When I was a kid, I was allowed to choose whether to bring a packed lunch or buy my lunch in the school cafeteria. I loved marking up my monthly menu, and developed a strange liking for our school’s “parsley potatoes” which were not actually recognizable as potatoes in any way.
By the time I was in junior high, though, I took to packing my own lunch every day because the school lunches (the same school lunches — my school was K-12 in one building) were not at all appetizing, and there were no options for vegetarians. So my lunch was usually dry cereal, a granola bar, and yogurt. Some other usual lunches I remember at the table were a bag of microwave popcorn (that was my sister’s favorite lunch); an ice cream bar (on its own); and green hot dogs (I have no idea why they were green, but a friend of mine wrote a song about them.) Sometimes I’m amazed that we all didn’t get scurvy.
So, it is with particular interest that I have been reading the news about school lunches over the past few years. I am drawn to the personal stories like the 9 year old girl’s blog about her less-than filling school lunches which has become an international lunch blogging phenomenon.
There are also national policy debates raging about school lunches. While thinking about all of this, I came across Marion Cronan’s The School Lunch in the Kirschner Collection. Published in 1962, this book gives a historical perspective on how school lunches have changed (or stayed the same) over time. The book is extremely detailed, dealing with policies and nutrition requirements, sanitation and safety, and even personnel. There’s a lot that goes into a school lunch! And, of course, there are recipes — all scaled to make 50 servings. Here is an example of a main dish:
Macaroni Frankfurter Bake
3 lbs. elbow macaroni
2/3 c. shortening
6 lbs. frankfurters, sliced
2 c. onion, chopped
3-4 peppers, green, chopped
3 qts. cream of celery soup, condensed
3 qts. water
3 qts. cheese, American, shredded
3 T. mustard, prepared
3 c. bread crumbs, buttered
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water about seven minutes. Drain. Melt shortening in skillet. Add frankfurter, onion, green pepper and brown lightly. Combine celery soup, water, cheese, prepared mustard and blend well. Add to frankfurter mixture and beat thoroughly until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni. Pour into baking pans. Top with buttered crumbs. Bake at 350°F for thirty-five minutes.
By The School Lunch by Marion Cronan (1962)