Friday, 20 May 2011

couscous and fiddleheads (embarrassing school lunches)

The other day I packed couscous  and fiddleheads in my daughter's lunch. I thought, "Perfect! Leftovers! She loved this last night at supper, so I'll just warm it up and put it in her thermos for lunch."

the offending lunch
Couscous and fiddleheads in a school lunch bag? How stupid could I be?

She sheepishly told me in the evening that she hadn't eaten it. She had opened the thermos at school, and a friend leaned over and said, "Yuck! Don't eat that!" and so she didn't.

So we talked about peer pressure (actually it was more like a lecture) and not letting others decide what we're going to say or do with our lives, and blah, blah, blah. And how you need energy for your school day, and the fiddleheads are rich in anti-oxidants and are special and only in season right now... Give me a break. As IF I would have eaten couscous and fiddleheads in my lunch when I was 7. There's no way.

How could I forget how school lunches - their contents and how they're packaged - can contribute to some sort of school social hierarchy? Egg salad sandwiches - always guaranteed some "yucks" in the room. Anything packaged and disposable - cool, unless it's the rice crackers that smell like shrimp that your mom bought at the Asian supermarket last week (sorry again, my dear daughter).

It's hard when you have weird parents. And I think that my parents are OK with me calling them "weird" because I've paid them the highest compliment - I've become a weird parent myself!

But as a kid - sometimes it's hard when you have weird parents.

As a kid, I wanted:

  • a Strawberry Shortcake doll
  • Barbie dolls
  • Jos. Louis and Flaky snacks in my lunch
  • sugar cereals
  • leather Cougar boots
  • a Ouija board
  • Roots clothing
  • earrings
  • a swimming pool (outdoor or indoor, I didn't care)
  • a tennis court
  • parachute pants
  • windbreakers
  • stone-washed jeans
  • to go to a Corey Hart concert when I was in Grade 8

I got:

  • a Strawberry Shortcake doll
  • a Cindy doll who was less voluptuous than Barbie
  • the Sunshine family dolls (including Grandma, Grandpa, and baby)
  • healthy snacks in my lunch like celery cars with carrot wheels (and peanut butter for the seats, and raisins for the people)
  • Jos. Louis, Flakies, and sugared cereals only when Dad did the shopping
  • look-alike Cougar boots
  • lots of books
  • clothes handmade by Mom
  • earrings eventually but not soon enough
  • a swimming hole back in the gravel pit when the water level was high enough every 7 years
  • a moderate disdain for trendy things
  • a good dose of the Protestant work ethic
  • a belief that less is more
  • a belief that I should waste not and want not
  • the knowledge that my parents loved me, despite my lack of cool possessions.
So... I'm passing on what I know. Becoming a weird parent so that my kids can one day aspire to be the same. And I'm pretty sure a little writer will one day write about the horror of couscous and fiddleheads in her school lunch. At least I'm prepared.

Any memories of school lunches YOU'd like to share?


  1. I can just imagine the scene at school upon opening up a thermos of fiddle heads. I must admit I have never tried fiddle heads. Where did you find them or harvest them. How did you cook them?

    School lunchs ... I remember a special favourite was a cooked hotdog in a thermos of water. Yum! Oh, and store bought cookies were a treat since we usually had homemade cookies growing up.

    Here's to being a 'weird' parent :) Right there with you!

  2. Go out to the market today! They might still have some. It's a really short season - before they start unfurling into ferns. I just steam them, then serve them with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, and grated some Swiss cheese on top. They're a yummy treat this time of year!

    I loved the cooked hotdogs too! Ours were on a string so that we could pull them out without dipping our fingers into the hot water.

  3. Sim will eat things at school, healthy things, that we serve at home, but he won't eat them at home. I'm talking mostly about veggies.
    Somehow among the toddlers at his daycare it's cool to eat veggies. Then again, maybe that's something different from peer pressure - more like mod mentality. Peer pressure seems to require an act of rebellion. I wonder at what age that begins, not the rebellion thing but when we coax others to rebel in order to think that we are leading them.
    Peer pressure is painful to watch in some cases like the lunch you sent, but I wonder if it's maybe somethign to celebrate when compared with mod mentality. Somehow the minority force of peer pressure appeals to me more than the near-totalitarian drive of mod mentality.

  4. How about bringing Twinkies to high school? Some school mockery, but that's fine---I liked them, and people actually wanted some some of the time...

  5. Derek - so glad you've joined the conversation! Twinkies are one thing I can safely say I never had in my lunch, and never wanted in my lunch. Chacun son gout.

  6. Oh how I love this post, as a daughter of weird parents and a weird parent to three daughters :-)
    I remember when my mom went back to work when I was in grade one, and we were in charge of getting our own lunches together. One day I packed nothing but a lunchbox full of grapes (I love grapes) and it turned out that was my day to eat with the teacher... my poor mother never lived it down. Years later, in grade 5, I took sliced lemons as my dessert (I love lemons even more than grapes). You can imagine the ridicule and comments about lemon-sucking that ensued. But I also remember one of the "cool" boys leaning over as his friends teased me and whispering in my ear: "I like lemons too". Kids can be cruel, but they can also be amazingly true to themselves and supportive of others.
    I also love this post for your list. I too was not allowed the voluptuous Barbie because of the distorted image it gave of women. Try explaining that to your friends in grade 3. My mother also caused a scandal in the neighbourhood because my doll Sacha had a penis. One of the other parents, in a strained voice, rattled her teacup as she asked my mother: "Don't you find it strange your daughter is playing with a doll that has genitals?" My mother's reply, "Don't you find it strange your daughter's dolls are without?" The lady was stumped. In the 1970s, my mother really battled to instill in me a positive image of women and our bodies (not sex objects, not sexless) without putting it in words, but knowing how influential our play-making can be. That was her battle. I often wonder about that and about the battles I choose for my girls (good food, healthy image, thirst for learning) and thank the Lord I had "weird parents". :-)

  7. This post has sure taken me back to my childhood!

    Now, being a picky eater, I have to say, I would probably have been the kid saying 'Don't eat that!' to the cousous and fiddleheads!

    My mom was a stay at home Mom and I'm sure there were things we had to make do with, but you know, we never felt like we were missing out! I remember Levi jeans being the big thing and Levi jean jackets. I had the 'no name' version.

    We always had lots of books and board games but we still tease my parents about how we wanted the game 'Mousetrap' and never got it! Funny enough, my boys always wanted it and I never bought it for them either! We had 'real' Barbies but my mom made all their clothes.

    We got to eat pretty normal food and took normal lunches but I do remember one of my friends would always bring cream cheese on rye bread and she was so embarassed to eat it amongst all the peanut butter on white bread people!


  8. Mara, I have laughed a lot today imagining your lunch full of grapes, eating beside the teacher. And the lemon slices! I keep wondering who the cool boy was :)

    And yes, thank God for weird parents! I love your Sacha story too. And those are good battles you've chosen. Fight on!

    Suzanne - too funny about the Mousetrap game! It's amazing the little things we can remember from our childhood like that. And you've managed to pass on the disdain for Mousetrap! I wonder if your boys will buy it for their kids. :)

  9. Jon - I find this distinction between peer pressure (what you say can be a positive thing at times) and mob mentality (what can be negative). I've never thought of that difference before. Mobs that encourage vegetable eating sound like the kind of mobs I want my kids to be part of, though.

  10. Yesterday after a week of nasty coughing I took Dixon to the dr. who discovered possible pneumonia. (and possible not, you know how it goes.) So, feeling guilty that I hadn't taken him earlier (and had left him at day care for an hour that morning while I went to an appointment) we headed over to the grocery superstore to get the prescription, and on the way in, he spots an Iron Man doll. You know, the plastic kind with moveable arms and legs and in lieu of a gun, some kind of big detachable flare or ceremonial torch. He even knew Iron Man's name! I was pretty horrified. But after 20 minutes of waiting for the prescription, during which I was pestered and pestered for Iron Man, I caved. Partly inspired by your post. I was thinking that perhaps it's not so harmful to buy Things They Actually Want once in awhile, when they cost $6.99 and they have possible pneumonia and you left them at day care? I don't know why ugly plastic big-chested dolls are so much more attractive than the wooden recyclable non-toxic variety, (or the Sunshine family, which we had in multi-cultural diversity,) but kids seem to know the difference. I bought it, and I encouraged him (in the spirit of generosity and Thinking of Others) to pick one for Mitchell as well. I thought for a second it would Make him Happy (or keep him occupied while I went home and did some work).
    Well, did I learn my lesson. On the way home already, he was asking for Mitchell's because once it was out of (all the ridiculous non-essential) packaging, it just wasn't as fun as he thought it would be. He thought he would like Mitchell's better. And after an ecstatic honeymoon period lasting about 10 minutes, both dolls have largely laid on their enormous manly chests ever since. I don't even know where they are now.

  11. Just picturing those big-chested man dolls makes me laugh! You're right, though - it's not so bad to get Things They Actually Want (love the caps here) once in awhile - but hard to judge whether they will actually appreciate/play with them for more than 10 minutes! Now that I think of it, I'm pretty controlling in how I buy things for my kids - even clothes! It's just so much easier to shop solo and just have my own mind to content with, not the requests of another.

    Our girls wanted Barbies, and someone at church generously gave us a big Rubbermaid bin full. They played with them exactly twice, and then we decided to give them away. They were actually quite willing! Sometimes it's the allure of what we don't have that seems so appealing - like the thrill of the chase - and then when you actually acquire That Appealing Thing, it loses the thrill. Part of the thrill also seems to be in pestering your parents and watching their impatience with your pestering (at least in our house).

  12. Merda mangajun27 May 2011 at 02:18

    U might never think of cooking it with papaya flower, papaya leaf, shrimp, other green leaf vegetables and lots of ingredients, ofcourse do not forget to put lots of chili (ha..ha...) taste really good...North Sulawesi specialty...

  13. Merda! Nice to get some Indonesian flavours in here! Thanks for the tip. :)