to children!
Not really sure what the "working mother of two" dig was about either. Looking after children during the day takes time as well. Even working parents get an hour or two in the evening and can set the alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier once in a while.
"He will also get beaten up for being a mummy's boy."
Unlikely. It's more likely that his friends will be peering over his shoulder every lunchtime to see what he has got! That's how little boys operate - he is more likely to get beaten up for his lunch than because of it.
"But is faffing about with his sandwiches and turning his fruit into a work of art really going to help with fussy eating? Or is it just going to lead to a life of raised expectations and crushing disappointment?"
IT'S JUST A LUNCH!!!! You are reading waaaayyyy too much into it.
"There's something about this that sounds a bit sad – turning chores into creative opportunities because you have no other outlet."
Really? That one statement saddens me so much more than seeing someone making up a nice looking lunch. Doing something for your kid really shouldn't be a "chore" when it doesn't have to be - if you can make it fun then you should. It's nice that for Grace making lunch ISN'T a chore. And yes Jenny - I dance whilst doing the washing up to entertain my toddler. I also let him help me load the dishwasher. Sometimes I even let him hang out in the laundry basket.
"Get. A. Job."
I think at that point, my last shred of respect went right out of the window.
Come on, ladies - we all do things differently and the internet is fabulous because it lets us find inspiration and ideas. If you don't like her lunches, then start your own rival blog with pictures of how you enjoy that extra 15 minutes in the morning!
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