A Little Bit Western


Lunch Break

Jul 20, 2016

We are at that magical time of year when parents everywhere are celebrating the end of the school year and, more importantly, the end of the school lunch regime. It can be hard to come up with nutritious, interesting lunches for kids year round and by the time June arrives, kids and adults alike seem ready to just take a break. I, on the other hand, don’t (at least not yet, anyway) share that sentiment. With two kids in Kindergarten, their every-other-day lunch requirement was a nice pattern, and school lunches were hardly a blip on my radar. Rather, it is my ongoing quest to pack large, cool-on-hot-days, hot-on-cool-days, healthy and inspiring lunches for the field and pasture that cause me a little stress.

We are heading into peak meals-on-wheels season around our ranch and I’ve been packing picnics and field meals a lot over the last two months. I suspect it’s going to get busier before it gets better. I don’t mind packing a lunch most times, but it seems like I’m all tapped out of ideas and we have a long summer of baling and moving cattle still ahead of us. Kebabs and wraps, pitas and sandwiches, meat buns, burgers, hot dogs, taco in a bag, calzones, smokies, subs… you name it, I’ve done it. And I’m already kind of tired of it.

Our kids help a lot out in the field and their gigantic appetites don’t match their seemingly small frames. Apparently they will grow even heartier appetites, according to my sources. They aren’t picky eaters for which I am grateful, and they must be growing because they are ALWAYS hungry. It doesn’t matter how much food I pack with me when we go and check cows or head into the field, the cooler is always empty when we return.

I do enjoy baking and cooking, although you would never know it based on the deficiency of home-baked goods that appear in the cooler. On rainy days or those occasional moments when I’m in the house mid-day, I will try and stock the freezer and fridge with a quadruple batch of banana bread, biscuits, muffins or meat buns. But unless they’re well hidden, my fresh baked supplies dwindle, sometimes before I can even pack the next lunch. And, let’s be honest, baling trumps baking, so I prioritize my time accordingly and our lunches reflect that. At the start of the season, I seem pretty ambitious and creative, and mid-way through, my crew is lucky if there’s a pepperoni stick and a bag of chips to gnaw on.

Fortunately we have a good local bakery and an excellent grocery store right in town. I stock up probably two or three times a week, optimistically buying ingredients to make food, or conversely, buying whatever ready-made food items can jump out of my cart and into my cooler. Sometimes a well-timed parts run to a larger centre will yield subs for everyone or a strategic trip to the local tavern or pizza place for take-out does the trick too, which takes some of the pressure off.

When I first got married, some farmHERs gave me a few tips as to what to expect and near the top was “prepare a meal that can be ready in twenty minutes – or three hours.” Truer words were never said with regards to pasture picnics and field lunches. While I am a bit burned out of lunch prep, no one has starved. Yet. And my consumers rarely, if ever, complain.

I just have to come to terms with the fact that for our family, any time is lunch time. But… if anytime can be lunch time, I guess the same would hold true for five’o’clock, no?

Maybe I’ll get through this field lunch season after all.

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