The other night, we were watching Extra Virgin and the episode began with Gabriele Corcos preparing a pasta dish for his daughters’ lunch boxes. The girls went off and there was Gabriele talking about preparing his girls’ lunch boxes for two reasons: (1) it was a way of showing his love for his girls and (2) it was a matter of pride.
I understood completely. And, without any conscious attempt, I was transported to a morning many, many years ago. I had just walked the girls to their pre-school, we were entering the gate and there was another mom, young son in tow, hurriedly buying a pack of biscuits from the canteen and even more hurriedly stuffing it into the boy’s lunchbox while urging him to walk faster so he wouldn’t be late for class. That scene will forever be etched in my mind because it exemplifies all the reasons why, day in and day out, I took the trouble of cooking and packing home cooked food into my daughters’ lunch boxes.
I’m not passing judgment on mothers who don’t do the same thing. Some mothers work outside the house and time is a luxury. Some mothers don’t cook. Some mothers delegate the job of feeding their kids and seeing them off to school to the yayas. Some mothers just don’t see why it’s such a big deal anyway when it’s so much simpler to hand the kid some money and let him buy from the school canteen. I don’t know what the reasons are of some mothers for not preparing their children’s lunch boxes, it’s really not my business to pry, but I know I cared enough for my kids to take the trouble of knowing what they ate, how much and when. I’m just lucky I had the luxury of time and that I actually enjoy, and have always enjoyed, cooking.
So, Gabriele Corcos was saying that preparing his daughters packed lunches was both a matter of pride and one way of showing his love. That it is one way of showing love is self-explanatory. Now that the girls are in college, it’s that showing my love thing that makes me cook up a storm on weekends when the girls are home.
But why a matter of pride?
By the time my daughters were in high school, what they had in their lunch boxes for the day had become a much anticipated thing. Classmates were curious. They would ask for a bite. They would exclaim with delight and appreciation — all of which my daughters reported back to me with joy in their faces.
I suppose it was a matter of pride for them too — I took the trouble because they were important to me and they felt important among peers because they had something — home cooked food in their lunch boxes — that many others didn’t.
And it made me feel good and proud that I could do something that people other than my own family appreciated. It made me feel all warm and glowing to know that there was something I could do well — very well — and others were aware of my skill or gift or whatever you want to call it.
It’s human. We all hanker for appreciation and praise once in a while. Often, if at all possible. In the case of my daughters’ lunch boxes, that appreciation came at least five times a week from many different sources. And to show my appreciation for their classmates’ appreciation, the time came when I’d pack twice as much food for the girls so that they could share more.
I don’t prepare lunch boxes anymore now that my daughters are all grown up and have partly flown the coop. Apart from the weekend feasts, there are so many other ways by which I show my love for them. But coming up with good eats everyday is already a matter of habit and a way of life. Not in any extravagant sense but simply because it is a smart policy to live by. It’s an exercise in creativity, it’s a never ending challenge (especially how to cook good food without spending a ton) and I have you readers who are so good at showing your appreciation. Most of you don’t bother to leave comments but the hundreds of thousands of page views. many of which are repeat visits, have to mean something in the context of reader appreciation, I think.
And, of course, there’s Speedy. Sometimes, when I have to do a lot of writing, he’d say there’s no need to cook and he could eat anything. But I often tell him that I have to cook something nice everyday because when we got married, I promised his mother than her son would always eat delicious food. Of course, I never made that promise. But I might as well have because that’s the mantra I live by. Speedy and I have to eat something nice everyday. Even if we have sandwiches for two meals, the remaining meal has to be something special and nice. We work hard and we deserve little luxuries like that everyday to remind ourselves that we are important too just as much as our two girls.
P.S. Oh, by the way, I did document some of those packed school lunches.