In an exclusive interview, we chat with the School Lunchbox Dad, George Georgievski, about international lunchbox inspiration for kids stuck at home!
With the ongoing pandemic across the world, it’s hard enough to get the kids outside, let alone any further abroad. We’re all suddenly leading very insular and localised lives.
But for children growing up and developing in this sort of isolation—cut off from some family and plenty of friends—it’s vital to maintain connections with the rest of the community.
And when we talk about community, we’re not just talking about a local scale but a global one. This problem affects us all, and appreciating that can have a profound effect on a child’s positive outlook.
One of the best ways to relate to other people’s cultures is through food, and in the current environment, it’s one of the only ways to stay connected with the wider world.
An appreciation and understanding of food from other nationalities will keep children connected, and so we chatted with the expert of creating fun foods for kids, George Georgievski, to get his insight into some great international recipes that are perfect for the Stuck On You Bento!
Stuck On You: What do you consider the essential components of a great international lunchbox?
George: I believe an international lunchbox should consist of some sort of variation of the national dish of that country.
In Italy, for example, pasta is huge and considered to be the ultimate dish. So instead of including ravioli that could get messy, I create a ravioli sandwich that captures the essence of the dish.
I guess in a way it’s about capturing the imagination and curiosity of our little humans for them to ask questions.
Also, it’s important for our little peeps to know what country the Bento is representing, so I include a little flag of that country and also some fun facts like: “Did you know in Switzerland there are more chocolate outlets than dentists?”
Stuck On You: Is it difficult to capture the essence of an international recipe while still making something healthy?
George: One thing I’ve learned is that a lot of international food is pretty healthy. It seems that in Western culture we have embraced the unhealthy way to eat mainly due to our hectic lifestyles.
I discovered that in poorer parts of the world, people rely on self-grown produce, which then means the children eat better food than the countries in the West.
Stuck On You: Are there any additional activities you get kids involved in while preparing international lunchboxes—ones that might also teach them about the country’s cultures and customs?
George: Absolutely. We learn a couple of the meet-and-greet words, like in Italy the word Ciao is used to say ‘hello’ and also ‘goodbye’.
We usually use the Internet to look up some landmarks of countries, like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Italy and so on.
Customs are also important for our kids to learn. For example, in Russia and with the Orthodox Christians, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January. It certainly taught my girls that it’s important to respect all cultures and our differences.
Stuck On You: What’s the most recent international meal you’ve made?
George: I made my wife a delicious home-made Thai red curry, and my girls also jumped in to help.
My wife is a health care worker, and given the pressure on frontline workers right now, we wanted to show her we loved her and were grateful for what she was doing. So, we did our bit to thank her by making her lunch super-special and scrumptious.
We also added a note in her personalised Bento. It was the first time we had a red curry in a bento; I used the Stuck On You Sandwich Tray so my wife could take it out and microwave it.
Stuck On You: You’ve created lunchboxes in your book, Lunchbox Express, inspired by foods from all over the world, including Italy, Switzerland and even Macedonia. Is it possible to pick a favourite?
George: For me, it will always be the Macedonian Bento. It was huge when the media got a hold of it in Macedonia; I ended up doing a 30-minute TV interview as a result.
Considering my parents were from Macedonia, it made the cooking experience soulful and the end result was delicious. It took me back to my childhood.
Thanks so much to George for his thoughts about international recipes and Bento ideas. Let us know in the comment section below what your favourite culturally-inspired lunchbox fillings are!