I like to cook, people. Really like it–see my alternate life. Which is fortunate because I do a lot of it. But school lunches are my nemesis. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to find healthy lunch options for kids in a hot country (with no refrigeration). There aren’t cold cuts or already-prepared food options in the grocery stores or street markets. Feeding the kids a simple healthy lunch requires loads of preplanning: I have to make homemade soup and heat it up in the morning to be packed in a thermos, or hard-boil eggs and cut up fresh veggies, etc. I have even invented Pizza Lunchables: Indonesia-style. I made homemade pizza sauce and pre-baked a big batch of small pizza crusts.
Then I froze the crusts and sauce in little bags. All I have to do is throw them in the lunch bag with a little bag of shredded cheese.
Norah loves that one. Poor kid, she’s still recovering from all the PB & J that fueled her first grade year. (I was in language school and survival mode simultaneously, don’t judge.)
Jam is available here, though not the healthy or natural kind, but the price of a small jar is equivalent to about six dollars. There is also peanut butter–the main one I see is Skippy brand, imported from the States. This also runs between six and eight dollars, and a jar of PB in this house lasts about as long as it would if it was made of ice. Also, we like natural unsweetened peanut butter (it’s a better contrast to all the ice cream and chocolate we like to eat with it).
When we finished language school I started making my own strawberry jam with bags of frozen strawberries. This cuts the price in half, cuts the sugar completely, and tastes a lot better than the stale stuff on the shelf.
I’ve now begun making peanut butter also. I held back for a long time because I was fairly confident I’d wreck the blender. The peanuts that taste the best are the roasted/lightly salted ones in the shell. The kids help me shell about a kilo of these at a time. (Please dispel any sudden images of peaceful family industry that may arise–by “help” I mean, Norah shells twenty or so, Harriet shells two for me and ten for herself, Hugh eats a bunch of the ones we’ve already done or picks out the rotten ones and feeds them to Wally.)
Then I make a lot of noise with the blender and a spatula and some vegetable oil, and we have a jug of peanut butter–a little grainy, but salty nutty goodness just the same. There’s nothing added and no sugar, it is far less than half the price, and it’s still the go-to for lunches.
Don’t let all the health talk distract you from the real reason to make peanut butter. Now at last we can have chocolate peanut butter cups.
Talk about a big hit in school lunches.