Lunchtime was my favorite part of the school day.
And not just because it signaled the end of trigonometry class.
I actually enjoyed the lunch part of the lunch break. Those square-shaped pizzas, baked spaghetti, kalua pig and cabbage, roast turkey with gravy, even the mystery burrito — I sincerely looked forward to these meals.
The best part, however, was the freshly baked bread that accompanied almost every lunch. I remember trading other items on my tray just to get an extra roll.
It’s funny how we all — no matter which school we attended or how long ago that was — have fairly fond memories of school lunch.
Maybe it was the cost — in my days school lunch cost just 75 cents, not the $2.35 students in public schools pay now. Or maybe it was the convenience. It’s not like we all have fully stocked cafeterias just steps from our office.
Or maybe it’s that everything seemed to taste a lot better in white paper trays in a cafeteria filled with our friends and crushes.
The Old Guys I surf with talk about their memories of school lunches more often than they’d like to admit. They were in high school in the ’60s and remember foods like Spanish rice, baked macaroni, chili and beef stew.
So I thought it would be fun to relive these school lunch memories here!
I want to know 1) where you went to school, 2) what year this was and 3) what your favorite school lunches were.
Who knows — this may end up on a throwback menu somewhere…!
sloppy joes!!! then it would morph into hamburger ghouloush….then hamburger curry, and finally chili! Friday was always fishsticks.
Ghoul-oush — funny!
I forgot about Hamburger curry.
Where did you go to school? And what year was this?
so u know its actually “goulash”. i was just trying to make a funny…
I’m 50-ish, so this was a long time ago, and in a city east of the Mississippi River. Witness protection program will not allow me to be more specific (smile). Until 8th grade, I walked home for lunch every day. My siblings and I foraged in the home kitchen for whatever we could find. There were only maybe 10 kids in a school of 350 who did not walk home for lunch. They all brought their lunches to school.
High school cafeteria highlight was a plate of mashed potatoes and 2 burger patties (mostly soybean with maybe a hint of beef-like substance), all covered with a brown gravy. Looked disgusting, but was delicious. Probabably loaded with salt, but it was tasty. Wish I had a paper plate of it right now. Haven’t had a good foodfight in years.
Soybean patties back then? Very progressive!
Add-on. Just to show how versatile the cafeteria kitchen was, offerings included the same plate of beef-like patties, but with fries, all smothered in the same brown gravy. Also delicious.
And who could forget “the Lunch Ladies,” one of the noblest professions? I miss them. Kids were always spoofing, and they kept the line moving and the food warm with no nonsense.
Hello Cat, the best part about school lunch was that it was only $.25.
What year was this???
I never once ate a “hot lunch” from the cafeteria. It always looked good, but I was a not-so-well-off kid in private school, so I could never afford it. The closest I got was having an extra $1.50 to buy spam musubi or Okuhara saimin cup from the snack bar. I sure remember the excitement of the caf, though. That was 15 or so years ago.
As for public school lunch, $2.35 is still cheaper than any fast food meal and probably comparable to mom packing a lunch at home. And if you’re on free or reduced price lunch, that’s a real bargain. They really have to work on making those meals more healthy, though. But get ready to pay more for that, too!
You never ate school lunch? Man, you don’t know what you’re missing! Years and years of food memories right there!
You’re right about $2.35 — it’s certainly cheaper than anything else out there. But it costs more — maybe twice as much — for a second meal. That can add up.
Back in my day, lunch was 25 cents. I remember the silver metal trays and cafeteria duty. I looked forward to the cafeteria duty since it took us out of class and we got to eat for free including the mid morning snack.
My favorite back then was the corned beef hash (oh barf..) with the red tomato sauce. A lot of people didn’t like it but it suited my tastes just fine. And I still remember the creole macaroni.
Corned beef hash with red tomato sauce…? Where was this?
Leilehua HS in the 60’s.
The Children’s House, ’86 – ’95
I loved school lunches! So much that I’ve tried to recreate them.
Hamburger mac ‘n cheese, hamburger delight (ground beef and corn in a creamy sauce served over rice), hamburger tofu, chicken long rice, peanut butter sandwiches with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, cubed turkey over rice with a pumpkin shaped cookie (for Thanksgiving), sloppy joes — just to name a few. Every lunch would come with a scoop each of canned fruits and vegetables, I especially like the pears, peaches, green beans, and spinach — oddly, canned foods never tasted as good since. I didn’t care for the tuna sandwiches or fish sticks, in fact, I think I intentionally pretended to be sick just so that I wouldn’t have to eat lunch on those days.
I recently checked the school website for the menus. It looks like they’ve replaced hamburger with ground turkey and made adjustments for all high-allergy foods. Too bad, the menu would have been a high selling point for if I wanted my daughter to go there.
Children’s House! Sounds like you guys had great food! I mean, pumpkin-shaped cookies??? Never heard of in public schools!
Oh my gosh!! I miss school lunches too. 75 cents for lunch…can’t beat that!
I went to public school in the 90s.
I still think about the chicken patty with gravy and mashed potatoes. Chicken nuggets with crinkle fries (usually soggy but still memorable). We also had a pretty awesome snack bar that served nacho/taco salad and pizza pockets. Of course all the meat products were below grade, but those cafeteria ladies still managed to make it all taste good. Gotta give them credit.
Chicken nuggets! Forgot about that! And pizza pockets!
Waiakea High School c/o 02
chicken patty w/gravy
etc. etc. (cant think of anymore)
3) Chicken Patties, or Turkey w/ Mashed Potatoes
You were in high school when I was out of college already. Scary!
We had THE BEST cafeteria manager when I was in elementary school (back when lunch was 25 cents) – Miss Ginoza. I don’t remember any meal in particular, but I DO remember the shortbread cookies – they were DA BOMB. Plus there was one nice cafeteria lady who would let me pretend to practice speaking Japanese with her. Mmmm, time for lunch.
The mom of one of my students works at a cafeteria — and she makes shortbread cookies. I should get the recipe!
Aiea High, mid 80’s. My favorites were the first recess ham and cheese with soggy oven fries and that yummy mayo sauce. The lunch time spaghetti with psuedo garic butter. Oh man so good I could eat five of those no joke. Cost was 25 cents at Gus Webling elementary but by the time I got to high school it was 45 cents. At elementary I liked the tacos and the sloppy joes. Pastrami sandwich was the worst I cried till my mom made me home lunch on those days. Ah good times.
Sloppy Joes seem to be a popular school lunch! I don’t remember having that… then again, I’m forgetting a lot of things lately!
Hawaii Public Schools-1988-2000
Pu’ohala Elementary School (now known as Punana Leo o Pu’ohalal): 1988-1994
S.W. King Intermediate School : 1994-1996
J.B. Castle High School: 1996-2000
Elementary school best lunches were Roast Turkey w/ Gravy and Rice… the turkey was more like shredded kalua turkey w/ gravy… And on special days like Thanksgiving, Halloween, and right before winterbreak, we’d get cake or some kind of special dessert. I also remember cafe duty, because we got out of class early, we’d eat for free, and afterward, the cafe ladies would give us ice cake w/ li hing mui!!!
Intermediate school best lunches were actually after school… I loved that I didn’t HAVE to eat lunch, so I’d spend my lunchtimes in the bandroom practicing, and after school we’d walk to pricebusters for a $1.00 shave ice, and a kitkat. On the special days though, we’d go to H&T burgers at Windward mall and get a teri-burger and teri-fries… YUM!!!
High school best lunches were L and L, again, after school… But I did enjoy that we could get a chicken sandwich, fries, and chocolate milk for a dollar… or even saimin with all the garnishes for a dollar… The best lunch EVER though, was the days when we’d have corn chowder and a turkey sandwich… oh, and Mrs. Masada’s cookies… oh man, those cookies… why do you think “School Kine Cookies” is such a great fundraiser?!?! Thanks Cat, now I’m hungry to raid a school cafe for lunch!
H&T Burgers — were they always there? I thought it was an Orange Julius before…
You’re right, it was and Orange Julius back then day. It turn to H&T later. But then again Neil is one of those young bucks =P
I’m also old enough that my lunches were 25 cents, and the only time they were served on paper plates was when the cafeteria workers were on strike. In elementary school, we used green plastic plates, and in high school we had the metal plates.
We also had to work in the cafeteria several times a year, starting in 5th grade.
Like KAN, I remember the shortbread cookies very fondly. There foods that many of us tried for the first time as school lunches, like tacos.
Tacos… I can’t remember that on the menu at Roosevelt…
Castle HS C/O 95!!
My fav was Tacos and the fish from Elem School. The fish reminded me of a ghetto Filet O Fish minus the tartar sauce. Like Neil, cafe duty was the best unless you ended up having to do the slop can which was totally gross.
In Inter, the Kalua Pig was the best. I remember trying to sneak out of class early so I could be in line to get that before they ran out.
High school time I lucked out because the bad parents came by to stuff so they picked up lunch so I was getting subway and L&L most days.
Overall they best thing about lunch was the price $0.45 in elem and like $1.00 in HS can be beat!!
We had kalua pig and cabbage, too, but only on SOME Fridays. It was never a regular thing. And it was more cabbage than kalua pig. 🙂
I went to durmstraang (private school for the rich and evil) and brought my lunch most days. as a growing young lad, though, I usually bought a second (and third, most days) meal at the snack bar. manapua/pork hash, chili rice, saimin…each day had a special (thursday chili day was the best, iirc) and I was hungry.
You had a snack bar?!? Jealous!
Kenmore Jr. High, Arlington, VA. the year was nineteen ought and sixty. the cool guy lunch you brought from home. only dweebs and spazzes ate school food. the menu was the same every day: one peanut butter sandwich on wonder bread, squashed flat, wrapped in wax paper carried in the same brown paper bag all week. four milks,four straws and thirty seconds to drink it. if it came out your nose, next class you stood up after the bell and sang ‘Bunny Pink Ears’
I remember chicken patty and chicken patty sandwiches on whole wheat bun. I remember the burritos being really dry and the crinkly fries were hard. Again I rarely ate and just played cards or hangout with friends. Usually bought snacks and soda, when it was allowed.
Pearl City High School c/o 84 (do i really want to post the year?) all the grinds were good & you could always buy 2 for cheap. Favs that have stuck w/me are yes Cat the square pizza & spaghetti, sloppy joes, anything w/mash potatoes & of course those rolls. The sides that i loved were the orange wedges, tater tots & for some reason i liked the apple sauce lol.
I usually brought my lunch, but i ALWAYS bought school lunch on Pizza Friday. One time they tried to get real round pizza, and there was such an uproar that they went back to the cheap little square pizzas. And they always had it with a side of corn… not sure why… maybe it’s because we live in Indiana. My high school had cream of chicken soup that tasted like a 9v battery without the zap. i wouldn’t say that was my favorite, but it’s a somewhat fond memory. (I graduated in ’99 from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, btw). one of my best friends just had vanilla ice cream and hawaiian punch everyday for lunch.
Kamehameha – 1984 Old Akahi Dining Hall. Everyday hamburger, french fry, and pizza windows. Also Saimin and two hot entree choices. Add 4 kinds of juice and two kinds of milk. Lunchtime heaven. I had a free period before lunch so could spend extra time “body building”. There may have been a salad bar, but really, who cares?
Fave lunches….hmm….where to begin… I don’t think we had the same recipe for that square pizza as others did in elementary school, or else my memory of it is flawed. What I remember was not very pleasant. It seemed like it was a piece of bread with some tomato sauce on it, and cheese that looked more like melted wax than cheese. Also, I don’t think there was pepperoni on the pizza, but some sausage-like substance.
I do remember the shortbread cookie being good. Sloppy Joe’s were good, Tater Tots, pig in a blanket, baked chicken. Although I don’t remember the lunches from intermediate school, I do remember that they, as a whole, were noticeably better than those in elementary school. I don’t remember what school lunches cost in intermediate, but they were 45¢ in elementary.
High school lunches were the best. I switched over from a public school to a private school for grades 9-12…Hogwarts, arch nemesis to Durmstraang. 😉 Howzit Durmstraang! 😀 There, practically everything was good. It was a brand new cafeteria with round tables, not the stereotypical bench style cafeteria seats. In the back was where the pizza, french fries, and hamburger area was, as well as, the saimin. Out front, near the main entrance was where the hot lunches were, as well as the salad bar, and the beverage area. Serve yourself, get what you want, eat what you want.
i remember that stories about the food at hogwarts approached almost mythical proportions when retold down the hill at durmstraang. a transfer or two here and there would spread the word of epic feasts. looking back, though, we didn’t have it too bad ourselves. what I wouldn’t give for a snackbar at work where I could get a bowl of chili rice and a bag or doritos (to crunch up and pour in, of course).
matt: It’s hard to say. We had things like Shepherd’s Pie and various other things. There were also times when the staff really went all out and we had the full works. Of course, that made going to class immediately after lunch a nightmare. All anyone wanted to do was go to sleep.
BDC: The salad bar area is where you go to turn your hamburger into a hamburger deluxe, by adding lettuce, tomato, onions, and other stuff, plus Thousand Island Dressing. If you’re like some I’ve known, you substitute ketchup on your fries, and use Ranch (or other) dressing instead.
I teach at Kahuku High and Intermediate–
The kids all complain about the lunch (it’s just a universal thing), but c’mon. For the price, there’s no way you could get anything better. And I like it, a lot of times. Kalua Pork and cabbage days are great, and I do actually like the burritos they make (with kidney beans! I know, it’s weird) and their rolls are the BEST. I can’t make a roll like that.
In Oregon, where I went to school, I didn’t get much spaghetti at home (since my mom is Japanese) but for some reason I liked that spaghetti that they scooped out with an ICE CREAM SCOOPER. The noodles were mush and way over sauced. I mean, that is gross.
(But it tasted good for some reason. Probably lots of sugar.) I was also so happy when we had hamburger or chicken patty day. The pizza tasted nothing like pizza, but I guess I was not a particularly discerning child.
At the end of 1957 We (Navy brats) stayed in an off-beach motel for two weeks and my parents enrolled me & my sister for”baby-sitting” as we had already received our certificates from mainland school. I was at Jefferson Elementary, students worked in the cafeteria for a day. We Opened big cans of whole pineapple and got to eat the cores that were still in the cans. Also, remember Big ice cream scoopers of gummy rice every day at leilehua Jr/Sr High 1957-1958.
Forgot to say, everyone sought to get picked for cafeteria duty because you got to get out of class for the day and got to sneak all the ice cream you could eat(they had those little flat bars wrapped in white paper). I always wondered how long that ‘forced child labor” in the schools lasted?
Does any one have the recipe for the snack bar shortbread cookies at Leilehua high school? I graduated in 67 and i am craving the shortbread cookies, the store bought ones do not compare