If you're like me and you can flick through Instagram for foodie-themed delights or while away the hours pinching ideas from cookbooks, but find your stomach still empty of an original idea, Lunch Lady has a flavour to savour.
For starters, let's just look, because we all know, when it comes to mags, our eyes do the eating. Lunch Lady is up to issue 6 now, and each one is bold, colourful and fresh. I've already ranted about its beautiful clothbound spine in Shelf Life, with it’s kitsch details, but what I didn't say was that it is soft to the touch and malleable for floured fingers. Food magazines have an immediate aesthetic lure, usually tempting their way into your hand with a photograph of a crisp pie, juices dribbling out the sides, or a velvety cake. Lunch Lady instead allows their biggest fans the cover space: kids. The food within the magazine is what fuels the child on the outside; do you see what they did there?
'Lunch Lady breaks the barrier between what adults eat and what children eat and shows there doesn't have to be a difference.'
For main, Lunch Lady satisfies a lot of cravings. Healthy food, without the beat-about-the-head jargon; parent opinion, without the sugar and rainbows idealism of raising a bundle of joy, but not devoid of enthusiasm; and, above all, achievable meals for all ages. The ideas might be out of the box (quinoa brittle, anyone?) but that relaxation into something strange and new is exactly the atmosphere necessary to bringing up a fearless child. Okay, you might scoff that an oat, walnut and beetroot tart with pear slaw is a bit over your head, let alone your child's, but you won't know if you don't try. Lunch Lady breaks the barrier between what adults eat and what children eat and shows there doesn't have to be a difference. It makes cashew milk and miso accessible, unthreatening and edible. Pumpkin and feta patties with mint pesto and crispy baked onions? Make your own tomato sauce? That all sounds pretty tasty to me, and the six year old inside, too. It is an excellent introduction to conscious cooking. It's not only full of stuff to chew, but things to do, like DIY chalk.
For dessert, here's the stuff that'll make you feel as warm and gooey as a toasted marshmallow. Lunch Lady has heart. It is environmentally responsible; its latest edition especially gives out tidbits and tokens to teach you how you can minimise your impact on our planet. It has an overarching respect of and interest in children's wellbeing, whether it’s their outside space or what they're being fed, and leading from that, it respects and showcases parents successes and failings with heartfelt honesty. The best part is you would never notice. The flow is so natural you can skip from page to page, absorbing every word and picture until you realise you've read it cover to cover. And now to turn to the kitchen and put it into practice.
Lunch Lady encourages you to put your heart and soul into making food, and that's a sweet thing to be fuel your family on. Its that kind of contagious enthusiasm that spreads from parent to child. I would still recommend it to those who don't have kids or if their baby is of the canine or feline nature. It suits those who seek easy and exciting food. You don't need a manic toddler as an excuse to make a delicious chocolate cake, smother it in chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream icing, shower it with a homemade batch of hundreds of thousands and eat it with your bare hands. Right?
Pass me a napkin.