how The Little Prince relates to lunchtime (or: Elise is and isn’t growing up, part the first)

In the three weeks I’ve been gainfully employed, bringing lunch to work has swung dramatically between being the bane of my existence and my greatest delight (the former opinion usually occurring as I’m trying to make it out my front door on time, and the latter around noon each day).

…food is one of the few great loves in my life, and it maybe makes me a little dramatic.

Last night, I was trying to plan out my grocery list, because grown ups don’t just throw whatever sounds good in a cart and hope for the best (or so I’ve heard). I stumbled across this recipe for a chickpea, cherry tomato, and feta salad, and I was instantly thrilled because 1. it involved chickpeas, which are a less expensive protein source than meat, 2. it’s the kind of recipe that serves more as inspiration than instruction, which is my favorite kind, and 3. click that link and LOOK AT HOW ADORABLE IT IS. I mean, all the colors, and in the little silver tin – so. dang. instagrammable.

So that’s what I brought for lunch today. And ya’ll, I was so pleased with myself. I had my little tupperware (decidedly NOT instagrammable) full of trendy, pretty, delicious food. It smelled great. It was healthy. (Vegetarian AND gluten free. Not on purpose.) And in the midst of my mini workday revelry, I heard a little whispered question in the back of my head.

When did you grow up and get so boring?

Last month, I read The Little Prince, which I’ve heard very accurately described as “the most grown-up kids book there is.” I’d read bits and pieces in French Lit classes over the years, but never straight through and never in a language I actually understood. Remedying that was a really good idea, because there’s so much wisdom in that story. And wit. Lots of wit.

No spoilers, I promise, but for the uninitiated: the story starts with a narrator drawing a picture of a snake that has just eaten an elephant whole. 

Immensely proud of the picture, he shows it to some grown ups, who tell him what a nice hat he’s drawn. The experience teaches him the valuable lesson that grown ups are foolish creatures, and he should never become one. If you haven’t read the story, you should, because it will remind you what is important in life, the universe, and everything. Hint: it’s not having the trendiest lunch in the office fridge.

What’s important is people. And beauty. And truth. And justice. And Jesus. And a whole lot of other stuff that’s hard to pin down and turn into a to-do list and an Instagram feed. Food is good and worth reveling in (and I think it’s really cool that God decided to create a world where food is a necessity, because he actually didn’t have to). But food being attached to my ego is not. And food being used to make myself feel like I fit the mold of what a 20-something professional is supposed to look like is also not.

That’s not exactly what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was trying to say when he wrote The Little Prince. But I think we would both agree that being a grown up is overrated, and that trendy food is a pretty silly status symbol.

You could say I’m starting to figure out this adulthood thing. It might not be a total lie. But I’m figuring it out on a healthy dose of children’s lit and laughing at myself. Here’s hoping that never changes.

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