Notes From the Farmers’ Market Chef

By Barbara Cornell

Pack your kid a superhero’s lunch. Image by adonis hunter/ahptical

We’ve kind of hit the doldrums of winter at about mid-February and I’m guessin’–just guessin’– that the mini lunchbox crowd has gotten a little tired of their usual lunch fare as have the parents who pack the lunchboxes. It has been a long time since I have been responsible for anyone’s lunch but my own, but I do remember the days when I would rather just throw my hands up and give the kids lunch money rather than make another bagged lunch for school.

Howard County Library System has some books full of ideas that might save the day! One thoroughly organized and well-written book is The Healthy Lunchbox: How to Plan, Prepare & Pack Stress-Free Meals Kids Will Love by Marie McClendon and Cristy Shauck, 2005. Lots of helpful sidebars and chapter intros and “over 60 nutritious recipes” are included. The recipes alone make this worth a check-out for your own lunch as well as the kids’.

I have mixed feelings about Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Anabel Karmel, 2007. Some of the recipes look wonderful and I’d like to see them on my dinner table, but in spite of the beautifully staged color photos, I’m not sure the author grasps the realities of the school lunch box. For her sticky drumsticks, a little “extra foil around the ends” might not be enough to keep hands cleanable. That said, her home made bars and muffins look unimpeachable!

How about something for the vegan family? Vegan Lunch Box, by Jennifer McCann, 2008, may be just the ticket with 130 “amazing animal-free lunches.” If you are used to eating vegan, none of the ingredients will throw you. McCann is also the author of Vegan Lunch Box Around the World and can be found at Vegan Lunch Box.

If you have the time and the inclination to, shall we say, “play with your food,” there is the too cute for words Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches by Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa, 2011. Here just about everything has a face and a name. A bento is a Japanese boxed lunch and since the Japanese say it is important to “eat with your eyes,” these are tiny little feasts for the eyes. Some of the ingredients may not be in your local market, but we have Lotte Plaza nearby and many small local stores that will have what you need.

My last suggestion is Chris Butterworth’s 2011 How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? This sounds like what your child might say if he just discovered that there is nothing in his box that he can trade away for a candy bar. It’s found in the children’s side of the library, aimed at 5-8 year-olds, and is actually subtitled “The Story of Food.” Its whimsical cartoon figures demonstrate how your apple juice, your carrot, and even your chocolate are grown and processed and finally make it into your lunch. Simple and sweet, this book ends with advice on a healthy plate (not exactly USDA’s “MyPlate” but close).

The recurring piece of advice in each of the books I researched was to make sure the child is involved in the choice and preparation of his or her meals—including lunch—and they will likely eat a more healthy diet with much less stress and drama.

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch.

Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.