Lunchables — the American Bento box
Every culture has its version of the boxed lunch, the thing millions of school children are sent off with every day, 180 days out of the year. In Japan it’s a bento box made of rice, meat and veggies. In America it is the Lunchable, a deconstructed sandwich in a perfectly packaged plastic container. It’s fun for kids and easy for adults. Everyone wins when you don’t have to think about what to make for lunch every day, day after day.
If you share a slice of cheese….
Think about it, what makes a Lunchable special? It’s literally just ham, cheese and Ritz crackers in a box.
However, back in the early ‘90s, it was also a status symbol. My family wasn’t poor, but my mom definitely didn’t believe in name brand anything. As an adult I respect that she took the time to make me a sandwich every day, but as a kid, the Lunchables just seemed, cooler, and I wanted one.
My school lunches were turkey sandwiches wrapped in a plastic grocery bag, but Lunchables were food toys you could eat. Therefore, I was always begging some friend for some ham; it always looked and tasted better in a thickly sliced circle and the cheese, which was savory to the max, when you had to ration one piece.
And I’d never just sit down and eat a Ritz cracker by itself, but with that ham and cheese, it just seemed to have a completely different personality, not dry, like its usual lonesome form.
Likewise, there was always dessert, a little Twix or Crunch Bar, or even a decadent Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Cool looking and convenient, I always approached it with the care I assumed an astronaut lifted his dessert from whatever floating space tray he ate from.
Kids these Days
The website for Lunchables has a tab for both kids and parents. If you click the kids tab, it takes you immediately to a commercial about Lunchables where a satyr eats a playing card. “Mix your food up,” is the new theme.
I also clicked on the “parents” tab, which I’ll just interpret to mean all adults. The site is way less fun, but I did learn about all the new Lunchable options. For example you can get your Lunchable with or without a drink, you can even “upload” to a deep dish pizza, or a turkey sub. Wow! They’ve come a long way from a few slices of cheese, ham and crackers.
Having recently worked at an elementary school, I hadn’t seen a fruit rollup or a pack of Gushers in years. But once a week some kid will come to school with a Lunchable and with a hint of shame, I would ask them for a slice of cheese. Here I go again. Mooching off some kid. What am I doing!? I can buy my own Lunchables, or even better, create my own DIY Lunchable with gouda, pretzel chips and smoked Boar’s head ham, because I am an adult now and I deserve the best versions of my childhood.