IT IS ''back to school'' time - the supermarkets are full of stationery, the shoe departments full of kids and glossy magazines full of ideas for school lunches.
Last week, I found an article on creative ideas for kids' lunches that left me wanting to throw that classic heckler's tool, the rotten tomato.
Don't get me wrong, the sandwiches in the photos were indeed creative. But they were clearly freshly made for the photo and had never been near a layer of cling wrap or inside an actual lunch box.
Despite fillings including tomato or mayonnaise or mustard - or all three - none of the sandwiches was soggy or flat, which is what they'd be if they'd been made at 8am and jiggled around in a school bag until 1pm.
I've been making school lunches for eight years now, so I know a thing or two. I can't help feeling these annual school lunches articles are beamed from a parallel universe.
Why can't they show us the sandwiches as they'd look when the lunch box has been tossed or sat on, or the sandwich has been dropped in the playground and acquired an encrusting layer of dirt, or after it's sucked moisture like a sponge from the frozen drink thawing next to it?
Why can't they show us the sandwiches as they'd look when the lunch box has been tossed or sat on, or the sandwich has been dropped in the playground and acquired an encrusting layer of dirt, or after it's sucked moisture like a sponge from the frozen drink thawing next to it? Images of what they'd actually look like to the kid who is about to attempt to consume them? If anyone can suggest how a tomato sandwich will look or taste good four or five hours after it was made, I'd be glad to hear it.
School lunches are a sensitive subject. After asking adult friends and work colleagues about their childhood experience of school lunches, I found deep psychological scars.
A neighbour remembered her mum making her lunches for the week and freezing them, getting new ones out each day for school. Friday's lunches were soggy and awful. Another friend told how he binned his lunches, and had never eaten school lunches until he could make them for himself.
My personal psychological scar relates to rock cakes - for recess every day, dry and completely tasteless. I hated them and haven't eaten one since. And yet, I may also be an inflicter of psychological school lunch damage.
A few years ago, we found that one of our children had been stashing uneaten school lunches under a sofa for most of the term. It was only with an infestation of fruit flies we realised something was amiss. A lot of soul-searching about our parenting followed. Not wanting to foist unwanted sandwiches on my offspring and hoping to heal any damage, I asked for preferences for sandwich fillings. The answer? Tomato.