It’s a universal rule of being a kid: no matter what your parents feed you there’s always something better. For me, it was Velveeta mac and cheese from a box. My mother’s homemade version, crusty brown and oozing sharp Cheddar, a dish I now recognize as food nirvana, didn’t measure up when I was 10.
For my kids, the coveted food comes in the form of a snack box acquired for six bucks on an airplane. A couple of years ago on a flight to Mexico, my three girls longingly eyed the little boy a row away munching happily on a carton of delightful foodstuffs: a little tub of processed cheese spread, a neat row of salami, a package of buttery crackers, cream-filled cookies, a bag of potato chips, a minature candy bar. “Why can’t we have that?” they all said, pointing to their enviable neighbor. The sack lunches I had packed for the flight that morning suddenly didn’t seem so appealing.
I understood. Undoing little parcels of food wrapped tidily in a neat box looked like a lot of fun. Having had my own longing for things my mother was never going to buy me (the Candies four-inch sandals I wanted in the eighth grade among other things) I could relate.
Since then, I’ve abandoned the standard bagged lunch and devised my own solution to the beguiling airline offerings: the homemade snack box. The night before a flight I assemble an assortment of eats, trying to cover all my bases: five or six little containers, that are moderately nutritious and include something on the crunchy/salty spectrum, a fruit and a vegetable, some protein, and a little treat. And though I’m sure my kids would opt for the airline version over mine any day, they get the feeling of un-wrapping a box of goodies without all the unwanted ingredients. It feels like a very happy medium for me and sets the tone for eating consciously on vacation.
The photos above are examples of the sorts of things I might include in a homemade snack box: fresh and dried fruits, cut up vegetables; nut butter, cheese slices, a small protein bar, yogurt; seasoned seaweed, whole grain crackers, pretzel thins; dark chocolate, an organic lollipop