When I started teaching you were expected to eat with your home room children in the cafeteria at lunch. The concept of a duty free lunch wasn’t even a gleam in the superintendent’s eye.
Eating with the kids was not that big of a problem, however under the customs of the day making them clean their plates was. Trying to make them eat cooked spinach and those thoroughly horrifying little mounds of mixed (already once rejected) vegetable remains was difficult.
Today if parents were to visit their child’s school lunchroom many would be horrified by the number of kids sucking down a 20 oz. mountain dew with their bag of chips or Hoho’s for lunch. Sort of like everything else today under the control of the nutrition police controlling the vending machines in schools does not control the diets of the children enrolled there. It looks good , feels good, sounds good, and works about as well at controlling what kids eat as a screen door would in a submarine.
Lunch rooms are particularly difficult for those of us that started teaching when lunchboxes came with thermos bottles and were decorated with super heroes and cute little animals not some pre-pubescent plastic enhanced, foul mouthed, sluttish appearing rock or TV star or even worse some sadistically violent video game mayhem creature.
Sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper(plastice bags only came around bread). Whole milk, water , or tomato soup was in the thermos, Vegetables weren’t a part of the lunch brought from home unless it was a whole carrot(probably with the skin still on it) and no one had to eat at a separate table because they had peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch. Food trading was rampant and the rare piece of gum or candy was often worth 3 or 4 crusty oatmeal cookies or someones whole lunch on the right day. Apples were virtually untradeable unless for a brown banana a bruised tangerine or someones bologna and mayo( yes they put mayo on unrefrigerated sandwiches and no one died) sandwich. I should also point out that the lunch room did not smell of bleach as so many do now.
The second worst thing I ever saw in a lunch room occurred when the lunch supervisor came out of the kitchen and counted the kids and then as I watched went back into the kitchen and poured around 2 gallons of hot water into the container of chile. Insuring that everyone was able to receive their appointed gruel for lunch… The first worst thing is too disgusting to discuss but it involved badly cooked fish sandwiches served cold on day old buns with suspiciously lumpy tartar sauce.
Other great school classics include:
French Fries with Pancakes
Peanut butter sandwiches and cheese pizza
Pancakes and Sweet Corn
Mixed vegetables with anything
One school I attended got a good Department of Agriculture buy on veal. Never have so many calves lost their lives to become landfill fill.
I once saw a school lunch pancake that was so rubbery that it would literally bounce off the floor. We bounced it a few times, used it in the hall as a frisbie for several days without damage and ended up taking it down to the shop and dating it, varnishing it, and nailing it to the wall in my room where it hung for at least 3 years with no visible signs of deterioration. Talk about a meal that stays with you.