A year ago, my then-boyfriend asked me for help with his daughter. “I can’t figure out what to make for school lunch. My sandwiches always come back.”
“What do you make?” I asked.
“The same stuff she eats at home. Salami and cheese, tunafish…”
So basically: the stuff that smells. What 9-year old wants to unwrap tuna or salami that’s been aging at room temp for a couple of hours? That’s the kind of stuff that earns you a nickname for life.
“I can’t figure it out,” he said.
So without mentioning the obvious, I asked around, and in Brooklyn at the time, noodles and dumplings were a big hit with elementary school girls. Seems like any pasta derivation wins with kids, and I suggested that he buy a big bag of frozen dumplings, steam ‘em by the handful, pack ‘em with a little dipping sauce and you’re well on your way to an edible school lunch.
And then I moved in. School lunch became one of my new chores. We had a good rotation going: turkey sandwich, steamed dumplings, cheese roll-ups, etc. And that was good for a while. Until somewhere, some kid decided something was wrong with bread. And soon, The Kid was asking for a “bag of meat”.
Processed turkey, in a bag. Processed cheese, in a bag.
For some reason, that got to me. I think it was after Thanksgiving, when we had gorgeous turkey leftovers, and she opted for processed turkey. I’d even write it on the grocery list like that: “processed turkey”. If I was going to go the bag of meat route, I couldn’t send the turkey slices. I could ignore the processed turkey sandwiched between two wholesome pieces of bread, but a bag of turkey slices was just too much.
So I went about making meat she’d enjoy for dinner, and kept hoping it would turn into a bag of meat request for lunch. I tried pork tenderloin, pork chops, steak, even mac and cheese. It took me months before I figured it out.
I had recently shot some videos with Kraft, and they asked me to make a very simple roast chicken. Ridiculously simple, basically a bird and some salad dressing. I made it one day when I didn’t have time to think about dinner (I even skipped the vegetables), and as luck would have it, she loved it.
The dressing alone moisturized, lubricates and flavors the bird. Use any dressing you like; and if you prefer make your own (3 parts oil to one part vinegar, as much herb, seasoning, and grated Parm as you like), go for it!
This was a bag of meat I sent with pride. And none of it came back.
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