School cafeteria lunches are one popular option. While not the cheapest way to go, it’s the easiest. And after many years of fighting the nutrition debate, offerings in the lunchroom have seemed to gain at least a little ground in the nutritious-or-not warfare.
Perusing through a vintage Metropolitan Cook Book, the following section on ‘The Lunch Box’ amused me. Published by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, this edition is most probably from the 1930’s or 1940’s. (No publication date. The style is consistent with the era between the 1925 and 1948 issues.)
THE LUNCH BOX
The lunch carried from home requires thought in planning so that it will be satisfying, nutritious and appetizing. The container used plays a large part in keeping the lunch in good condition.
The lunch box should be dust-proof, well ventilated and easily washed. Metal boxes have these advantages, and when collapsible they are easy to carry home. Some are arranged in compartments and are equipped with thermos bottles.
Baskets are not easily cleaned and unless the food is well wrapped, it dries out quickly.
Fibre boxes are cheap, but they are absorbent and therefore hard to keep clean.
Wax paper, paper napkins, paper plates and containers, paper or collapsible metal cups, thermos bottles and sealtight jars all aid in preparing lunches.
The container should be lined with a paper napkin and each article wrapped separately in waxed paper, and placed in the order in which the food will be eaten. Articles should be packed compactly so that the food cannot be shaken about.
The lunch box menu should be planned to include a substantial food, a juicy fruit or vegetable, a simple dessert and a beverage.
Sandwiches, which are usually included, should be made from day-old bread, which may be graham, whole wheat, rye, rolls or white bread.
In cutting the bread, arrange the slices so that they will fit together.
Cream the butter or butter substitute until soft enough to spread easily. The butter tends to prevent a soft filling from making the bread soggy.
I chuckled when I read the part about packing the lunch ‘compactly so that the food cannot be shaken about.’ I thought of the many (many!) lunches my brother, sister and I ferried to school each day in a brown paper sack. Tossed around, stuffed in backpacks, into lockers and generally treated with disdain, by lunchtime we often couldn’t recognize the smushed offering that left home as a sandwich.
And have you eaten a sandwich wrapped in waxed paper only? Oh my! What an improvement in lunches now – with all the zip lock sandwich baggies, in a multitude of sizes no less. No more dried-out-seen-better-moments sandwiches.
Look at the lunch boxes and bags there are to choose from in today’s world! No more fibre boxes, sealtight jars and metal lunch pails. There’s such a selection of insulated bags in a variety of sizes, colors, and sizes that it can make your head spin. There’s even individual frozen icy packs to keep things cold.
The cook book also suggested several ideas for sandwich fillings.
Dried beef, plain or frizzled.
Slices of beef, ham, chicken, lamb, sprinkled with salt or spread with a little salad dressing.
Sardines, minced, with lemon juice added.
Add India relish to well-seasoned fresh cottage cheese.
Yes, there were also conventional suggestions, more in line with today’s palate. You know, all of a sudden, a no-nonsense bologna sandwich – or even an ordinary PB & J – doesn’t sound so bad after all.
I’m off to the kitchen. I hear a bologna and cheese sandwich in there calling my name. My only dilemma for the day is … catsup or mustard?
Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at firstname.lastname@example.org