I am proud to be a Minnesotan. Our state really gets out the vote and values education. Minnesota is first in the nation on the ACT tests! When I read that fact, my mind wandered back to my school days. I started thinking about former teachers, classmates and hot lunch.
Some students think of lunch and recess as the best parts of the day. I didn’t start eating school lunch until seventh grade. My grandparents lived just across the street from the elementary school, so I went there for lunch. I am a picky eater, and my grandmother spoiled me rotten with my favorite foods and pudding for dessert everyday! She served it in a footed dish with whipped cream and a cherry on the top. My mother obviously didn’t know this recipe.
Hot lunch at the high school was a shock to my system. In retrospect, I realize they had to please many different appetites on a budget. The food was healthy and hot. The menus varied, and everyone had favorites and least favorites. I loved spaghetti, fish sticks, and tator tot hot dish. I hated fried spam with fried potatoes (lots of ketchup made it palatable) and tuna noodle hot dish. Of course my contrary sister, Julie, insisted these were her favorites! My sister Barbie really didn’t care because no matter what, she could make a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich. There really is no accounting for taste! Everybody loved the turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes.
My cousin Eileen loved the pizza burgers so much that she figured out the recipe and made them at home. I thought they were delicious until she shared the secret ingredient…….spam.
Every student had an opinion about school lunch, and they remember it today. I discovered this as I took an informal poll at my exercise class. Some people who attended country school didn’t even have the option of a hot meal. They brown bagged it. Pity the poor mothers making all those lunches. Some hot lunch favorites were spaghetti, chili, tuna noodle hotdish, scalloped potatoes and ham and pumpkin bars. Some loved chow mein while others hated it. One woman said her favorite meal was hurricane hot dish and her least favorite meal was hurricane hot dish. I asked for an explanation. She explained once she taught in a very small school where the mothers volunteered to cook lunch. There was a very tiny food budget. They served four varied, delicious meals Monday through Thursday. On Friday they mixed all the leftovers together and called it hurricane hash. Depending on the four prior meals, sometimes it was very good. Other time it was horrid. Imagine the suspense. I guess this fits with what my brother always said about mystery meat. He was even fussier than I was. He hated tomatoes and tomato products including ketchup and pizza. I remember him eating cereal, pancakes, and chocolate chip cookies, but little else.
Students today are lucky to have two choices or more at every meal. They get fresh fruits and vegetables. Pizza, tacos, and chef salad are available. It is sad that they will have no interesting memories of hurricane hash and mystery meat. HATS OFF TO SCHOOL LUNCH COOKS for the work that they do trying to please fussy, complaining children.
This was never a school lunch choice.
Harvest Pumpkin Soup
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen hash browns, thawed
2/3 cup canned whole kernel corn, drained
l 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt, or to taste
Coat a 3-quart pot with cooking spray and preheat over medium high heat. Add the red pepper and onion and stir frequently for 4 to 5 minutes until onion is soft. Add the broth, potatoes and corn to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until red pepper is soft. Add the pumpkin, pepper and salt and stir to mix well. Heat through and serve immediately. Serves 4.