Friday, February 12, 2010
So, here is what I consider to be the best kid-lunch ever - a sandwich of some sort, some carrot sticks, a small handful of crackers or chips and a glass of milk. Perhaps, for desert one small cookie. It appears that this may no longer be the lunch of my house. And, it makes me wonder, do Americans think this is an appropriate kid lunch (1) because we are too busy without full-time maids and nannies to make anything more and/or (2) because our children go to preschool and this is the kind of lunch that best fits a lunch box? I am, of course, making the assumption that "most" Americans would agree that this is an appropriate lunch. Someone out there is going to say, skip the chips (or the cookie), but I am a very healthy eater and I always eat chips with my sandwich at lunch so my kids do the same. Of course, I am an everything-in-moderation sort of person. I do believe this is a healthy, efficient, appropriately-caloried meal.
But for us, in this new Foreign Service life, the kid-lunch may be trickling away to be replaced with "algo mejor." Or, something deemed more substantial by Vilma. As I have said before, Vilma loves to cook and she is an exceptional one. I was watching her chop an onion the other day and I was amazed at her skill. We started talking a little bit about her cooking history - turns out before she became a nanny she used to run a kitchen - evidently, a very popular one. She said you know people enjoy your cooking when they line up down the street before lunch. I think, "Yes, that's probably a safe assumption." When I asked her if she ever thought she would open a restaurant if she went back to Peru she almost cried. It turns out that is her dream - one she has deemed impossible because of the costs.
So, as Vilma plugs away at dozens of other household chores, we get plates of heaping food for lunch because that is where her soul is, in her food, in the kitchen. That's what has happened to kid-lunch. At first I was resistant to this. I kept saying it was better that we eat small things at lunch and save a big meal for dinner. However, my protestations corresponded with my husband and I trying to set some ground rules on the eating habits of our four-year old who mostly eats bread, cheese and bananas. This week I just decided to eat what Vilma serves. It is always healthy and full of a wide variety of proteins and veggies and is always perfectly spiced - I rarely even add a drop of salt and I have noticed that she only salts at the end after she has tasted the food. Our picky eater protested for the first two days, but one thing that these lunches have helped us establish is that - lunch is there, this is what it is, no more picking on snacks all afternoon.
What I wonder now is how this will change our eating habits overall. For dinner now we eat whatever is leftover from lunch with a fresh salad. Our oldest is trying foods he says he is not going to try (and loving them) and our two year old (who already eats pretty much anything put in front of him) is filling up on a wide range of new foods. If we are posted in the US next, will we go back to our old habits of convenience? Will having Vilma cause us to take on a different post bidding strategy because we will be trying to find a place where Vilma can go with us? What if she doesn't want to go with us? Obviously, she is becoming, already, a part of our family - delicious food or not. In this life of perpetual impermanence, is this just more about the need to hang on to something - culture, food, a system of eating, the relationships that develop out of food, the relationships themselves?