Lunchbox Desperation: Anything can be a chip

4-year-olds have a funny way of taking over and upsetting any “plans” you think you’ve made.  In this case, my 4-year-old son, L., received last night’s “Crockpot Chicken Curry Thing” experiment with a sort of lukewarm skepticism.  For the record, I want to state that it was not a disaster; the meal was probably a solid 6 out of 10, though I think I went too heavy on the turmeric and possibly not heavy enough on ginger, and it could have benefited, in my opinion, from the addition of more heat and more veggies.  But as mad-scientist slow cooker adventures go, it was a decent B-plus effort.

However, children being children, I wouldn’t say that mine were particularly impressed with the creation.  L. tends to like Indian flavors, as long as they’re mild enough, but he was not in his most adventurous mood last night.  I’m pretty sure his eventual decision to eat about 1/2 his portion of the chicken dish, along with a hefty dose of rice and a handful of raisins, was mainly fueled by hunger and the knowledge that not eating dinner, in our house, is an acceptable choice only if you intend to eat nothing at all until tomorrow’s breakfast.  So keeping in mind that he was clearly underwhelmed by his dinner, I pulled out the lunchbox menu for today with the intention of giving it a second analysis for kid-friendliness.

Hm.  It seems I was in an exotic mood when I planned for this week, because apparently, I thought — in another flight of curious overconfidence — that I was going to make some sort of healthy samosa alternative, using peas and the cute little assorted potatoes I got from the Pak Express stall at the farmer’s market.  Eyeballing my son, who was at the moment delicately picking bits of turmeric-stained chicken from their nests of stewed eggplant and tomatoes, I said: “Buddy?  If Mommy made you potato pancakes with peas in them, for your lunchbox, do you think you’d try them?”

Though his eyes said, “You stupid, stupid woman…why would you even offer such an opportunity for rejection?” my sweetheart of a preschooler replied only with “Nope.”

Inward sigh.  So to the fridge I trudged, hoping that a vegetable worthy of the lunchbox — and easily pleasing to my son’s palate — would present itself.  No such luck.  As I shoved aside some scallions and a week-old package of yellowing dill, I happened upon two adorable pattypan squash from Zephyr Farm, which, on account of their sheer cuteness, I had not been able to resist buying.

Squash squash squash…let’s see.  Not great raw (nor do I think L. would even contemplate trying it that way).  Steamed?  Boring — though a few chunks, steamed, would make their way into the 16-month-old’s lunchbox.  Breaded and baked or fried?  Yes…but we just did that with zucchini a few days ago.

As the clock closed in on bedtime, my mommy desperation to just get these lunches PACKED already mounted.  Finally, I slapped a cutting board on the counter, hacked the pattypans lengthwise into little pear-shaped slivers, and popped them into a low oven.  Twenty minutes or so later, we had chips.  Well, technically, we had some chips and some burnt offerings — I didn’t keep a very good watch over the process, what with demands for Backyardigans and the inevitable struggle to don pjs without spending an inordinate amount of time riding toy horses naked around the house (L., not me).  But close enough.  I gathered the good ones, sprinkled them with sea salt, and popped them into a container.  Done.  Lunches packed, preschool culinarian happy — I gave him one to taste, and though he started by licking the salt off the outside, he crunched it down without comment and nodded in response to my query “how about those in your lunch?”  Score one for ingenuity born of borderline insanity.  In the quest for vegetable victories…anything can be a chip.

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