Lunch is never just lunch. At primary school it’s a bartering system and a caste system all rolled in one. My sister and I learned very quickly just how much our mother’s small concession to junk food could buy in the playground barter system; 1 chocolate covered “Peppermint Wrap” muesli bar buys exactly 1/5th of a packet of Ruffles.

We’d be able to hand over our peppermint essence, chocolate, muesli and glucose rolled together every day for 5 days for 1 pack of mini Ruffles on a Friday.

To this day I still associate Ruffles with being hungry before lunch.

The caste system was firmly drawn- those who got a lunch order firmly at the top. My favourite was a Big Ben square meat pie, a strawberry Moove, 2 red frogs and a strawberry donut. All for $2.

The hyperactivity that followed was a free gift with purchase.

Then beneath you’ve got those who had an earnest lunch heart fully packed, small containers of cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks, home made wholemeal slices, little rolls filled with chicken and avocado, a frozen water bottle to keep it all cool and a note reminding them they were loved.
They were the ones that everyone else hated.

At the bottom were the kids who grabbed whatever they could; seeping pears from the fruit bowl, two pieces of crust smeared with butter and vegemite and a dusty popper from the pantry.

For a child who liked food to be white I had it pretty good. There was a long phase of liking salad sandwiches- but without tomato, carrot, cucumber or tinned beetroot. That left iceberg lettuce.

I had lettuce and butter on bread.

But there was always a frozen little drink bottle of weak orange cordial, a mandarin or apricot and something sweet- if not a peppermint wrap then sometimes Mum made slices from the Women’s Weekly cakes and slices volume; chocolate coconut, or a jam and coconut.

They were much better to barter with than the Wraps.

These days lunches are about escaping from the desk and providing fuel for the hungry.
Particularly hungry are enormous lads who use every lunch time to go to the gym, lift weights, get bigger and then shovel down some fuel at their desks.

They say women can end up marrying someone who is like their father. I haven’t married him yet, but like the father, The Hungry One believes in carbo loading at lunch-

This is the best way I’ve found so far:

Shin Veal Ragu with Penne:

Purchase more vegetables than you can sensibly carry back down the hill to work while wearing heels. Suggestion: 2 brown onions, 3 parsnips, 3 carrots, 1 zucchini, 2 700 ml jars of passata, 4 tins of tomato 1 sweet potato, 1 tin cannelini beans, a dozen big button mushrooms ( more if they’re tiny) 2 kilos of Veal shins.

Get home, haul out the slow cooker. Try not to drop it on your feet when extricating from the bottom cupboard. It hurts.

Turn slow cooker on.

Put some music on and get slicing- Sautee the diced onion and mushrooms in olive oil until onion is translucent and the mushrooms smell very good. Add Both the bottom of the 5 litre slow cooker. Peel and slice into 5 c piece sizes the carrots, zucchini, parsnips, sweet potato. Mix all around in the slow cooker.

Add salt and pepper to a small bowl filled with flour and dust the veal shins in this. Brown them in some olive oil.

Add all the vegetables, the browned veal, the passata, the tinned tomatoes, the rinsed cannelini beans, 4 bay leaves, more brown sugar than you think you’ll need ( about 1/4 of a cup) and half a bottle of red wine from the night before into the slow cooker.

Leave to heave and bubble. 4 hours is good. 8 hours on a very very slow heat is better.

Mix it around every now and again to stop things sticking to the bottom. Don’t wear a white top when you do this.

It’s cooked when the veal shins sift apart like a Cadbury Flake.
This should make about 5 litres of Ragu.

Make a kilo of penne, mix together with the ragu, dole out into Tupper wear and make room in the freezer.
Should feed The Hungry One for a while.

Hopefully it barters well around the office.

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