Weirdest packed lunches


Zubin D’souza

My son hates Covid-19 with a vehemence that is probably unprecedented. I understand that he is at an age when teenage angst is all too common but this really took me by surprise. I mean I probably expected that the focus of his anger outbursts could have been a more rational object. Usually the target is the father and I had been preparing myself for that onslaught ever since he was little. Somewhere I am glad that he has chosen to draw out his ire on a deadly virus that seems to be constantly mutating. It makes the entire sordid episode seem all the more palpable and believe me I sleep better knowing that he doesn’t hate me so much as yet.

The spread of the virus has pretty much upturned his life as he knew it. Being confined to your home is probably the worst that one could do to a being with raging hormones and boundless energy. Besides the inability to catch up with his friends, I think that he actually misses the routine of his everyday life.

My son loves having a schedule. It helps him focus on the tasks at hand and the ones that are to pop up in the future. He loved leaving home, going about his life and braving the uncertainties of student life and then returning to the cocooned safety of his residence.

Gone were those opportunities now. He was no longer travelling, no longer attending class. There were no friends to meet but worse still was there were no longer packed lunches to eat.

I think that my son always looked forward to the surprise that each of his packed lunches would bring.

And since he has attended school all over the world, he has got a better cultural education through sharing his meals with other kids than we could have ever hoped to provide through books.

He has turned into an adventurous eater to say the least.

Every once in a while we may display a small semblance of a freak-out at his meal choices but we stay composed through the majority of them.

Things like the Chinese penchant for chicken feet and the Japanese tendency to treat tuna eyeballs as a packed lunch delicacy no longer get awkward stares from us.

I am okay with people treating kangaroo, crocodile and frog legs as a protein source.

In fact when I was at school, my friend Sanjay had his mum prepare the most delicious fried frog leg rolls that I could have ever eaten. They were fabulous and I still remember them although this memory stretches back more than three decades.

I know that kids have generally been taught not to munch on insects but we knew better I guess.

We haven’t stopped him from eating fried insects in Thailand or locusts in the Middle East. So it came as little surprise to us when a Japanese friend introduced our budding gourmet to wasp crackers. It is a cookie very much like a chocolate chip cookie except the chocolate chips are replaced with the digger wasp.

In the Philippines, eating balut is a delicacy but I don’t think that my boy managed more than a couple of these boiled eggs that contain a developing duck embryo within.

I think he fared far better with pickled eggs in the UK and pickled pork trotters in the US. Why someone would send stuff like that with a kid to school is beyond me.

We ensured that he didn’t eat bush meat during our stint in Africa. This broad term encompasses a wide variety of wild animals including giraffe, lemurs and apes. Besides the fact that I think that eating ape meat borders on cannibalism because of the similarities in our DNA structure, we were afraid of the spread of Ebola.

I may be biased in my judgement but I think that the worst experiences have come from experiences with Marmite or Vegemite on toast. Marmite is a yeast extract and a by-product of the beer brewing industry. Basically it is just the sticky, thick and salty slurry that gathers at the bottom of the barrels. How one gets kids to enjoy these concentrated flavours is beyond me!

I guess my son also misses the stares of his fellow students when he pulls out his packed lunch during mealtimes. They probably all look at his peanut butter slathered burger and go “how weird is that?”

Well, they clearly have no clue as to how much weirder it could possibly get!