Bitesized: Lunchboxes

lunch box

lunch box - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Did you pack a lunch box today? Judith Taylor, our voice of farming from Ludham, wonders what’s inside

MAYBE packed lunches are not what spring to mind for most people when thinking about February, but they are for me. When I was very small on those dark, dank, foggy days at 12 noon precisely I used to love snuggling up beside Harry Spratt, a lovely old Norfolk gentleman who worked for us, in our barn and share his packed lunch and listen to all his wonderful Norfolk tales of years gone by... how lucky was I!

Harry’s packed lunch was in a tin with a yellow lid which he’d open up and tucked inside was a little greaseproof paper parcel of delight - delicious ham sandwiches with English mustard, made from gammon and bread his sister had prepared in their little thatched cottage in Ashwellthorpe. After that we enjoyed a big slab of the most wonderful fruit cake and Cheddar cheese. The apple and orange which followed weren’t so appealing, but to this day whenever I eat fruit cake I always have a piece of cheddar with it – give it a go, it’s yummy!

Years ago packed lunches, or baggings as they were apparently called up north, were often wrapped in a handkerchief or carried in a woven basket or in a recycled biscuit tin as in Harry’s case. Some people even had a handmade wooden version.

How things have changed – today, we might not even bother to take a packed lunch with us but instead drop into the nearest deli or takeaway to buy a ready-made sandwich. However 2.5 billion sandwiches are still made to pack the nation’s lunch boxes each year. According to a 2010 study carried out by Leeds University and commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, based on what primary school children took to school in their lunch boxes only 1pc met the nutritional standards set for school meals.

Packed lunches are big business in Mumbai in India, where 200,000 lunch boxes known as dabbas or tiffins, usually cylindrical tins, are prepared in homes and delivered to the customers by 5,000 dabbawalas (“one who carries the box”) each day!

A balanced lunchbox should contain:

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Starchy foods such as bread, potatoes or pasta

Protein foods such as fish, eggs or beans

Vegetables, salad and a portion of fruit

Dairy foods such as cheese or a yoghurt

Judith’s book of the month

LEON – Lunchbox Naturally Fast Recipes is a great little book, published in 2015 by Conran Octopus, and priced £6.99. I have to fill my son’s packed lunch box up every day and it’s a real chore to keep it appealing and healthy, but there are lots of very different recipes in this book, from soups to frittatas and tarts to chicken drum sticks and Scotch eggs.

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