Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's in the Box?

Back to school time brings up memories of school lunches from when I was young. A confession here. For me that was quite a long time ago—I entered school in the mid-1950s.

I did have a lunch box when I was in primary school. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t brand new. Certainly my mother found one somewhere for me, cleaned out the inside and declared as good as new.  What was on that lunch box I do not remember. What I do remember was what was inside.

For the first four grades of school I don’t know if there was a hot lunch program. All I knew was that I always carried my lunch.

Most often it was a bologna sandwich. With cheese. Now this wasn’t a slice of cheddar or swiss. No. What was always on the sandwich was Velveeta cheese.

Now you may think of Velveeta cheese as a variation of Mac and Cheese that comes in a box.

In the 1950s it was, at least in my house, what we knew as cheese.  The only cheese. It was great for making macaroni and cheese, because it melted so well.  And for grilled cheese sandwiches, for the same reason.

Velveeta came in a one or two pound log. It was a little difficult to slice for a sandwich. Because it was not really solid, you couldn't get even slices no matter how hard you tried.

Velveeta is owned by Kraft Foods and back in the 1950s, when I was lunching on it with my bologna, it was considered very nutritious. The American Medical Association gave its seal of approval.

It was, and still is, a processed cheese food product.  The name came from how velvety smooth it was.

Argh. It’s painful to admit, but that is what I knew as cheese as a child.  I never had deli cheese. Always Velveeta. It was cheap. And good for you,  according to the AMA.

So my lunchbox would most likely have a waxed paper wrapped bologna and Velveeta sandwich, on white bread with a little mayonnaise and a little mustard. Sometimes a leaf of iceberg lettuce.

Dessert was most likely some kind of baked good. It might be a chocolate chip cookies. Or a slice of chocolate cake.  And although those were tasty, nothing was quite as good in my memory as the Tastykake pies my mother would slip in my lunchbox.  That only lasted a couple of years when she was working three jobs while taking care of a family as well.

My mother would press a nickel in my hand every week. Milk money.  We could buy small bottles of milk for a penny.  The nickel was good for a week of milks.

So that was my “nutritious lunch.”  And there was some trading going on, but I think I didn’t usually find someone interested in my humble lunch.

Did your mother send you to school with a lunch? What was in it?

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