Concord food writer helps parents picture appealing school lunches
By TIM BUCKLAND
New Hampshire Union Leader | August 21. 2013 12:36AM
“Beating the Lunch Box Blues” is in large part a photographic guide to imaginative and appetizing school lunches. 8MATTHEW MEAD
Hirsch has appeared with TV celebrity chef Rachael Ray a number of times. His book is the first being offered through her new imprint, Rachael Ray Books. HOLLY RAMER
J.M. Hirsch’s inspiration for his new book, “Beating the Lunch Box Blues,” is his long-running blog at luncbboxblues.com, where he writes about the adventures of packing lunch for his 8-year-old son. SHARON RAMER
Panic can set in here, but J.M. Hirsch of Concord has authored a new book — you can't really call it a cookbook (more on that later) — that will hopefully make those last-minute lunches easy, healthy and, yes, something tasty that the kids will want to gobble up.
"Beating The Lunch Box Blues" will be released in stores and Amazon.com on Sept. 3. The book, which is the first being offered on celebrity chef Rachael Ray's new publishing imprint, is designed to give parents ideas to put together a quick and fun lunch for their kids. The book is light on recipes and heavy on pictures.
"I just don't think people work that way in the morning while they're packing lunches," he said. "You have five, maybe 10 minutes, tops to do it."
"To me, it was very important that the book be 100 percent visual," he said. "I just want people to be able to flip through it, look at the ideas and say, 'Oh, I get it. Ok, I can do that.'"
While he is the national food editor for the Associated Press, Hirsch said he had no special culinary training. What he had, he said, was a desire to make sure his son, Parker, ate as healthy as possible.
The book began as a blog, lunchboxblues.com, that Hirsch started a few years ago. He takes pictures of and describes the lunch he packed for Parker that day. He said that, when a magazine editor urged him to start the blog, he took to it like "a petulant child," believing it would go nowhere and nobody would read it.
"I knew that if I was ever going to write a book based on blog ... she was the person to do that book for me," he said. He showed her his proposal and she "loved it," he said.
OK, there are some recipes
The book does have about 30 recipes, including vegetarian options, but there's a catch. Each is designed to be a dinner recipe that results in leftovers that, you may have guessed by now, turn into future lunches.
For example, Wednesday night's rosemary-port braised beef short ribs becomes Thursday's beef sliders and Friday's short ribs and pasta.
The star of Hirsch's blog is 8-year-old Parker, who has shared screen time with his dad on Food Network shows and is in the September issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, in which Hirsch's book is featured.
Parker has met numerous celebrity chefs, though he is rarely awed because Hirsch said his home has no television. Hirsch shared a story in which several chefs, including Ray and Alton Brown, submitted recipes a few years ago to help encourage Parker to eat vegetables. Brown's parsnip muffins won.
Hirsch's full-time job with the Associated Press is technically based in New York City, though he said he refuses to live there. When taking the job, he insisted on staying in Concord, where he lives with his wife, Holly Ramer, who is a reporter with the Associated Press, and his 8-year-old who "is prone to acting 18," as Hirsch writes on his blog.