Welcome to our regular column from teacher and stand-up comedian Sarah Whitmore. Back-to-school season is upon us! In this installment, Sarah explores the kid politics of lunchboxes and gives us a recipe for guilt-free bars to go in them.
Mork’s No-Bake Lunchbox Bars
When I was little, lunchboxes were a big deal. In ﬁrst grade I had a Holly Hobbie lunch box. Midway through the school year, my big brother saved up his own money and upgraded from a Super Friends (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) lunchbox to a way more boss, Evel Knievel model.
I begged my sibling for his barely used Super Friends box. I didn’t have a deal with Holly Hobbie. Well, nothing in writing. Besides, my brother had only settled for the Super Friends lunchbox. He’d pitched a big, fat, baby FIT in the store in August when our mother refused to spend a single penny on a lunchbox emblazoned with “that nitwit” Evel Knievel. She felt strongly about lunchbox art. Don’t even start with her about The Dukes of Hazard—a show about “garbage.” When my brother got his new box, I begged him for the old one.
Brother: No way. I’m using it to keep my best race cars safe.
Me: Safe from what?
Brother: No! I still need it.
Our mother brokered a trade in my favor. She gave my brother the racing car parking lot of his dreams—her big, green, velvet-lined jewelry box. Apparently, we were all upgrading our containers. When my brother saw what I did to his old lunchbox—how I decorated it—he tried to take it back. A serious, physical brawl ensued.
Our Mother: Cool it! I will throw away all the lunchboxes and you will BOTH carry your food in old bread bags! Sarah can decorate her lunchbox however she wants.
I cannot believe she tolerated and kept living with us.
With patches of black electrical tape, I covered up Super and Bat Men. That’s how I got a Wonder Woman lunchbox!
These days lunch boxes are all about safety, purity, and organic materials. Kids bring lunches in gleaming, stainless steel autoclave-looking cases or shaggy, fresh-woven baskets garbled together with dried grasses and “found” objects—your sandwich is in a crow’s nest.
Who proudly carries a matte blue, soft-sided personal-sized cooler to school? If I could get back my Mork and Mindy lunchbox (4th grade), I’d throw away my purse.
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seed butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
1 cup seeded, smashed Medjool dates
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with waxed paper.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together mango, dates, honey, vanilla, coconut oil, and sunflower seed butter. Mix well. Remove when warm and melty—not cooked.
3. Sprinkle salt (especially if using unsalted seed butter) over mixture.
4. In three parts, add oats and flax meal.
5. Spread and press mix into the prepared pan.
6. Place pan in the freezer for 25 minutes
7. Cut up and serve bars or wrap in waxed paper and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
8. Transport in lunch box.