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LUNCH BOXES


lunch box I happen to like PBJ sandwiches. It used to be only with grape jelly, but I graduated to strawberry some years ago. Fresh baked bread of course is primo, but in a pinch any bread will do.

Peanut butter and jelly remind me of the lunches my mother packed for me in my grammar school days. It was sometimes bologna with mayo; mustard came later when my palate matured, and avocado or left over baked beans made a good sandwich too. The very best as I remember was meat loaf. Each in their turn packed in a brown paper bag with my name clearly written on the front. They didn’t have the cute metal lunch boxes with cartoon characters on as yet. There was always an apple and a couple of cookies, and usually a screw cap jar with milk which had turned warm. Lucky we didn’t get ptomaine poisoning.

I asked Dr. Advice what he took when he was a wee tyke and his list was pretty much the same as mine. We were children at the same time after all. I think he was taken aback at avocado, baked beans and jealous at the meat loaf; he was probably more interested in playing than eating, which is his current persona.

I began to wonder what other people took for their childhood lunches, so I interviewed two friends while we were at lunch yesterday.

T. is from a farm family in Malta, one of 16 children, 8 boys and 8 girls, all carrying their lunches to school. Once at school, each carrying their own small spoon, they were given a graham cracker with jam, and the teacher poured cod liver oil into each spoon. I tried that with my kids by disguising it in orange juice. They have never forgiven me.

She had a hard boiled egg every day, and bread and jam. The bread was like foccacia with olive oil. It was wrapped in waxed paper and carried in a cloth bag. She usually traded the egg for a penny which she spent on candy! Maltese children traded off their lunches just as we did! I don’t remember getting any money for mine though.

T. is an accomplished seamstress, and when I asked her when she first learned to sew she said she always ate her lunch while sitting and sewing on the roof of the school with the principal!

J. went to a convent school in Jamaica, her father a gentleman farmer of English descent. A car came for her and her three brothers each morning, depositing them each at their individual schools.

Her sandwiches were of mashed sardines or potted meat and wrapped either in waxed paper or often in a slightly damp linen cloth, the weather being so very hot. There were no cookies or fruit, but a man brought in “patties”, which are small pastries filled with spicy meat, somewhat like a pasty. Very flaky and crumbly and wrapped in brown paper. They still make them, but they are now made with taro root and called coco bread. Though we have been to Jamaica a couple of times, I don’t remember the patties.

Though it was fun to reminisce, it wasn’t about the food as much as the memories, which it always is really. I wouldn’t trade my lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce for the PBJ or even the meat loaf sandwich, and the dessert wasn’t bad either.

065
“Lily White, Fiji” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

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10 comments on “LUNCH BOXES

  1. What a great question to ask your friends and have the past open up! I like the details about the wrapping and transportation in particular. xx

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  2. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The best lunch boxes I’ve seen are the ones my daughter gives her children: lots of little boxes inside, blueberries in one, nuts in another, hummus with tortilla chips for scooping.

    Lovely portrait, Kayti–the skin tone is perfect.

    Did you feel the earthquake there?

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  3. Yes we felt the quake though the epicenter is about 40 miles north. I called it a “bed shaker”. Dr. Advice slept right through.

    Your grandchildren are fortunate. Those lunches sound delicious and fun to eat.

    Peanut butter and bananas are delicious. I understand that Elvis Presley ate a lot of them—-in bed.

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    • So glad there was that “zone of separation” between you and the quake. It’s interesting that it happened on a dormant fault. I experienced three earthquakes while I lived out there. One was a slight shaker, one was a glass-rattler, and one came through in waves. I was in a large hall with a tile floor, and we could see the wave coming through like a wave in the ocean. (I may have mentioned that. It was quite an impressive experience, and probably will be one of the last experiences I still can remember before my mind goes.)

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      • I think it is interesting to see the various types of quakes. Whether it slides over or under or up and down. Noisy or deathly quiet. This morning at least here, it was very quiet and gen tly shaking. Of course, according to TV coverage, the wine country got a good shaking. We happen to live directly on top of the Hayward fault which is overdue they say. The 1989 quake only lasted 17 seconds, but seemed much longer. I ducked into a closet while packing for a Panama trip. my husband’s secretary was at the ballpark for a game between the A’s and Giants. She thought the end had come.

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  4. I think I started out with a brown paper bag, but sometime in grade school I became the proud possesor of a Roy Rogers lunch pail, with a Dale Evans thermos. Oh, I loved that. Eventually, the thermos disappeared. It probably broke. But the lunch box was around for a long while, until I gave it to someone who loved Roy Rogers even more than I did.

    We had the option to go home for lunch if we lived close enough, but Iliked taking my lunch. It was fairly standard: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples and already peeled oranges, homemade cookies, raisins, carrot sticks. I loved bologna sandwiches, but only fried, so those were for home. Sometimes, I had meatloaf. And we all horse-traded. One friend often showed up with hard-boiled eggs, and she could get a box of raisins and two cookies for those.

    Speaking of meatloaf, I went through a phase in grade school when the only thing I would eat for breakfast was tomato soup and cold meatloaf sandwiches. My mother went nuts, but my dad said, quite reasonably, it was better for me than cold cereal and a piece of toast.
    Sometimes being a spoiled baby isn’t so bad. It went on for about six months, and then I was done with it.

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  5. I think we all had very healthful lunches. I forgot to mention the egg and sometimes the peeled orange. The meatloaf/tomato soup breakfast sounds good. I would like it better than cereal or cottage cheese! One of my kid’s teachers took a poll on what they each had for breakfast. I was in a period where I gave them soup. The rest of the kids thought it was crazy but the teacher loved it.

    Funny how we never heard of peanut allergy in the old days. You have to wonder why that came about so suddenly. It was considered a quality food. Now you have to be careful in feeding someone else peanut butter. I served bowls of peanuts a year or so ago and a friend, who is allergic to bananas, went into analytic shock from them. She hadn’t known it was a no no.

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  6. Kayt that is beautiful love it

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