What nearly sent my stale Danish flying was a ridiculous feature on children's back-to-school lunches. According to the Globe, the latest craze for the medicated and unfulfilled are Bento boxes – the Japanese compartmentalized trays designed to keep your wasabi from creeping up on your sashimi. And visa versa.
All I could think was, Jesus, what next? Kids throw most of their lunch in the garbage anyway, so why kill yourself trying to cover all the food groups in an artful display. Isn't that what Flintstone's vitamins are for? Jack's lucky to get a package of dry Ramen noodles and a can of tonic water most days. Bento boxes? Whoever has enough time to be crafting Super Mario or Hello fucking Kitty! out of sticky rice and organic ham should seek help immediately.
Things are just out of control, what with allergies and everything. A kid in grade two could bring in Daddy's hunting rifle for Show and Tell but, god forbid he should whip out a peanut butter sandwich and point it at somebody. How come nobody was allergic to peanut butter when I was a kid? Huh? We all scarfed back PB&J sandwiches sprinkled with the occasional cigarette ash from our mother's Virginia Slims, and no one fell to the floor gasping for their last breath. My mother whipped our nut-infested lunches together in two seconds flat, so she could head to bridge club and that first Gimlet of the day. By the time we got to school we smelled like chain smokers from riding in the back of the station wagon with the windows rolled up. No asthma in our family.
I recall Jack's first foray into no-nut land. It was Junior Kindergarten. We were living in Toronto, and I won't mention his name, but Spencer was apparently allergic to everything. And by everything, I mean everything. This pale little freak used to run around with his syringes in a little holster, armed and ready, just waiting for a bee or Snickers bar to emerge from the darkness and penetrate his weakened immune system. All year, the 40 other kids in the class had to make allowances for this one little peckerhead's sensitivities. What made matters worse, was the little medical marvel wasn't even nice. He'd hoard the best toys, and cut in line, then start wheezing if someone dared confront him. I sat through the entire, non-denominational, nut-free Christmas pageant hoping the little asshole would fall off the stage.
It got so bad, midway through the year, I was tempted to stick an Oh! Henry in Jack's lunch so he could whip it out and test that kid's level of tolerance once and for all. What's the worse thing that could happen – he pees his Osh Kosh B'Gosh? The kid was packin' his life-saving syringe and the teachers were already so petrified they had their fingers on the phone, dialing 911 every time Spencer picked his nose and ate the booger. Imagine the excitement in story time circle if he suddenly puffed up and went all purple, morphing into Barney before he could reach for the Epi pen. How cool would that be?
I say, if your kid is so allergic to nuts, then you should home school the little bastard so the rest of the world can slap some peanut butter on Wonder bread, throw it in a paper sack, and get on with it.
But hey, if you are really so unsatisfied and lying awake at night worrying about your kid's healthy, nutritious and colorful midday meal, I suggest a few Margarita's before you start packing the lunch. It's amazing how creative you can get on tequila. Your little darling will be the most popular kid in class when he whips out the Red Bull, the NSLC wine bag full of cheesies, the stale Halloween candy, and the Tic Tacs, for dessert.
Or, head to Sweet Jane's and pick up a retro tin lunch box. They've got great designs, like Curious George and Star Trek – and you can just scrape last night's leftovers straight in and close it up. Plus, if your kid is being bullied by the dieting fat kid with the Bento box full of star- shaped zucchini slices, you can always teach your child to wind up and flatten anyone within an arm's radius with his new, Muhammad Ali lunch box loaded down with cans of microwaveable Alphagetti.
As for the trendy and over-priced Bento boxes, here's a little recession tip: Head to the grocery store and pick up a couple of TV dinners. Feed the kids, then rinse and save the TV dinner trays. Then, if you really feel the need to separate the baby carrots from the tofu smiley faces from the sticky rice you fashioned into a likeness of yourself just in case your kids missed you during the day, you can – and at a fraction of the price. Plus, if you splurge and get the Hungryman dinners, you can even use that spot where the apple cobbler goes, as an ashtray.
Stay tuned for more handy, back-to-school tips, like faking the need for the Heimlich manoeuvre, so you can get felt up before gym class.
Sweet Jane's is on Doyle Street, conveniently located near the Rare Wine store.