Anne Lamott has an entire chapter in her book Bird by Bird on school lunches. I loved it. So much can be pulled from your childhood just through the memories of a school lunch.
For example, my mom never had Ziploc bags (sorry Mom)….she always used the cheap bags that you had to flip over to close…..but instead of flipping the fold over she used a twist tie. The twist tie smushed two corners of the sandwich turning it to wheat-jelly-gel. For a child (and still as an adult) with a bread phobia, this made 32.8% of the sandwich inedible. I always eyed the Ziploc bags of my friends with jealousy. I asked for Ziploc bags once and my mom told me they were too expensive.
We can’t afford plastic bags?! End. of. the. world.
I thought about trading in Alice, my new Cabbage Patch Doll, for a lifetime supply of premium plastic zipper lunch packaging….instead I talked my mom into buying me a lunch ticket. (Um…lunch ticket is more expensive than adding in Ziploc bags…something isn’t adding up.) That was awesome until I realized I had to either drink milk or die of thirst. I gagged at the smell of lunch milk…chocolate milk was the worst. It wasn’t anything like the chocolate milk I made at home. Then a kid found a centipede in his vegetable soup. The horror of it all caused lunch amnesia for the next few years. My only consolation was that I wasn’t on the bottom of the totem pole at least: one kid in my class had parents who gave him whole unwashed carrots…..with the green stuff still on it….and Spam.
Because of my childhood lunches, to this day, I am obsessed with Ziploc bags. I put everything in them: lunches, snacks, toiletries, photos, clothing, junk, donations…..sometimes I even put trash in Ziploc bags. I’m also obsessed with Doritos because I dreamed of having those in my lunch. Instead I got either super-green-algae cookies (apparently it will make you live to be 100 for $500 a month) or Stoned Wheat Thins (tastes like cardboard). Sometimes I got a banana but it made my sandwich bread smell like banana….and I can’t eat banana-scented bread. I almost threw up just even writing about it now. Now I am hyper-lunch-aware. I’m sure Boo thinks I’m psychotic-lunch-lady:
Did you get enough to eat? Was the mac and cheese cold, hot or just right? Do you want more variety? Did your bread smell like banana? Does anyone else have a lunch you wished you had?
Anne writes in Bird by Bird, “Remember how in elementary school, grape jelly was the best in your lunch, strawberry jam was Okay, but raspberry was real borderline? Can you talk to me about your experiences with these things? And my friend went into an impassioned, disoriented riff about how there was too much happening in raspberry jam, too many seeds per spoonful. It felt like there were all these tiny little pod people in it. It was Body-Snatcher jam. My friend then mentioned apricot jam, which was even worse than raspberry.”
Ha. When I read that I had apricot jam nightmares flooding back. We always had apricot jam….but never enough grape or strawberry. And we always had plenty of raspberry jam too, but I happened to like the seeds. But if my mother had made a PB&J sandwich with apricot jam, and used a twist tie baggie to package it, I’m pretty sure I would have run away from home.
I remember breaking down in huge sobs to my Mom b/c instead of buying milk with my milk money, I was buying ice cream 🙂 These days, all I have to do is sign online and see what my 1st grader is buying 😉
C.d. H says
Whoever decided to market apricot jam hated children. They must have known it would end up in our lunches. I envied the free lunch kids. Pizza cardboard still smells like pizza and mock hamburger still tastes like ketchup, but there is no excuse for apricot jam. I also had the dirty carrot and the crappy apples, the tiny mushy mealy ones. Oh, and from the 5th grade to HS graduation,I never lived down the banana and mayonnaise on seedy wheat bread. Why?
I can relate 100% to your ziplock bag use now. I am the same way and I know it is because we couldn’t have the ziplock when I was young only fold over. To make matters worse I had to bring the fold over bags home to be rinsed and reused. Yeah, so not fun!
Hated school lunches with a passion from start to finish. I remember opening my pink plastic Barbie lunch box and the thought of the hot, sat all morning in the coat closet lunch ,is making me gag a bit. I had two lunch boxes all through elementary school Barbie and another butt ugly brown metal one w horses. It did not smell any better than the other one. Most days i bought lunch and I remember having to show your tray to the teacher before trashing it. Fourth grade asssigned lunch seats, boy girl boy girl. Spending high school lunches by the pay phones and lounge chairs instead of eating. I hated school, hated lunch time as a kid. So oddly enough,earned a master of education degree and lunch duty added a whole dimension to yuckiness of lunch. My very first day a student silled and entire carton if chocolate milk all over my dress. Imagine August, 95 degree heat, old building w no AC . Smelling like a rose! But lunch duty was fun time t talk to the kids and to oerfect my loud teacher voice. I guess the metal lunch box and pay phone references are really showing my age, aren’t they? 🙂
And the typos show I don’t have my glasses on and am very, very tired. 🙂
Oh that brought back so many memories. I can almost smell those sandwiches when you open the lid. I can remember one day sitting in maths and I was wondering if I’m going to have a nice sandwich or a boring one and I peeked. It was a peanut butter and syrup (that’s how we eat it in South Africa) sandwich and immediately the whole class was filled with the smell of the peanut butter and everyone stared at me.
For the first 5 years after leaving school I refused to eat sandwiches, because the mere thought of it made me gag. When I met my husband he said the only jam he eats is apricot jam. I thought he was lying. I don’t like it on bread but I do love it on snoek (fish) when you braai (BBQ) it.
My 5 year old is constantly teased because her sandwiches aren’t fancy enough. Friends have cold meat, lettuce and tomato etc. Problem is she doesn’t eat that. Most days she only wants Nutella and doesn’t want to eat anything else on her bread. She also gets cut up fruit and yoghurt and a cheese wedge. She gets her fruit in a plastic foldover bag. My first ziplog bag was bought with my own money, and I still only use it when absolutely necessary.
Heather D says
I laughed so hard at this, because I am right there with you, squished sandwich edges and all. I would get upset when I opened my Barbie and the Rockers lunchbox (I know, right?!) and see that my sandwich was not only squished in the corners, but cut right down the middle and not diagonal like the other kids. AND I had generic potato chips. Kids were so mean, so I sat with this other girl who had similar lunch problems and we became friends. I am like you with the bags… I put EVERYTHING in ziplocks bags. I currently have three in my purse filled with various goodies!
I am shocked by the feelings expressed about apricot jam. It is my FAVORITE and I would eat it straight from the jar. I grew up on a farm and we made our own jelly from strawberries that I would raise as a 4-H project and had to sell to earn the money for my bike at 25 cents a box. My mother made homemade bread and so we had these thick slices of white bread in WAX PAPER bags and I used to take my bites inside my lunch box and then put down the lid on my scotch plaid metal lunch box and be envious of the kids with store bought sliced white bread with bologna slices. We got sliced Velveeta cheese with mayo or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and the pickles were homemade too. I am still at a loss to understand anyone who doesn’t appreciate apricot jam, I buy it all whenever I see it on a grocery shelf because I am afraid to not have it on my shelves at home because someone else might buy it all. I never would buy strawberry jam, it isn’t that I hate it …it just isn’t worth eating to me…too much time in the strawberry patch as a kid I guess.
Too funny, I’m not a picky eater I’ll eat anything. I mix things up and eat it too. It’s all going to the same place in the end right?!?. (my husband can’t stand that I think that way).
Anywho, I have worked for the school district that I went to and teach in since I was 19 (I’m 32 now). Seeing what other parents have packed, I think has made me a better lunch packing mom.
I remember in 5th grade if you wanted to….. you could be be a 5th grade lunch helper that usually meant helping the Kindergartners open their milks or even the 1st graders. Helpers ate their lunch last but you got basically a double hot lunch which was fun, and your hot lunches were free that week too. Our school makes pretty decent school lunches. My kids get excited when they get to order, in fact I ordered a school lunch for myself today on my lunch break LOL.
Oh, oh! I’m not the only one who can’t eat stuff that’s laid beside a banana! Such a relief to know I’m not alone!! SO VERY DISGUSTING!!!
Michele Littlefield says
This made me giggle. My Mom always used those fold over sandwich bags too. Ugh! I still remember my favorite lunches from the cafeteria in elementary school. Pizza, sloppy joes & taco’s.
I didn’t even get a bag! My jelly sandwiches were wrapped in SaranWrap. My mom would wrap them so tightly and with so much it was hard for me to find where to open it. Have to say though, always loved the jelly sandwich – it was my Gma’s strawberry jam and always top notch!
I too longed for Doritos! I always got pretzels – BOO!
It was all nicely packaged in my yellow Mork and Mindy lunch pail. Aaaaahhhh the memories!