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Food Lunchbox Art.jpg

Today's the first day of preschool for the 4-year-old, and all we can think about is lunch. Her lunch.

"Mommy, this is what you can put in my lunchbox," she advised us, a few days ago. "Rice. Tortilla chips. Peas. A fruit roll-up. A peach."

Thanks for the ideas, kid. Mommy's been obsessing for weeks about this, this being our first season on the lunch-from-home team. Talk about pressure. Pressure to hit all the food groups, to make it colorful and smiley-faced and fun for them eat, something like the photo above. Bonus points if it's organic and/or has 'farmers market' written all over it. It also has to be palatable after a couple hours of sitting around next to an icepack, and without any microwave intervention. And God forbid it contains peanut butter -- we've already been told no nuts this first week.

Get a grip, we finally said. Her stomach is the size of a tennis ball; we're not talking a degustation menu here. Give her at least one thing we know she'll eat, and at least one other thing she may or may not eat. Throw in a little treat (speaking of which, none are allowed in the classroom on birthdays. No cupcakes, no Rice Krispie Treats, nothing. I mean, what would Gale Gand do?). That element of surprise goes a long way.

We still remember the BLT our mom made for first day of third grade at a new school. It was like unwrapping the Holy Grail -- captivating, utterly unexpected and more gorgeous than anything in our dreams. We swear the bacon was still warm.

We thought about replicating that but then, we know our child. Not a big fan of the sandwich in its constructed form, only their components, and even then, mostly just the protein. She'd eat the bacon and gnaw a bit on the bread.

So, what ended up in her lunchbox? Tortilla chips, yes (her current obsession). A turkey and cream cheese wrap. Nectarine wedges and carrot slices. And a few chocolate-covered pretzels. (Compare this with what's in some chefs' kids' lunches and hey, we're feeling pretty good.)

In other words, the 4-year-old was right. Though we haven't ruled out the BLT.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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