I, however, was in a sheer panic.
This is the thing I hate most in the world: packing lunch for my kid every day. It is only the legal repercussions and moral implications of allowing her to starve that brings me back, day after day, to the thankless task.
I have been forbidden by my daughter from giving her ham sandwiches ever again, after an unfortunate three-week run where she got nothing but. I have made gallons of soup, hoping to give her some every day for a week, packed in her little pink-topped thermos, only to have her insist on eating it for three times a day so that it lasts for all of 36 hours. I have spent evenings planning out how the evening's leftovers could be transported to school the next day and remain edible -- how do you keep baby-back ribs warm? -- because the thing that makes the kid happiest is leftovers.
This year, I vowed it would be different. I sat down with the little lunch-hungry child and we made a list -- an actual list! -- of ideas for things to pack. I am limited to two (2) sandwiches a week, and the second of those sandwiches was the result of some hard negotiating on my part. Given the kid's interest in all things anime at the moment, there is a heavy emphasis on Japanese-inspired treats, such as rice balls and seaweed. She has agreed that she's willing to eat the same thing for three days in a row, but no more than that; I have gotten her to promise that she won't eat for breakfast that which I was planning to give her for lunch.
Thanks to these guidelines, my hands have stopped shaking and the cold sweats are much less frequent. Not gone, entirely, but less frequent.
Soba Noodles with Sesame and Ginger Dressing
9 oz Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles
2 TB sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 cucumber, julienned
cilantro leaves and lime wedges to garnish, if you wish
For the dressing:
1 bunch of scallions, sliced into thin rounds
2 TB grated ginger
1 TB soy sauce, plus more to taste
2 TB grape seed oil
1 TB sesame oil
2 TB rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
2 TB honey
1 TB Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
2 TB tahini
1. In a medium pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Drop in soba noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water.
2. While you're waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, combine all ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and mix well to make sure the tahini is well combined. Taste for salt -- you may need to add a bit more soy sauce.
3. Add the soba noodles to the dressing, along with the sesame seeds and cilantro (if using). Toss well. Serve immediately, topped with cucumber, or transfer to the fridge for a week's worth of lunchboxes (as long as you don't mind breaking the rules); top with cucumber in the morning when you're putting the lunchbox together.