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.

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