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School Lunches I Have Known

September 27, 2011

Writing about food and memory is fun. It’s fun to read other people’s stories, too.

The first discussion about the book on the BlogHer Book Club had us reminiscing about our own school lunches. Cafeteria food, bag lunches, and “tradesies.” I remember chomping disconsolately on my whole wheat bread sandwich, wishing my health-conscious mother had packed me white bread and a Fruit Roll Up, like the popular kids. I wasn’t a picky eater, by any stretch of the imagination. I ate my healthy lunch, and all my vegetables at dinner. Still do.

My mom’s style with introducing me to new foods was to question me about exactly what I didn’t like, whether I was reacting to taste, smell, texture, or aftertaste… she’d talk with me about each new food I tried, til we figured out exactly what I disliked.

She kept a chart on the refrigerator, listing all the new foods, and my rating of them. Sometimes I tease her, saying “it was too much work to be a picky eater!” That, and her method of dealing with new foods probably is what turned me into the foodie I am now.

There are a couple of foods I really don’t want to eat, ever: asparagus, (aftertaste!) raspberries and blackberries (seeds! texture!) and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to kiwi fruits and raw onions.

There was always something that felt a little frumpy, a little nerdy, about my healthy lunch in elementary school. Reading and drooling over other kids’ delicious homemade lunches on BlogHer, or Kalafa’s tales of school lunches full of fresh vegetables, salad bars, and organic cafeteria hot lunches… I can’t imagine what I saw in the Fruit Roll Up. Nasty, branded fruit goo.  But, even to a 6 year old kid, lunchtime had a distinct whiff of peer pressure and popularity. And my parents kept me away from watching much TV, so I’m not even sure how I got the marketing notion.

I had a school cafeteria lunch at my second elementary school. Although the food was healthy (though, having read Lunch Wars, I’m not so sure it was as healthy as I assume) and we were all eating the same thing, there was still peer pressure going on. Pizza was popular. Fish sticks were stinky, and therefore, less popular. And the hot dogs were scorned for being both smelly and funny looking. The way I remember it, those opinions were collective, rather than my own personal reaction.

In high school, we brought lunches, or zoomed around the corner to buy sandwiches. Our lunchroom was called, I kid you not, The Teahouse.  With pink walls. This is what you get from an all girls’ school uptown. I don’t remember exactly what I ate, only that packing lunch was a chore. (Still is. I am very lazy about preparing food for myself, whether it’s bringing lunch or making dinner.) Deli lunches were turkey sandwiches with mustard, bagels and yogurt, and lots and lots of Snapple iced tea. Which I think is too sweet, now. There were also bake sales for whatever cause needed money. Mmm, bake sale brownies!

I generally liked the food in college. Mostly, I suspect I liked having someone else prepare it, and then I could come choose from a finite menu of already-prepared things. Which I would then eat at a big table of laughing and ridiculous friends.

Food shopping, and cooking is not my favorite thing. Sometimes, I get into a recipe, or like to cook for other people. But, for the most part, I prefer to be the one being fed. Like I said, I can get lazy about making my own food.

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