For a few weeks back in September, I get gung-ho about packing lunches. My interest evaporates in October. It’s the drear of wiping mustard from a rejected sandwich’s turkey slices (up side = dog gets treat) and dumping miso soup out of thermoses (up side = to be determined) that overwhelms me. The bathos of turkey-wiping type activity is why I need to read so many books about packing lunch.
This year, my favorite is Best Lunch Box Ever. It’s small and cute, but not too cute; the ideas inside are inspirational, but never ridiculous. Categories include sandwich-y things, wraps and pizza kinds of things, salads, salty snacks, jazzed-up leftovers, goodies, dips, and more. Mmm: try the coconut granola bark.
One genre I rehash each fall is pinwheel sandwiches. In Best Lunch Box Ever, medjool date-spinach caught my eye. And then, almost immediately, the sting of last year’s rejected pinwheels came back in a heart-bruising wave. Roast beef with boursin glue, almond butter with apple. You held so much promise. Alas.
The next page I flipped to practically twinkled: smoked salmon & caper finger sandwiches. A ray of hope! We love smoked salmon. I’ll cut crusts off of pumpernickel bread the night before! I already have the never-ending jar of capers from BJ’s! This sandwich feels like fate. The black-brown bread and pinky-orange fish will be so pretty, and if it boomerangs home uneaten, it will taste great with a beer.
Other fun: lots of the paleo cookbooks published this year include solid/inspiring/do-able lunch box ideas. Because I amÂ debilitatingly dependent on peanut butter, beans, and afternoon Diet Cokes, I’m generally a bad sport about paleo. However, it’s impossible to deny that the paleo people are wizards at cramming maximum nutrition into a small space. And a lunch box is not large.
The best-looking paleo book I’ve read is Practical Paleo. This includes lots of science/nutrition preamble, and recipes for vegetables and meat galore, plus frills like carrot-ginger muffins and bacon brownies. Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook has a section of paleo lunch menus for kids, and has me convinced my kids would love to gnaw on cold spareribs in the cafeteria. Bones at school might be too weird (risk: ostracism); on the other hand, bones could be cool (perk: jump on table, use bone as air guitar, become hero). For supreme paleo-kid inspiration, grab a glass of lemon water and look here.
Each year at this time, I beg for lunch box ideas from friends and Anisa’s readers. If you are inclined to share, please leave strokes of genius and/or medium so-so things that work OK for your family in the comments.
Best Lunch Box Ever
by Katie Sullivan Morford
2013 Chronicle Books $25
by Diane Sanfilioppo
2012 Victory Belt $40
Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook
by Sarah Fragoso
2012 Victory Belt $30