September 15, 2009

The New England Whaler and Other School Lunch Delicacies


The current obsession of our household is the school lunch menu. The calendar displaying each month's offerings is posted on the side of the refrigerator, where it is studied religiously until it is committed to memory by everyone under the age of seven.

"Can I PLEEEEEEASE buy lunch tomorrow?" Camber begged one night at dinner last week. "They're having wide egg noodles with a side of gravy," she said, licking her lips.

At the mention of gravy, Kellen and Cortlen started to cry. The cruel fate of attending morning kindergarten and coming home from school each day before lunch is served was too much to bear.

My husband almost lost his lunch imagining what a thick dollop of gravy would look like on his own plate. I smiled politely at my daughter and quickly scanned the menu for a less repulsive alternative.

Necessity forced me to rethink my definition of disgusting.

"How about Wednesday's special--the New England Whaler?" I suggested, referring to the elementary school's pseudonym for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin.

"That's served with tater tots and strawberry milk," Camber added, weighing her options.

The mention of flavored milk caused Cortlen to throw himself off his chair. As he writhed on the ground underneath the kitchen table, Camber set about the task of making what was amounting to a very difficult decision.

After consulting our neighbor's daughter about the quality of the school's breakfast-for-lunch sandwiches and changing her mind seventeen times, my daughter finally decided to hold off buying lunch this week until Thursday, when the cafeteria will be serving up a delicious medley of meatloaf, creamed spinach and fruit chunks floating in lite corn syrup.

I think she chose wisely. Hee hee! What do you think?!

******
What's the most appetizing item on your kid's school lunch menu this month?

68 comments

christine said...

It's not so much disgusting as it is completely terrible for their little bodies. I'm no health nut but, even I don't count motzarella sticks as a lunch, nor a main dish. Today it's breakfast for lunch too. What's the offering? French Toast Sticks, hashbrown and sliced ham.

My mom never packed a lunch for me when I was a kid and I always wanted to. Now that I pack a lunch for my kid she always wants to buy. The grass is always greener I guess.

Lindy said...

What is it about the school lunches that are so appealing to kids?

I tried to convince my daughter to let me pack her lunch but she would just prefer to buy EVERYDAY.

Jennifer said...

My two favorites from my daughters menu are... "steak fingers" and "breaded apple sticks". When my kindergartner started this year, I went through the menu with her and you could see her look at her own hands when I announced steak fingers... I could only imagine what was going through her mind. And why take something healthy and coat it in bread? What's up with that? Needless to say, my youngest refuses to buy lunch at school.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids, but I remember that back in the day lunch ALWAYS came with a side of jello in elementary school. Always. In both elementary schools I went too. In one it was always something like a hamburger, pickles, chocolate milk, tater tots, and green jello. The other always served mini subs, some kind of poor excuse for potato salad or something, punch, and red jello. It's nice to hear that jello is no longer considered a food group.

Tricia said...

I feel as though I'm in the minority here, but I'd much rather hand my three kids $1.80 for lunch and send them out the door than pack three lunches. At least that's how I'm feeling this week. Mommy...can I PLEASE have a peanutbutter cup, a Hershey kiss AND fruit roll up for lunch today? NO?!?!? WHY NOT!?!?!? Yeah, a $1.80 times 3 sounds real nice...

The Jongejans said...

Jello is no longer considered a food group? Aw Man!

My son buys lunch every day. He Loves it! We have raised him with a palate that prefers healthy foods so he chooses pretty wisely...except the other day he confided to my husband "Daddy, don't tell Mommy but I have chocolate milk every day for lunch!" with the most pleased expression on his face. He thinks it is so fun to pull one over on me that I'll just let him think it's his little secret. Our school lunches are alright - it's the breakfast that he has every day that has me concerned. In my opinion, biscuits are not a healthy alternative to whole grain bread - but if I say that out loud here I may have a riot on my hands (and not only from the children) but then again, where I live, you're lucky to find someplace that serves food that isn't deep fried and smothered in gravy. Oh well.

Viv said...

I hate when I am too lazy to pack my children's lunches and today was one of those days. I brought them lunch last Friday and I have to say that the nachos drenched in cheese sauce served with the broccoli drenched in cheese sauce looked almost tasty.

Christa said...

High school gets worse! They have a regular line, and a fast food line.
The regular line serves things like meatloaf and creamed spinach, the fast food line serves, motzarella sticks, and clucks-deluxe... the school version of chickfila.
The bad thing is alot of highschool kids find one thing they like in the fast food line and get it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
The number one rule of maintaining a healthy diet and weight is VARIETY!!

That Kind of Girl said...

omg, I totally remember when I was in kindergarten, staying in an afternoon session of school daycare, absolutely begging my mom to let me buy the hot lunch like the big kids did. The meal, if I recall correctly, was ham and pineapple. I took two bites and promptly threw it away, then bawled when she picked me up because I was hungry.

Although, to be fair, I learned the "school lunches are disgusting" lesson in one shot!

marybt said...

Egg noodles and gravy?! What the hell?!

Anonymous said...

Only thing i canmake out in the picture is orange and some fries (I am assuming its some real school lunch pic?)And all this school lunch talk makes me feel I should may be home school? ;)

Jill said...

Our school had some kind of chicken every day for a week. I really think variety is needed. And not the variety that comes frozen and precooked and ready for warming. What happened to the cooks actually cooking? I had great lunches growing up. Our cook made everything from scratch. But then again I lived in a small town and maybe it is easier to do that when it's a smaller school. But still....

Melinda said...

Oh man, I've never been so happy to have to pack my kids' lunches every day. Dodging that "steak finger" lunch is more than worth it!!!!

The Cranes said...

I WISH lunch was $1.80!! I'd make them buy every day! My 5th grader is $2.85/day and my younger ones are $2.50. Needless to say, I only LET them buy twice a week, so they study the menu each Sunday night as well.

I always had to buy as a kid. I make my kids pack. Yeah, grass is always greener I guess.

The most interesting thing on our menu would be "soft pretzel w/cheese" (that's a LUNCH?!?) and "Cook's choice" or aka "leftovers"....

The Cranes said...

Oh! And our schools have "a la carte". Basically, pay more for junk food instead of or in addition to your lunch. There is no K-4th grader out there that should be able to have that choice! We've caught our current 3rd grader a couple of times buying a la carte (her lunch balance would go down faster than her sister's) and her punishment was to not buy the rest of the year. KILLER!!

Mindi D said...

I think i just threw up in my mouth. I was doing well until the 'fruit chunks floating' comment! Next year we will experience school lunch! I can hardly wait :)

Michelle said...

Yuck! I wish they would make school lunches more healthy. I saw a thing on Martha Stewart the other day where a public school is not serving ANY processed foods. Everything from bread to snacks are made in house and they use local produce. How awesome is that? I wish my kids school would get onboard!

Megan said...

I was always a buyer and have to say the craziest lunch I remember was the "Walking Taco." Bascially a bag of fritos ripped open, a dollup of government ground beef delicately plopped into the bag by the lunch lady, and then a tiny cup of lettuce and cheese on the side! I actually saw a sign for walking tacos a few years ago at a carnival and my mouth just started watering;) Ha!

1stTimeMom2Ella said...

Our school has the regular meals, the salad line, and the fast food line. $2.25 for middle school lunch. We also have an ala carte option that we refuse to pay for. We sign the sheet saying no and tell our 8th grader that if she wants those items she has to pay for them herself. Once her ala carte meal was over $5 and it was mostly cheese sticks and ice cream. That did not go over well with us!

I can't pack a lunch for her either becuase nothing will be good enough or she would only want the same thing over and over and over then burn out on it and never want it again.

Hillori said...

I remember the "beanie-weinies" from school lunch. Blughg! We did home lunch for an entire year, and then school lunch for a year, and I must say, they actually eat better when they eat school lunch. Their school actually has healthy lunches that taste all right, and they are not eating a peanut butter sandwich for 180 days.

Mary said...

What child in their right mind could possibly like creamed spinach? I mean ewwww? I'm 29 years old and just the thought of that makes me wanna hurl!

Amy said...

My son's ALL TIME favorite is Rib Sandwich...well if it is the SAME "rib" sandwich from when I was there it looks like a piece of large dog poop that has been stepped on by a work boot. MMMMMMM...where's the plates?

It is funny because my first grader does not feel the school lunch "LOVE" like my 4th grader...we do a lot of home lunch for her.

Amy said...

I just walked out and checked...next week they will get the pleasure of eating "Fish Shapes"....what the!?!?!? Doesn't fish only come in ONE shape? I bet dinosaur and star fish shapes sound DELISH!!

Corey said...

When we lived in PA, I swear the hot lunch menu looked better. In VA, just reading it makes me want to hurl. This week's menu says it is "Support Healthy Virginians Week", and yet tomorrow's lunch is "Beefy Cheezy Tostito Scoops."

Other options this week:
Maxstix w/Marinara (WTF?)
Stromboli
BBQ Pork rib sub w/pickles
Hot ham & cheese on bun
Salisbury steak & gravy
Turkey corndog nuggets
Chik'n sticks
pizza
meatsauce pasta

I can only bear to let them eat one school lunch per week. My high schooler refuses, and packs every day.

Renny said...

In elementary school and jr. high we actually got these calzones once a week that weren't half bad. And the first elementary school I went to had some chicken fajitas that were pretty good as well. My mom let us buy our lunch several times in the first grade so we could try everything and decide what we liked better, green hot dogs and pizza with plastic cheese, or a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich from home... Anyone else have juice pouches? They were always frozen so you had to tear the thing apart to get to the juice, because if you tried to stick your straw in the little flap it would just snap in half.
Flavored milk... mmmm.

Morgen said...

My son usually takes a lunch...but they have Pizza...but they don't make it, Dominoe's deliver's it once a month. that's about the only thing they serve where he wants to eat there.

Lori said...

We have breakfast options right now and my daughter does not want to eat at home. She thinks bacon and sausage everymorning in a great idea. I cannot wait for school lunck to be an option, not really. I plan on packing hers.

Liesl said...

We buy lunch for our kids. Nobody has time to pack three lunches that the kids would refuse to eat anyway. I think the elementary school does a decent job with lunch. The worst school lunch I ever had was called "camper's special" - basically a goulash made up of leftovers. When I was a sophomore, the whole high school decided one day that we had had enough and boycotted lunch. To the best of my knowledge, it was never served again.

Leah Klein said...

I went to a private Jewish school in elementary, and we actually did not have a cafeteria (we ate our lunch in a multi-purpose room), but every other Friday we had the option of ordering pizza, and some weeks it was "deli". My mom never gave me money for that, I had to use my own. It was pretty healthy.

Middle school had awful food, I loved it then (for thanksgiving, a bizarre turkey n' gravy type deal that was TERRIBLE) but would hate it now.

The Simmons Family said...

Oh, Kamryn LOVES school lunches!! Her favorite is the buttery, over salted, instant whipped potatoes. And you gotta love something called chicken patty on a bun.

They have options 2, 3 and 4 which are salad bars and build your own sub sandwich, but NO WAY would that be a choice of anyone under the age of 10. It doesn't come with flavored milk and extra salt! :0

The Mother said...

THIS mean mom got sick of the lunch routine.

New rule: kid makes his own or buys it at school. I don't care if he has to eat slime five times a week.

If I don't have to listen to the whining as they leave the house in the morning, my day is complete.

Sue said...

I used to love the school lunches, too. My favorite part? The apple crisp.

=)

Sinclair said...

Ew, ew, and ew! I hope my daughter never has to eat a school lunch. Laboratory created foodstuff lookalikes that have been cooked to mush and smothered with some sort of sauce are not on our list of acceptable. The colors, artificial flavors, corn syrup: eek! and don't get me started on the quality of "meat" served there... PB&J on whole wheat bread with a side of raw veggie sticks and unfiltered organic apple juice will do just fine.

Leadia Jarvis said...

Pizza "funables" and "Coney Island Corn Dog" I think those come with a side of funnel cake.

Shosh said...

My kids' private school offers lunch 3 times a week (catered by local restaurants and sereved by Moms). It costs $3 a lunch! The choices are pretty basic like pizza, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, soup with a bagel, etc...
all served with salad on the side. the school is on a healthy kick....thankfully my children never have to be subjected to the horros of lunchroom gravy. makes me think of that adam sandler song...

metaphase said...

At the middle school where I taught in Mass. they actually had lunches that even I enjoyed. They always had a full salad bar, and a sub shop, then the hot lunches were things like beef stew in a bread boule with veggie and fruit. Only on Friday was something gross like pizza served. (I say gross b/c I think we all know what school pizza is like- that wierd rectangle thing..)

Parenting Ink said...

School lunches are just gross, I think!
The only time they were okay was when I was teaching at Wilmette Junior High School in Wilmette, Illinois. The cafeteria staff actually MADE most of the food there, instead of buying all frozen, pre-packaged junk.
I can still remember those burritos!
But at most schools, it's just not fiscally possible to do this.

Rocket Ma'am said...

Don't look at me, I throw the menu in the trash as soon as we get it because my kids will only eat peanut butter and honey. Always with yogurt and applesauce. Once I was running late and offered to give them money for lunch, but they freaked out crying! I tried to tell them variety is the spice of life, but they responded that they don't like spicy food.

Angie said...

Ummm...Ewwww.

thetallgrl said...

I asked my kindergartner what she had for lunch at school one day and she announced, "mushy cantaloupe and squishy grapes." I told her I was sorry that her lunch was so bad and she looked at me all confused. "But I LIKE mushy cantaloupe and squishy grapes!"

No accounting for taste.

I remember that the hamburgers served at my elementary school looked like they'd been scraped off the moon. They did have a delicious sauce for the chicken nuggets though...although I wonder if I would think so now if I were presented that lunch again.

Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of my childhood...my best friend and I would call each other and plan ahead the one day a month when we would be allowed to buy lunch. Usually it was the "pizza" day. Our menu was also taped to our fridge. :) thanks for the memories!

Breezi said...

My daughter's school has the WORST lunches. Ever.
They get carted in from the central district's food processing plant, wrapped in all sorts of plastic. The juice and milk is still frozen... and the students are expected to 'drink' it with a spoon. They once had a shriveled up piece of meat (looked like leather of a dirty old boot) slathered in gravy. They also have a substance that is called "Jelled fruit". I have no idea what it is... nor do I want to. My daughter screams and cries if I don't pack her lunch at home. The food is that bad.

Ohh.. and the children are not allowed to talk during lunch. Period. The principle (a woman who scares the poo right out of me) actually stands on the stage with a microphone, and sounding like a person who directs a boat full of slaves to "row, row, row", yells at all of the kids as they are eating. "Jordan, eat faster. Camden, don't look at your neighbor. Juan, you better eat that". Yeah... lunch time pretty much sucks.


I remember my favorite food growing up were the pronto pups. (pigs in a blanket)

emilee said...

Last year for mothers day at school my first grade son made me a card shaped as a heart. inside he was supposed to write what he loved the most about me! He drew a wonderful picture of me giving him a check for $15.00 to buy school lunch! He could not resist the popcorn shrimp and egg roll combo that they serve.

When my younger brother was introduced to the congregation of our church after he had been baptized and was asked a few questions about himself he proudly announced to everyone that his favorite meal was the yellow gravy that they served for school lunch. My mom was so proud!

Too Many Hats said...

Ewww..to all of that. PB&J, please :) The two that are in school brown bag it everyday, if they want to eat that slop, I make them use their own money - I'm vying for the Meanest Mom title.

Audra said...

I loved the food from elementary school! My mom was nice, I could either pack my own lunch or she would give me money for hot lunch. I remember she would give me $1.15 for hot lunch or $.15 for a milk to go with my packed lunch. I loved the chicken nuggets with sauce and the turkey fricassee. I would have died if I had to eat squished PB&J everyday!

Jean said...

Hahaha! Ahh, school lunch. I sat next to my future husband in the cafeteria when I was in high school, and he would always (ALWAYS) make fun of what I bought for lunch. (This was before the dating period.) One day, I came to the lunch table with what looked like a pile of runny dog food on top of a perfect half-sphere of mashed potatoes (mmm). Tim pointed that out. I said that it's called "chunky beef gravy" and said that it was actually pretty good. He has never stopped making fun of me for eating what he says could be (and probably is) an actual variety of dog food.

Grove Designs Co, aka Kriskropmemories said...

I have to say I am not too sad hearing this all that our schools don't have a lunch program.
The biggest argument we are having lately is over lunchables, I just don't get the appeal!

Chief said...

Our school doesn't offer hot lunch so there is no choice to be made. you get what you get and you don't throw a fit!

I remember LOVING hot lunch as a kid.

Molly said...

Yes, my kids are obsessed with the lunch menu, too.
The most questionable item I've seen has to be the
"country fried beef fingers". Mmmm, don't those sound
yummy? My favorite school lunch had to be pigs in a
blanket, but I don't think they serve those anymore!

Jennifer said...

I knew when I read this, this post was for me! The best lunch item I have ever had the good fortune of hearing about was not on my kids' menu, but one of my college friends. You see, she is a band director in Texas.. during the first week of her new job at a middle school, she scanned the menu and was greeted with the title of "Chicken Giggles" I am not making this up! She asked another teacher what the heck that was and they informed her it is chicken patty with a smiley face made out of sprinkles. **shudder**

A said...

Actually today was my daughter Bethany's first day getting the school lunch. I was packing her lunch until I found out we qualified for 30 cent lunches. I am with tricia. I would much rather pay for lunch than pack one. Sure Bethany was happy with PB&J every single day, but I was feeling like a bad mom for my lack of variety and creativity. So now lunchtime is the school's problem. When I picked her up from school I asked her what she had for lunch, and she mumbled "I don't know". Not sure if she forgot or if the food was not recognizeable. Accoring to our lunch calendar, tomorrow is spaghetti. I bet they put sauce on it though. I wonder if Bethany will lay on the floor and scream, "I'm not gonna eat it!" or if she saves that for home meals only. But to get to the point, the grossest thing I see on our lunch calendar is Chunky beef stew.

Amy said...

I totally relate. With four kids, I have learned to choose my battles. And.... it has provided me the PERFECT answer to "Why do we ALWAYS have to have vegetables with dinner?"
Ummm... maybe because you consumed a thousand carbs with lunch... large pretzel, corn, and a (mealy) apple... topped off with strawberry milk.

Renee Sheehan said...

My kids always want to buy lunch on Fridays (pizza days); but sometimes my daughter asks to buy on other days. Our school lunch always has at least one form of breaded chicken a week, sometimes two! And I just want to know what are Maxx Sticks w/Marinara? Don't rememeber anything like that growing up. Here elementary lunches went from $1.75 last year to $1.90 this year! Crazy! The only problem I have letting them buy lunch is making sure that they are not cheated with the money-- seriously I have never seen any change (and I always give them $2, it's easier this way), and last year my daughter complained several times that they wouldn't let her get the ice cream b/c she didn't have enough $$?!

Mrs. C. said...

Well, I see "Chicken noodle whole grain cheese sticks" but am guessing that's a typo...

The menu this year sounded especially promising with offerings like "aloha pizza", "fiesta rice", and "western cheeseburger", but when I asked the lunch lady what made those menu items unique she said "I'm supposed to wear a funny hat when I serve 'em..."

Robin said...

We are very fortunate that our lunches are usually pretty good, except you can't get broccoli without that nasty fake-orange cheese on it unless you are a "teacher". My son usually cleans his plates (unlike at home).

When I was a kid, our lunchroom was the envy of all other schools in our area. The head lunchroom lady was a baker, and she was always treating the entire school with her creations. The only thing that wasn't really good was the fried chicken. If you were lucky enough to eat first, it was great, but if you ate your lunch later in the lunch period....the chicken tasted burnt after being fried in the same oil. YUK!

Whirlwind said...

I have to say, my kids have an excellent school lunch program and I love when I can eat with them.

Anonymous said...

I remember the school lunches of my youth, and nothing was premade! Nothing. We had great casseroles, and chili. I was thoroughly disgusted with the hotdogs, split and served with mashed potatoes in the split with a slice of government cheese.... ugh. Now the meals are so pathetic my daughter has taken her lunch to school since the 2nd day of Kindergarten... she is now in 2nd Grade.

Pam said...

The serve "BBQ Beef Nuggets". I have NO idea what that is.

AlsoMean said...

My 2nd grader loves school lunch, especially stuffed crust pepperoni pizza on Friday.
No way would he eat the salad with pretzel - available every day. The only offering that makes me wonder is the "yogurt biteable". How do they do that?

Matt said...

I'm in college, so my cafeteria choices aren't much better. The best thing I've got going tonight is make-your-own-sushi, which is a once a month thing and it's cool. The rest of the time, mmmm, old lady meatloaf and crappy stale frozen pizzas.

Pamela said...

Comment #61

Last year my son's school was being remolded, consequently no hot lunches were served at lunch time. My son feels like he has to make up for lost lunches and proceeds to throw a fit every morning if he cannot eat what is being served by the lunch ladies. Consequently, I conceed hoping this obsession will send.

Tammy said...

Hummus of all things!

Anonymous said...

Oh MY Gwad; you are so hilarious!!!

Anonymous said...

chili cheese wrap - how gross is that?!?!

Anonymous said...

I AM a lunch lady. I try to make the lunches as affordable and healthy as possible within the price given me. I pay 4 assistants and all the food for $3.75 per child. Sounds like alot, but with all the healthy fresh options I make about $50 a day. I am frugal, and buy specials when I find them. I just about quit when the moms revolted and complained about "school lunch" after a special on TV. I am not on government food commodities! None of them ever stepped into the kitchen to see if what they complained about was true. One complaint even said I needed to stop serving FRIED foods. I don't even have a fryer. One complained about all the iceburg lettuce being served. I only buy ROMAINE. The mom that complained the loudest finally came and ate with her children a couple of times. After eating my BBQ Chicken salad (my copycat of Cali Pizza Kitchen) and my to die for Caesar Salad, she was gracious enough to appologize. I wish the other parents would check it out. I bring the Jr Hi Health class through every year to tour and question me. I can't always afford organic, not always fresh veggies, not always fresh fruit - but I do my best within my budget. I don't serve a dessert everyday, and when I do it is under 100 calories. The total lunch is under 600 - 700 calories, and the kids can have extra fruits and veggies for free, they just have to ask. I do get frustrated by the parents who all assume lunch is disgusting, but never come to look.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me what the hell a "yogurt biteable" is???

Sparkina said...

@ Christine. I don't do ham, but French toast and a side of hashbrowns? That's a feast fit for an emperor!

Sparkina said...

To all who are wondering what a "yogurt biteable" is, it's not some innovative new dish. It's a combination of packaged snacks: yogurt, fruit, sun chips, and a cheese stick