School Hot Lunches

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redtressed
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2003/08/26 13:45:52 (permalink)

School Hot Lunches

I was fortunate to be fed by militant Italian ladies, in my elementary school hot lunch days in the 60's. Rebellious against preparing state formulary mystery meat and aqua laden mashed 'taters, these culinary suffragettes are my heroines. Our meals.....(often supplemented by their own earnings) consisted of such wonders as rosemaried and cheesy foccacia, Italian wedding soup, Braschioli, gnocchis swimming in garlic butter and parmesan, huge crusty slices of piatto breads and scoops of indescribable homemade spumoni. At morning recess, I would sneak into the building on excuses of having to go to the bathroom, and instead would creep into that inner sanctum of spicy aromas and the flowing italian language. In my career of elementary school disobediance....they never sold me out, although I'm sure I had tell-tale signs of flour on my clothes or the unmistakable bad breath of antipasto salad.
The school system, alerted to the mutiny of these ladies against the state enforced norm, by a fundamentalist state employee who had a child there, were summarily fired from their jobs. An outcry rarely seen in the elementary ranks ensued with boycotts of the hot lunch program, refusals to leave the classroom for lunch, parents lobbying at the school board meetings and the principal and teachers of the school picketing on after school time and weekends. We also contacted.....some Pittsburgh TV stations.....which were of our viewing area , and let our gripes be known on a broader basis. Finally, after three months of haranguing, wailing and generally being a royal pain in the patooties of the powers that be, our beloved Roman goddesses ,were returned to us and allowed to continue on in the manner they had. Freedom had been won, peace had returned to the village and tummies were fat and full once again.
#1

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    yumbo
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/26 16:17:30 (permalink)
    I grew up in New Orleans, and one of the cafeteria cooks at the Etienne de Bore Elementary School took a liking to me. She called me "skillet," which I guess came from my beefy profile when I was a young 'un. I just adored their grilled cheese sandwiches. I went back to the school a couple of years ago. I remembered the cafeteria as being this huge cavernous space, and was shocked to find that it was actually tiny - about the size of a regulation basketball court.
    #2
    Lone Star
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/26 17:19:19 (permalink)
    Great stories y'all. I don't have anything special to say about the industrial type of lunches we endured. Though I did love "Hot Turkey Sandwich Day".

    The best thing was elementary school. Thursdays were cinammon roll days. If your mom gave you an extra nickel, you could buy one and a chocolated milk to go with it.

    My kids high school has a salad bar, sandwich bar, burger bar, mexican bar, regular hot lunch bar, AND Chick-fil-A!

    Spoiled brats.
    #3
    chezkatie
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/26 19:20:14 (permalink)
    I can still remember my kids coming home from grade school and raving about the wonderful chicken (or turkey) pie they had. They would have eaten it every day. I finally was able to talk to the dietitian at the school about it. She gave me the recipe and I use it to this day.........it is great for that tired left over chicken or turkey! The best part is that is "Oh, so easy"!!
    #4
    pigface
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/26 21:57:34 (permalink)
    All I can really remember is the Chicken Croquettes,
    and they used to hide the grean beans in the meatloaf " />
    #5
    EliseT
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 02:16:27 (permalink)
    At Catholic school we didn't have a cafeteria, but once a week they had "Hot Dog Thursdays" as a fundraiser. My mom volunteered and mortified me weekly by making my classmates give her a kiss on the cheek before she would dole out the chili. Luckily, it was a predominantly Mexican-American school and it soon became "Burrito Thursdays". I can still taste the punch from the little square cartons.
    #6
    Tommy B
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 05:41:44 (permalink)
    2 things really stick out in my memory of my elementary school days back in the 60's at Sheridan in Allentown PA:
    Grilled Cheese sandwiches, dunking them into cream of tomato soup / and homemade peanut butter cookies tucked in wax bags !!!
    #7
    tiki
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 07:35:22 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by redtressed

    I was fortunate to be fed by militant Italian ladies, in my elementary school hot lunch days in the 60's. Rebellious against preparing state formulary mystery meat and aqua laden mashed 'taters, these culinary suffragettes are my heroines.

    Me too!! God Bless Mrs D'Angelis!!!!!I still have recipes i learned from her! My school had a "volunteer kitchen helper" program that was packed with volunteers--mostly guys-including most of the football team---you got bigger portions when you serve yourself and even you werent helping that day the ladies had a smile for you and a little extra scoop of your favorites!!! And you got to go to class after lunch a 1/2 hour late!!They tried to stop doing it and darn near had a riot on their hands. I loved those ladies!!!Still do!
    #8
    stanpnepa
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 07:36:03 (permalink)
    JFK Elementary in Exeter, PA was a block and a half from my home. We had an hour for "open lunch" (don't know if any elementary school has 'em these days) and I'd walk home for my favorite sandwich---oval spiced ham or salami or peanut butter and jelly, always accompanied by potato chips and Campbell's soup (chicken noodle, chicken with stars, curly noodle)---comfort food served by a little boy's best comfort---mom.

    I guess I didn't get a good night's rest before my first day of (afternoon) Kindergarten in September 1972, because I fell asleep at my parent's lunch table. There's a picture of me that proves it! My lunch that day---noodles and milk! Elbow macaroni in a soup bowl with butter and milk. Actually, it was pretty darn good. Maybe I should ask mom for the recipe---sounds easy enough!


    #9
    Cosmos
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 08:28:57 (permalink)
    They stopped the hot lunch program in my senior year. The menu was then limited to sandwiches and pizza. Prior to that, we really did have some pretty good food. The spaghetti was baked for serving convenience, but quite tastey. The worst was the government issue hamburgers....awful!
    #10
    Liketoeat
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 10:02:35 (permalink)
    Our school lunchroom meals were usually really pretty good (chili mac, sloppy joes, and white beans & cornbread being three of my favorites). When the food wasn't that good, thank goodness for bowls of peanut butter, honey, and raisins on the tables from which one could make a pretty good sandwich. I was always one to heavily salt & pepper everything without having tasted it. Learned my lesson about doing that one day (and was also particularly thankful for the peanut butter, etc.) when got a plate with a big serving of what assumed to be turnips. Salted & peppered it up really good, only to discover at first bite that it was applesauce! Not good spiced up!
    #11
    Julia I
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 10:27:02 (permalink)
    I admit that I don't remember most of the food served in my high school cafeteria any more. But the bakery! Umm-umm! I still have recipes for Chewy Peanut Butter Bars and Cornmeal Sugar Cookies that I use to this day.
    #12
    stanpnepa
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/27 13:43:27 (permalink)
    Some of the better high school cafeteria lunches:

    WIMPIES (their spelling)
    STEAK AND CHEESE (using Whiz!)
    FISH FILLET (really not bad)
    TATER TOTS (better than any frozen ones in the grocery store).

    The worst:
    PIZZA (the lousy French bread kind)
    ANY CASSEROLE (hard, recooked noodles).
    SPAGHETTI (My Italian Grandma would not approve)
    HOAGIES (always American cheese and baloney or some kind of inappropriate ham)
    MAC and CHEESE (turned my stomach actually, so when I forgot my lunch these days, I'd just get a cupcake and chips).
    STEWED TOMATOES (though I like them now)
    #13
    VibrationGuy
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 03:00:26 (permalink)
    We moved a lot in my misspent youth, owing to my parents careers (I was raised by a management consultant and a banker - can you tell?)

    The first elementary school I went to was filled with Polish lunch ladies. Everything was *really* good except for the "pirooshkis" (their spelling, not mine), which were made with an underseasoned beef filling and whole wheat bread dough wrappers, and the mashed potatoes, which, ironically, given that the school was in the middle of Idaho potato country, were instant. Feh. We also had some excellent mexican food from time to time.

    The next district had the potential for amazing food; the community is 76% Scandinavian - but these women couldn't cook to save their butts. About the only good menu day was "Italian Feast" - All You Could Eat lasagna, spaghetti, salad and garlic bread, with "prune whip" for dessert. I swear, I'd kill for the recipe for that prune whip. I was one of the few kids who liked it, but I *REALLY* liked it. It was quite rich, almost like a bavarian cream. What really bothers me about that lunch program is that it was smack-dab in a fishing community, with fishermen going broke left and right, and the only seafood that ever made it on the menu was fish sticks packed in the Canadian Maritimes and shipped to coastal Oregon.

    I started taking an activist role at the next school. The food was f-ing awful. Inedible. I worked in the lunchroom, and I still brough lunch most days. The food was prepared 8 blocks away and transported, then held in Alto-Shaam ovens and on the steam table. My dad was working overseas that year, and my mom was really sick, so lunch was my big meal (Mom, who is almost as food-obsessed as I am, was so repulsed by the smell of food by the time evening rolled around that she couldn't go out to eat or hardly go grocery shopping), and that place was just hell for a Foodie. A new nutritiionist helped a lot, and I took on surveying the student population on the relative popularity of some dishes, discovering a lot of things that really surprised the lunch wenches, including that pizza poorly done was vastly less popular than a decent salad bar or the turkey noodles they'd do from time to time (think poor man's tetrazinni).

    The next school was great; lots of variety, and lunch ladies that were focussed on making good food. They did all the baking except hamburger/hot dog buns in house, and we had great cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, cakes, pies and cookies. Their best meal was the cabbage rolls, which they never could foist onto students, but the teachers loved, and students could have if they asked for it (I always got a huge portion).

    High school #1 didn't have a hot lunch program, but did have a salad bar and convenience store. The chili was great, the burgers were awful, and the salad dressings were homemade.

    #2 was in California, and breakfasts were excellent (very memorably good french toast), but the lunches were deep-fried or cheese-covered for the most part. I brought lunch except when they had turkey dinner, which was actually quite good aside from the fake potatoes.

    Eric
    #14
    tiki
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 08:37:25 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Julia I

    I admit that I don't remember most of the food served in my high school cafeteria any more. But the bakery! Umm-umm! I still have recipes for Chewy Peanut Butter Bars and Cornmeal Sugar Cookies that I use to this day.

    Could you be talked into sharing that Cornmeal Sugar cookie recipe!!???Please please please!!
    #15
    ConeyIslandLou
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 09:18:09 (permalink)
    Lets see...terrible hamburgers....chicken patties werent bad..sloppy joes with great sticky rice and mushy peas was a highlight-to this day sloppy joes are accompanied by overcooked boil in bag rice...and peas...
    #16
    ocdreamr
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 10:04:55 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by EliseT

    At Catholic school we didn't have a cafeteria, but once a week they had "Hot Dog Thursdays" as a fundraiser. My mom volunteered and mortified me weekly by making my classmates give her a kiss on the cheek before she would dole out the chili. Luckily, it was a predominantly Mexican-American school and it soon became "Burrito Thursdays". I can still taste the punch from the little square cartons.


    Man, Chili on your dogs! We were lucky to get mustard, they were boiled, slapped in a bun, wrapped in a paper napkin & packed in metal cans to be delivered to each classroom.
    Of Course there was First Friday, when we would all go to Mass. Then we needed a breakfast, translation - a carton of milk & a bun. The buns were good. They were made by a local bakery that was owned by my neighbor.
    #17
    tarragon
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 10:12:50 (permalink)
    My elementary school lunches were mainly taken at home, as I usually lived within a few blocks of the school, but one year my family had moved to a fairly small and rural community where the school consisted of three large classrooms and was for kindergarten through 8th grade! Everyone pretty much ate lunch at school, but the food was delicious, even tuna noodle casserole. I think it was because the cafeteria didn't have to "mass produce" food - there were probably only 50 kids or so in the whole school. The best was when they would serve any sort of fruit cobbler for dessert--always fresh and always deliciously home-made.
    [:p]
    #18
    Dipstick
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 10:46:40 (permalink)
    I'll never forget the last day of school in seventh grade. Our cafeteria served hamburgers and at first bite, everybody at the table spit it out, including me. The meat tasted really strange. When we brought this to the attention of the cook, she promptly informed us that they had used real hamburger as a treat for the last day. We had become so used to soy patties we thought the real thing was bad!
    #19
    Mayhaw Man
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 11:51:02 (permalink)
    I spent the first through third grade in a public school in North Louisiana. To say that the food was good is doing a severe disservice to the ladies that made it. Yeast rolls to die for, chicken spaghetti (there are tons of first and second generation Sicilians in this part of North LA) so good that it has been publishes in who knows how many cookbooks. Fried pies (mainly peach and cherry) that were delicious. Vegetable by the ton, locally grown (mostly) and cooked in what would be called by those outside of the South "soul food style". Really good food, and the best part was that if I didn't like it, I could simply walk home (no security check, no check out, just walk home) and eat if I wanted to. Try to imagine a 6 year old wandering off campus these days and imagine how fast they would alert the local press." />

    Fourth grade brought integration to my town. My parents (not exactly forward thinking people racially) sent me off to private school. I brought my own lunch for a few years. My mom was really good at packing lunches. She put good stuff, lots of hot food in thermoses, fried pies (mmmm, I love those things) and all kinds of desserts.

    In the eighth grade something amazing (and in retrospect, amazingly bad) happened. A full scale, working McDonalds was installed in our school (this would have been about 1974). One of the students parents owned all of the local franchises and worked out the deal. I believe, that at the time, this was the only one in the US. They were only open for lunch, but they did a brisk trade. Imagine 500 kids with a charge account at McDonalds. The whole school smelled like a fast food joint. After the novelty wore off (and after they got the first month's bill for my brotheres and I) there was not too much McDonalds for me. Back to bag lunches. At the time I remember feeling deprived, but now I feel very greatful that my Mom took the time to make them. I have to admit it used to be a pleasure to sit with the McDonalds eaters while dining on cold fried chicken,(food of the gods, as it is known in the Mayhaw Man household), peas, and red velvet cake.

    I understand the McDonalds went away in the early eighties. I would like to say it is because the students weren't eating it, but I think it had to do with liability insurance and the McDonalds megolith.

    Both of my children have the opportunity to eat a cafeteria lunch at their schools. We send one instead. The lunch menus at both schools pretty much are pizza, nuggets, burgers, etc. (except for Friday, this is, after all, Catholic South LA. Schools have the tradition of fish on Friday here and that generally means gumbo, ettoufee, creole, fish cakes, catish, etc. By definition this stuff has to be made fresh, as it is not available canned, and is usually pretty good to great).
    #20
    EliseT
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 12:43:49 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by tiki

    quote:
    Originally posted by Julia I

    I admit that I don't remember most of the food served in my high school cafeteria any more. But the bakery! Umm-umm! I still have recipes for Chewy Peanut Butter Bars and Cornmeal Sugar Cookies that I use to this day.

    Could you be talked into sharing that Cornmeal Sugar cookie recipe!!???Please please please!!


    Actually, I was hankerin' for the CHEWY peanut butter bars! Hmmm????
    #21
    EliseT
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 12:46:45 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by ocdreamr

    quote:
    Originally posted by EliseT

    At Catholic school we didn't have a cafeteria, but once a week they had "Hot Dog Thursdays" as a fundraiser. My mom volunteered and mortified me weekly by making my classmates give her a kiss on the cheek before she would dole out the chili. Luckily, it was a predominantly Mexican-American school and it soon became "Burrito Thursdays". I can still taste the punch from the little square cartons.


    Man, Chili on your dogs! We were lucky to get mustard, they were boiled, slapped in a bun, wrapped in a paper napkin & packed in metal cans to be delivered to each classroom.
    Of Course there was First Friday, when we would all go to Mass. Then we needed a breakfast, translation - a carton of milk & a bun. The buns were good. They were made by a local bakery that was owned by my neighbor.


    We got donations from Der Weinerschnitzel, so if I ever miss elementary school food, I can just pull up to their drive-in window.
    #22
    kland01s
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 12:57:40 (permalink)
    I went to school in the 50's and early 1960's and I remember the food at school always being pretty good. I think it was a time that the food was real and that the government didn't get involved in lunch programs yet. The lunch ladies took pride in their work and were respected. One thing that sticks out in my mind was that we would get fried shrimp on Fridays! I remember that because in my family we always ate the tails and at school everyone thought that was pretty weird.

    I went to college in the mid 1960's at a big state school and seem to remember pretty good food. I was on the swim team so we got to eat with the football players. You sure could work up an appetite after 5am workouts! I transfered to a small college in NE Iowa where there was a packing plant near by. We ate a lot of pork! I developed a great love for a good pork tenderlion! In nice weather they would grill outside and have pork steaks or chops. A big recreation for us was to go to a food market that was near campus and walk up and down he aisles and say "ooooh look at that ____, my mom makes the best ____!" It was a very small college in a very small town!
    #23
    RubyRose
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/28 14:47:58 (permalink)
    I went to a severely overcrowded (110 kids in my first grade class in one room with one nun and no teachers' aides, student teachers, etc. - just Sister Margaret Mary and 110 6 year olds) Catholic elementary school that did not have cooked lunches. We ate in shifts in a dreary low ceilinged basement with exposed light bulbs and pipes. But my mom packed wonderful lunches that included on occasion: hot homemade soup in my thermos in the wintertime, ham salad sandwiches cut into bunny rabbit and teddy bear shapes with cookie cutters, an assortment of cheeses, crackers and fruits, celery stalks stuffed with pimento cream cheese, miniature pies and TastyKakes. One of her more unique creations was a hot dog suspended by kitchen twine in a thermos of hot tomato soup or baked beans. All I had to do was pull it out, remove the string and put it in the roll. The aroma brought kids from the surrounding tables trying to trade their PB&J's for the hot dog but I succumbed only once - for a Hank Aaron baseball card. We could buy a carton of milk or chocolate milk and the 5th though 8th graders could also buy orange drink.

    I looked forward to jr. high, where the cafeteria served things like American Chop Suey and Savory Noodle Goulash. After rapidly learning not to trust anything with the word 'savory' as part of its description, I packed lunch for the next 4 years, slipping out occasionally for a cheese steak during high school lunch hours.

    The cafeteria of the college I attended had large porations of decent food, although all I really remember was that they had good ice cream at dinner every night.
    #24
    KimChee43
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/29 14:48:54 (permalink)
    Our hot lunches were made on the premises when I was in elementary and junior high schools. The lunch ladies always wore their white uniforms, white "nurse's" shoes, and hairnets. (The Saturday Night Live sketch with Chris Farley as the Lunch Lady pretty much does them justice.) The main courses and desserts were made from scratch. However, the vegetables came from a can but swam in real butter--a treat for me, because we NEVER had butter at our house, only that tasteless margarine. I think that all of the school district's lunch ladies must have shared the same set of recipes. The food tasted the same in both elementary and junior high. By the time I reached high school, very little "scratch" cooking was done anymore. It was usually something out of an industrial-sized can, like Chef Boyardee ravioli or those horrible frozen pizza slices.

    Some of the items I remember from my earlier years are:

    Real all-beef hamburgers
    Chicken a la King
    Salisbury Steak
    "Wiener Winks"--(whoever thought up a name like that?!!) A "Wiener Wink" consisted of one piece of white bread, buttered, upon which one placed a slice of American cheese. The wiener was placed on the cheese/bread on the diagonal. Bring up two corners, secure with a toothpick, and toast it.
    Homemade Apple Crisp
    Some kind of gingerbread with a lemon glaze

    I'm sure there was a much wider variety, but this is all I can remember right now. Here's an authentic school cafeteria recipe that was submitted by one of our district's lunch ladies a long time ago to an old church cookbook. It's for Salisbury Steak. Bon appetit!

    SCHOOL CAFETERIA'S SALISBURY STEAK (Recipe dates from early '60's.)

    Form ground beef into flat patties. Brown on both sides. Drain off grease.

    Mix together and pour over the patties:*

    1 can of tomato soup
    1 can of golden mushroom soup

    Add one medium onion, sliced into rings. Cover skillet and simmer 20-30 minutes.

    *I would think that you'd add water to the condensed soups or something. Anybody have any suggestions?





    #25
    harriet1954
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/30 13:58:01 (permalink)
    Coming up in the Philadelphia public school system in the 60s, I had plenty of opportunity to feast on cafeteria lunches. However, I probably didn't like whatever they had (G-d, was I a picky eater - sheesh!), so I think my Mom just packed me jelly sandwiches everyday. Maybe I got a hotdog once in awhile.

    Here's my daughter's high school cafeteria menu for the first week of school next week:


    Monday - LABOR DAY HOLIDAY !!! SCHOOL CLOSED

    Tuesday - "WELCOME BACK" MENU
    CHICKEN NUGGETS (6) WITH CHOICE OF SAUCE
    AND "BACK TO SCHOOL" SUPERPRETZEL

    Wednesday - "DIPPEP" DAY (NOTE TO SELF: Must find out what "Dippep" means! Call Food Services Director! Sounds weird!)
    "MAXSTIX" - PIZZA STICKS FILLED WITH MOZZARELLA CHEESE (3)
    WITH OR WITHOUT MARINARA SAUCE

    Thursday - "HAVE IT YOUR WAY" STEAK SANDWICH
    CHEESE STEAK ON ITALIAN ROLL WITH CHOICE OF TOPPINGS
    ALSO AVAILABLE: CHICKEN CHEESE STEAK OR PLAIN STEAK SANDWICH

    Friday - EVERYONE'S FAVORITE DAY! (Insert Papa John's logo here)

    AVAILABLE WITH OR WITHOUT PEPPERONI

    She's on Weight Watcher's like myself, so what worked for her in her freshman year was just a hoagie everyday without all the extra oil and mayo, and no chips. She doesn't get tired of eating the same thing everyday (although I kinda see that coming this year), and has dropped 44 lbs.



    #26
    harriet1954
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    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/30 14:00:02 (permalink)
    I forgot to ask why Shepherd's Pie was such a big deal in the school cafeteria when I was a kid. I thought it was gross when a friend made it.
    #27
    Sundancer7
    Fire Safety Admin
    • Total Posts : 13523
    • Joined: 2001/07/18 14:10:00
    • Location: Knoxville, TN,
    • Status: offline
    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/30 17:18:56 (permalink)
    A few things that remind me of my school years were the apple crisp, the BBQ sandwich and the cheap spaghetti.

    It ain't there no more but it was good at the time.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxvile, TN
    #28
    improviser
    Double Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 865
    • Joined: 2003/07/03 17:48:00
    • Location: Clemson, SC
    • Status: offline
    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/08/31 19:03:38 (permalink)
    I stopped eating school hot lunches in fifth grade when the Tuna Surprise (lump of tuna on a lettuce leaf) moved. I swear. It moved. On the other hand, one of the schools I attended had a salad bar. I thought that was a great idea. Alas, being a Navy brat, we soon moved and it was back to turkey sandwiches.
    #29
    EliseT
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 2883
    • Joined: 2001/07/11 13:25:00
    • Location: L.A, CA
    • Status: offline
    RE: School Hot Lunches 2003/09/01 17:45:35 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by improviser

    I stopped eating school hot lunches in fifth grade when the Tuna Surprise (lump of tuna on a lettuce leaf) moved. I swear. It moved.


    That was the surprise!
    #30
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