When we are invited to a birthday party (and there are many when you are part of a Kindy class), we take a birthday bento box. I hope I am not short-changing the Japanese ‘bento’ box which is used often for lunches, exists of several compartments where different foods can exist in their own space, without mushing into one unrecognised, mixed up and unappetising goo. The bento arrangement works so well for preparing foods for an ‘away’ Birthday Party. I have even found a BPA free container made by NUDE FOOD MOVERS - which works perfectly – you can find it here.
When you have a child with several major life threatening allergies, shared birthday party food is unfortunately not an option. So my version of a bento box is one where my son gets to feel he is participating and not being left out.
Just a note on this, if you don’t have allergies and wonder why this is necessary, or if you are a dietitian or nutritionist, and think this maybe over the top (when you read further as to what I put into my bento box), please consider this scenario:
you have been invited to an afternoon tea birthday party, you walk in and the table looks amazing, party hats, poppers, lots of colours, bright table-cloth and streamers; whilst you are mingling and chatting you notice the lovely array of foods being placed on the table, lots of yummy cakes with vibrant colours, chocolate brownies, coloured drinks, bowls of ‘M & M’s', fairy bread, candied popcorn, party pies and sausage rolls, you smell the gorgeous aromas and begin feeling hungry. As you are about to sit down, your host comes over and tells you that your Doctor just rang and everything on the table will make you seriously ill, maybe hospitalised or worse, it could be fatal. You realise you CAN’T eat any of it!
How does it feel? Sad, disappointed, frustrated, angry, excluded?
Now, try to put yourself into the shoes of a 4-1/2-year-old boy; he has been doing the ‘away’ Birthday Party since he was 1.
Bobby goes to several parties a year and I have got better at packing a visually appealing and yummy bento box; he loves to pick and try a bit of this and that – just like the other children at the party. He often fends off other children wanting some of his food by saying ”I don’t think you can have it – it might be itchy for you!”
I have to say that he is taking the exclusion and stress of not sharing in the birthday party food with grace beyond his years. It is tough on him, but what can I do? I remind him that he won’t remember the food at a party, but he will remember the experience, the fun, the activities and playing with his friends.
So I pack: home-made muffins, with chocolate icing, apple juice, biscuits (by Orgran), dairy free chocolate, home-made sausage rolls and party pies, lolly ’snakes or jellies’, fruit salad and sometimes pop-corn. There are many places you can get the dairy free chocolate and Orgran biscuits, I recently discovered the lovely women at Vegan Online, and we placed a large order; there was great excitement when that parcel was delivered!
The bento box doesn’t involve a huge amount of work, I make a batch of muffins, sausage rolls and pies, and freeze the lot; so I can just pull out what I need without the hassle of ‘cooking up’ each time.
For his birthday I make everything – but it is a pleasure as he gets the opportunity to share a meal with his friends, no bento box here!
What do you do for ‘away’ birthday parties, how does your child manage not being able to share food, how do you feel in these events?