Interview With Food Writer J.M. Hirsch
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but for most people, lunch is certainly the most boring. J.M. Hirsch sets out to change that and uses his daily lunch prep for his son as a teachable moment for America.
Hirsch is the food editor for the Associated Press. He lives in Concord and blogs about the trials and tribulations of his son’s lunches at lunchboxblues.com and tweets as @jm_hirsch. His previous books include “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking” and “Venturesome Vegan Cooking.” His next book, “Beating the Lunch Box Blues,” is his first under the Rachel Ray imprint with Simon & Schuster.
What led you, an AP journalist, to food writing as a specialty? I love food writing because it is about so much more than just great food. There are so many political, economic, medical, environmental, cultural, even ethical facets to what we eat, it’s hard to imagine ever getting bored with it.
Is there a New Hampshire native cuisine? Ha! This is the most vexing of food questions. Though I’ve thought about it many times, I’ve never had much luck identifying a native cuisine for New Hampshire. But I’m OK with that. We are more of a melting pot of the region.
How did lunch become the most boring meal of the day? Lunch is a victim of bad timing. It has become something we rush through as we race back to class or work.
I love the idea of the bento box lunch pail your son has. Any other great tools? A creative frame of mind is your best weapon against dull lunches. We tend to get stuck in sandwich-and-salad ruts because we limit ourselves to preconceived notions of what a packed lunch should be. There’s no reason you can’t pack pulled pork sliders (made from leftover roasted pork and a bottle of barbecue sauce) or gazpacho (toss leftover roasted veggies with purchased tomato soup).
What do you tell strung-out parents who want to begin a tradition of family meals? Make dinner prep social and collaborative. Get the kids involved in the shopping and cooking. Children who cook are children who eat. If the kids are too tied up with homework to help, at least have them in the kitchen with you while you cook.
Kids aren’t the only picky eaters. Do you have a food prejudice? Well, it would be a job hazard if I was a picky eater. That said, there are a couple items I won’t touch. I can’t stand sea urchin (makes me think of licking the beach) and the very idea of tripe turns my stomach.
You’re trapped on an island with an abundance of natural foods and can request a crate full of one condiment. What would it be? That’s easy — ketchup. To get a sense of how much I love ketchup, consider this: In my book a properly dressed burger should have so much ketchup on it that it spills out on all sides, creating a moat all around it. You then eat the burger with a fork and knife, dunking each piece in the moat as you go. In fact, my midnight snack when nobody is looking is a cereal bowl of bread and butter pickle chips and about a cup of ketchup. I know … gross. But so good.