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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 04.12.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

I've got those slap 'em together and shove 'em out the door school lunch blues

According to my calendar, there are only about fifty days left in the school year. I can't wait. That means the kids will be home and able to help me dig that moat around the house I've been working on. Plus, no more math questions I have to pretend to understand.

Mostly, though, no more lunches.

When it comes to scholastic burdens, preparing lunches is right up there with head lice and your "kids" selling chocolate bars. I say "kids" because we all know that the children themselves hit up grandparents and immediate neighbors and then leave the balance of almond-flecked chocolate bars for parents to inflict upon co-workers. Or eat themselves.

Here in Stanstead, the local elementary school is fighting to keep its cafeteria open. The official argument is that for many children, the cafeteria provides the only decent meal they get in the day. Secretly, though, I think a lot of parents are panicked about the prospect of a full year of preparing peanut-butter-and-!?#&^*@!-jelly sandwiches.

I know that in our house, it feels like Christmas morning when we come downstairs, look at the list on the fridge and see that Kate and James both have hot lunches reserved at school that day. I don't care if it's poutine and Gummy Bears on chocolate wafers, as long as I don't have to make it.

We wouldn't have to go through this morning lunch anxiety if we simply made them the evening before. We would be far less bleary-eyed and more readily able to decipher which kid went with which turkey-and-mustard/mayonnaise/margarine combo. After all, we make the coffee the evening before. Ah, yes, but the coffee is a morning prerequisite for the safe and proper handling of sandwich-making implements.After the coffee, there is no evening initiative left for lunch assembly. Plus, "Fear Factor" is almost on.

Aha! But if we made the lunches in the evening instead of the coffee, we wouldn't need the coffee in the morning to make the lunches. Yes, but without that immediately available coffee in the morning, we would lose the will to live, let alone feed and educate our children. It's a chicken and the egg-salad kind of thing.

So we're stuck with making lunches in the morning.

That means ensuring the children have meals that represent the four main food groups: cold cuts on white bread; fruit punch (sugar-water with natural grape sugars); school-approved, peanut-free, low-chocolate, hypoallergenic snack; and a piece of fruit for ignoring.

Every now and then, the children will come home and declare that they are not allowed a certain snack because it's not healthy enough. Or more likely, a certain teacher has cast aspersions upon the content of our child's lunchbox.

The gut reaction is indignation: "If pork rinds were good enough for me when I was a kid, they're good enough for you. And if I want to send my kid to school with Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos, Hoo-Has, or La-Di-Das, I'm going to do so" etcetera, etcetera, which is all just another way of saying, "She's not the boss of me."

But of course, we comply, which just makes assembling lunches that much harder.

Many a morning, I stand in front of the cupboards staring at boxes of cereal, crackers, jars of olives, corn starch wondering if they would a) pass the muster of the snack police b) be eaten c) fit in a plastic baggie and d) not inadvertently cause a major allergic reaction among surrounding students.

With such limitations, the kids end up going to school with pretty much the same lunch day after day after day. I tell myself, "Well, dogs eat the same food every day and they don't complain…"

All I know is that if there's ever an outbreak of white-bread allergies in our schools, we're all in trouble.

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