Once upon a time I was a foodie. A mostly veg/sometimes pescatarian foodie, but a foodie nonetheless. I knew the trendy ingredients, the cookbooks of the season, and the local restaurants you had to try so as not to risk lifelong disappointment. I don’t think I ever got really obnoxious or snotty, but that might be wishful thinking; we did have a bottle of truffle oil (white of course) residing permanently on our dining room table. Still, there might have been a little overenthusiasm, a little overemphasis on the gustatory side of life, not obscene but maybe a little too ... sensual let’s say.
Then we got hit by Oliver. All of a sudden we stopped making Costco jokes and started actually giving them our money (rarely, but twice-a-year attendance stops the humour). In came take-out on a fairly regular basis, and we considered it a meaningful upgrade to make homemade tuna casserole (yes, with a mushroom soup base) instead of cracking open the Classico. Not a trace of an herb or spice, but homemade, you hear?
Why am I writing in the past tense? We still pat ourselves on the back if we make it a week without some sort of packaged or frozen convenience making up the bulk of our dinners at least one night—maybe more so now with Georgia on board. Our kitchen is tiny and there just isn't the time, or the patience from a certain blond-lidded wildman about yay-high, to get anything very sexy going on in terms of our meals.
And so when I heard, the day before summer camp started for Oliver, that we had to make his lunches and snacks instead of the school providing them for us, I flew into a panic. After a short but relieving conversation with Craig, I calmed down. Of course, the old classic: PB&J sandwiches. Every day. No, not every day; that would be less-than-nutritious and even a little suspect. We could alternate with cold cuts as filler. No matter what was in them: we ate them as kids and survived, right? I still remember poking out those murky green olives and macaroni bits from the grey-pink slices of moist … what?
No. First of all, we discovered, as Craig was rolling out the driveway the day of camp, that the school has a never-communicated-to-us no-nuts policy, and that a boy in O’s class is actually fairly allergic. So PB&J was out. Second, some vestige of my luxurious life pre-kids when I actually devoted mornings, afternoons—even days—to food preparation reared up and nudged me: this could be fun. Some voice called out to me, "Cold cuts disgust you. You might resort to them sometimes (and make Craig handle their slimy selves) but step up, woman! Hit that lunch-bag—and make it rock!"
It took me a couple of days to find my stride, I will acknowledge. Day 1's main was hastily wrapped chicken souvlaki chunks (marinated by the kind folks at Costco) and a piece of bare bread but that was the day we found out about the peanut ban in the driveway. On Day 2 I managed a pasta salad with tomatoes, basil, and mozza but the macaroni was on the chewy side. But Day 3, friends, Day 3 was a day of glory. A perfectly ripe (milky green, not too hard, not too soft) avocado, homemade kalamata olive tapenade, and tomato sandwich on greens-lined multigrain. I tested it. It was hot. As our friend James would say, "restaurant quality."
I know, I know, talk to me in a month. And yeah, I know I'm posting about making my kid's lunches. But you know, when in Rome, or mat leave ... blog the cat. And the return of a little foodie-ism? Probaby quite healthy. In every which way.
UPDATE: SOON AFTER