It came to my attention recently that other parents in Little G's class were actually cooking meals for their children to take for lunch. Amazing gourmet meals from around the globe that I hope my daughter never finds out about. My feelings of inadequacy inspired the piece below.
Dear Fellow Parents,
Some of you have asked for suggestions about what to
send with our kindergarteners for lunch. Of course every child has different tastes but
I thought I would share one of the recipes that is always a hit with our kids.
It's really a simple play on the old surf and turf standby and doesn't take
more than a day or two to prepare if you don't count the animal husbandry
aspects and travel time involved.
We like to start with a suckling rabbit, not the
traditional “turf” meat, I know, but it’s a playful twist on the dish and one
that we feel is more responsible given that it has a smaller environmental
footprint. Plus, unlike a cow, we’re
able to raise the rabbits right in our living room, which is fun for the kids
(until they eat it, ha!), teaches responsibility, and is a great way to reduce
kitchen waste, as the rabbits love to eat veggie scraps that would otherwise
end up in the compost. This process also
allows us to supervise the birth and care of multiple generations of rabbits –
so important when you are feeding them to the little ones!
You want to make sure you get that rabbit roasting
when it is less than a week old (pull up your calendars!) because it will still
contain all those beneficial nutrients from suckling but not have been exposed to
too many icky environmental toxins. I
personally never start penning my monthly lunch menu until I know I have a
rabbit in labor. Rabbit birth can be a
surprisingly long process, so go ahead and get your roasting spit set up while
you wait (in a pinch this can be done in a toaster oven). After cleaning and butchering, we like to rub
the meat with a little EVOO, sea salt and whatever fresh herb is growing on the
windowsill at the time.
Once you have the rabbit on the spit it’s time to
devote some energy to the surf part of the meal. This can get a little tricky because
obviously the environmental implications of farming seafood at home are
serious. So where to procure the
surf? There are a couple of
options. First, if you’re just too busy,
and I understand that some of you are, you can contract with someone who will travel
to a pristine wilderness, capture fresh seafood in a sustainable and humane way
and then deliver it to you that same day.
Experience has taught us however that given the tax and health-care implications
involved in such a relationship, it just makes more sense to procure the
seafood ourselves. There is a delicate
balance between the impact that travel has on the earth and the freshness and pureness
of the seafood but I feel that this is one of those moral/ethical questions
with as many answers as there are families.
The important thing here is that you get the seafood back to your
kitchen before the rabbit is done roasting.
Trust me, this is when the time really starts to fly!
Something fun that I like to do is steam the seafood
right over the heat that I’m using for the rabbit. It’s a nice way to marry the two animals in
the cooking process and conserve energy at the same time. You can rub the seafood with the same simple
ingredients as the rabbit or switch it up a little by adding a different herb
or oil (just don’t forget to balance your omega-3s with your omega-6s!).
While the proteins are cooking, head to your raised
beds and see what produce is fresh (nothing ready to harvest? Hop on your bike!
There’s always a farmer’s market open somewhere!). Raw is best with veggies so give those greens
a rough chop and dress with something simple, like kombucha vinegar and chia
This may seem indulgent, but sometimes I like to
include a little dessert. I just whiz
together one handful each of dates and walnuts with a touch of carob powder to
make a sweet treat that the kids love. I
used to press the mixture into cookie cutter molds but then I thought, whoa,
missed creative/educational opportunity, so now I like to roll it into balls, chill
for an hour and then carve it into a three dimensional shape like a protozoa or
maybe a bust of Rachel Carson. Whatever
the kids happen to be into at the time.
It sounds like a lot of extra work but I find that if I just don’t go to
bed at all there is plenty of time to add that special touch.
Toss it all into your kiddo’s favorite stainless
bento box and you’re ready to go!
I love hearing everybody’s lunch ideas; let’s keep