I can just about create something for myself if I know that's all that stands between me and certain starvation, but I don't like it.
The main reason my kids have school dinners (however much horse or other rogue animal might be in them) is because I couldn't bear to be buttering bread, dreaming up fillings, stuffing it into lunch boxes (named top and bottom) and then remembering to hand the damn things over.
Specifically here's what I hate:
- Plastic boxes and their intrinsic inability to be in the same house as their lid... at the same time.
- Lunch envy - there's always some smug person scoffing an organic and fresh looking concoction of something with exactly the perfect implement.
- Leaks and squashes - no not innovative ingredients, what happens to at least 50 per cent of all packed lunches (except for other people's). The aforementioned plastic box lid, in its attempt to escape the box, will cause leakage... usually smelly leakage. And anything that doesn't leak will be mashed to unappetising.
- Ideas. All the stick-waving in the world wouldn't cover the screeds of 'lunch box ideas' that have been written. There are menus of suggestions taking you through whole weeks. But, when you look a bit more closely they require more planning, organisation and specialist equipment (boxes with lids that fit and plastic cutlery) than I can afford. Here's my lunch box idea: make lunch, put it in a box.
- Tuna-morphosis. I like tuna - it's handy, healthy stuff. But as soon as you put it into a packed lunch of any description it becomes stinky, fishing and revolting.
- Stock horror. It doesn't matter how often I put it on the list, or, even, actually buy it, there is never, ever any nice peanut butter or proper pickle in the house when I want it.
However hard I try, though, it is not possible to avoid the need for packed lunches sometime. New continents can't get explored if you're expecting to pop home at noon for some soup and toast, can they?
Therefore, for many years I began formulating my own solution to food on the go. Until recently I kept it a secret - tucking in away from the smug sarnie merchants. But now I'm out and proud.
Here are the picnic ideas for people who hate making picnics and can't get to M&S:
- Cold beans - really not that bad once you get used to them.
- Soreen lunch box loaves - unwrap and stuff in your mouth. Champion.
- Cold sausages - cooked first, of course. Or warm if you put them into a wide-necked Thermos, although this is dangerously close to proper packed-lunch territory.
- Oatcakes and processed cheese (in a tube preferably) - tell onlookers it's wheat-free for added value.
- Kids' yoghurts in tubes or other weird-shaped containers.
- Bananas - one of the five a day that comes in a handy wrapper, though there is some risk of squashing.
- Pizza calzone. Bit of a cheat - cook pizza and fold in half while warm. It will look like you did it on purpose.
- Solid leftovers: Not congealed, just not sloppy so as to avoid leakage. Tortilla, pie, bacon, fishfingers and any sort of loaf/rissole/burger type creation.
- Popcorn: If you ping some for an after-school treat for the kids, stash a few handfuls away in a plastic bag and hay-presto, more effortless lunchbox fodder.
I am being paid to talk about Soreen as part of a campaign by Mumpanel, but I really do hate making packed lunches and consider it a staple part of a picnic.