Did You Pack Your Kids a Local Lunch?

August 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

Rob Gardner

I did.  I packed two local lunches today.  Truth is, no one bares the brunt of our local life more than the two teens.  Sure, over the course of the year they will get bananas and olives and maybe something trans-fatty occasionally, but pretty much all the time I pack local.  After all, these are kids who have taken to showing off their psychedelic watermelon radish slices and can stand endless apples.  There’s blue cheese ala Hannah and the Sheila Special.  Here’s some suggestions and ideas to keep your kids eating local come mid-day.

Make that a local peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  You can’t.  I’m pretty sure there are no peanuts showing in Chicago area farmer’s markets.  But one of the best peanut butters you can buy, gets made locally.  Cream-Nut peanut butter created in Grand Rapids, Michigan tastes like peanut butter should.  When you cannot find local peanut butter it makes sense; when you cannot find local jams and jellies, well you are not trying one bit.  I’d be partial to Tomato Mountain’s products without my wife’s employment, I did see them win a jam-off at Hull House once, but I now have extra special, biased reasons to mention them.  Still, Tomato Mountain is just one of many great local jams.  Rare Bird, made near me in Oak Park can be found in stores and farmer’s markets.  Seedlings, I love too.  OK, I love about them all.  C’mon, eat local jelly.

Do you need to force your kids from eating peanut butter daily?  One of my local kids would go to school with peanut butter daily if she could.  I believe, however, that she needs some variety in her diet.  She is one of those Jews who eat ham.  In Oak Park, I can find her Wisconsin Nueske ham for tasty if pricey sammys.  I wish we had a few other ways to get her local cold.  Those in Chicago, especially the North side, will get many more ways to fill up their kid’s lunches when Cleetus gets his deli opened on September 3.  He plans on making his own hams, briskets, pastrami’s and corned beefs in house from local meat.  He will also source a local turkey cold cut.  Hell, that’s probably worth a schlep from Oak Park.

If I cannot find local cold cuts, what else can I do.  I love the things you can do with local goat cheese from Prairie Fruit Farms.  You can go sweet with some of those jams mentioned above.  You can go savory, mixing with some garden pesto or just some dressed local rocket.  You also can split the difference using my wife’s Tomato Mountain sun gold tomato jam for something not quite sweet not quite savory.  My wife being next to Jane, of Maggie’s Gourmet at the Northfield farmer’s market, has made me well aware of their delicious compound butters.  With school starting, I’m filled with sandwich ideas using their stuff.  How ’bout thinly sliced radishes with their chive-parsley butter (on a good wheat bread).

Do your kids have to limit their lunches to sandwiches.  This is the time of year, for sure, for the “blue cheese ala Hananh.”  Take one of those red peppers finally now in season.  Split.  Seed.  Find a good local blue cheese.  We’re partial to the products from Wisconsin’s Hook’s if you can track down.  Let it come to room temperature (to soften).  Then fill the red pepper cavity.  [ed. great also for adults on low carb diets!]

Would you not like to give your kids healthy crap.  The local kids always get a piece of seasonal fruit.  Today’s lunch included tiny “bubble gum” plums.  They usually also get some seasonal veg.  Today’s lunch included multi-colored cherry tomatoes.  And some days I throw in a treat.  They prefer ultra-glutamate heavy, un-naturally dyed items like flammin’ hot cheetos but settle happily for some local dried fruit.  A lot of farmer’s at area markets sell dried fruits.  Stovers, who are at Daley Plaza and many other markets has a huge cache of  healthy crap.

Would you like to spoil them now and then.  Another of my favorite vendors at Daley Plaza is Katherine Ann Confections.  They cannot source all their ingredients locally but they can also source some of their ingredients locally.  Each week they have some kind of new, seasonal truffle.  A few weeks they sold carrot cake truffles from local carrots.  I might put locally made salt caramels from Floriole in their lunches but I tend to eat them before I have a chance to lunch ‘em.

When the local supplies run thin, what can I do?  Sprouts!  You can always find local sprouts and micro-greens.  My kids will happily take a bag of Growing Power sunflower sprouts to school.  And they eat the “Sheila Special”.  The dead of winter locavore creation my wife cooked up: Wisconsin cranberry cheese, local jelly and a good handful of sprouts.

See, there’s all sorts of ways to pack your kids local lunches.  I’d love to hear some of the ways you pack your kids local lunches too.  And if you have any other questions on how to keep your kids eating local at school, let me know.