A very common lunchtime scene on any train, playground, or cafeteria in the Netherlands is the cheese sandwich. No frills and not even warm (not to be confused with its tasty cousin the grilled cheese) – this cold sandwich inhabits most kids’ lunch bags to school. The cheese sandwich is commonly accompanied by a piece of fruit or vegetable, and a carton of milk – or more traditional – buttermilk. This rather unenthusiastic lunch reminds me of this article in the Huffington Post about how hot lunches measure up around the world. Hot lunches are wonderful, but it left me thinking: how would packed lunches around the world look? I have to think there are some lunchtime masterpieces out there that will certainly liven up the cheese sandwich that is on constant rotation here.
Naturally as a chef I have an interest in food, but what really fascinates me is where food and culture unite. How and why we eat what we do, how it connects us – to our communities and traditions. Since becoming a parent, my interest in food hasn’t subsided, but I have had to learn to cook at warp speed and minimal innovation. For instance the morning rush where breakfasts and packed lunches collide: making breakfast along with a packed lunch is like competing in two sporting events at the same time. Not only do I want to bring some calm to my lunch packing routine, but also some inspiration with an international flavor. So I am embarking on an investigation of culinary anthropological proportions to seek out better Portable School Lunches around the world. We will share what is in your kids lunch bags and boxes, and hopefully this will take us near and far around the world. If you’d like to embark on this journey with us, we’d love to hear what’s in your (lunch) bag.