The 2022-2023 school year is beginning this week and next week for the Eastern Shore. Buses are fueled up and clean and shiny for our students. New shoes, new clothes, the latest backpack filled with supplies and that popular lunch box filled with favorite foods! Today I am going to travel back in time with the different generations of “lunch packers and lunch box totes.” What a difference from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s up to the current 2000s. My mom told me that back in her school days, the 1920s, she was lucky to have a cold biscuit leftover from the night before supper. When the ’40s came there could be a cold piece of leftover meat from several days earlier; there were no complaints as everyone had the same. Mom said sometimes she would “sneak out” a couple extra biscuits to give to a couple of kids who had NO food. This was not uncommon during the 1920s and ’30s.
I was an elementary student in the ’50s and a high schooler in the ’60s where we had “sandwich” bread. On that bread you could find bologna with cheese topped with mustard or peanut butter and jelly with some chips and a couple of cookies. We drank water from the fountain or with a few cents you could get a small carton of milk! Rarely did we get milk because we had cows at home with many jugs of milk available.
Along came the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. What drastic changes in the school lunch world! Lunchables, juice boxes, Capri Sun packets took the place of biscuits and gravy. Lunchrooms offered several drinks or condiments to purchase with your meal — including chips, cookies, sweets and even a slice of pizza. Don’t forget that awesome Thanksgiving and Christmas lunch at school — that lunch box has come a long way!
During the early ’60s I was in the ninth grade at Stephen Decatur High School and at lunch we could sit where we wanted and with who we wanted — a drastic change from elementary. I loved it because I had made so many new friends and one particular girl, Nellie, became a lifetime close friend until her passing in 1999. Nellie and I would laugh about one incident in the lunchroom that almost got the two of us sent home for the day! That day Nellie and I walked in and took a table near the teacher dining room, as usual we pulled out our sandwiches and our drinks and began to eat. Four other teens sat with us. I had a lunchmeat and cheese sandwich and began to eat. I looked over at Nellie (a BIG mistake) and saw she was eating “something” dark, so I asked, “what are you eating”? Nellie whispered, “fried cow tongue” and I remember jumping up screaming — running and yelling she’s eating tongue! My entire table jumped up and ran in different directions! Our gym teacher, the late Mrs. Lucy Bunting, came out blowing her whistle, shouting, “Hitchens, Davis and the rest of your table to the office NOW.” I never knew what happened to my lunch, but Nellie kept eating as we entered the office and had consumed it by the time Principal Burbage got there! Folks, we were poor farm kids and packed lunches from leftovers but I can tell you ... I have NEVER and WILL NEVER eat fried cow’s tongue. Boy, how times have changed!
What remains unchanged today is the fact that some students still do not eat or cannot afford to pack a lunch. Now many counties offer free lunch — so no one goes hungry. All schools have the information for parents or guardians to apply. If you know of a child who needs these programs in order to eat, PLEASE CONTACT the school.
One of the biggest innovations in school lunch now are the modern lunch boxes that are compartmentalized. Brands such as OMIEBOX have multiple dividers that can be used for hot or cold lunches. EASY LUNCH BOXES is another with multiple compartments that are easy to clean and use for younger students. Younger kids always look forward to lunch time in school as it is a break from having to sit still and listen to teachers. They always love showing off the lunch box as well as the lunch they have.
BARBECUE CHICKEN CUPS
1 roll of Pillsbury Grands biscuits, usually the Southern-style works best but you can use any flavor your child likes. 3 pounds chicken breasts about 4 large, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. onion powder. Place chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot. Pour chicken broth and seasonings over chicken. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Remove chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks. Mix with your favorite barbecue or hot sauce. Bake the biscuits according to directions then immediately when they are done tear a biscuit in half and flatten it, place it into a muffin tin, top with chicken and shredded cheese, and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
2 apples, 1/4 c. peanut butter, 1/4 c. jelly. Slice apples into quarter-inch rounds. Use a small cookie cutter to cut the core from the center of each slice. Spread peanut butter and jelly on half of the slices, then cover with the remaining halves. This is one that you’ll want to make in the morning so the apples don’t brown overnight.
4 slices white bread, 1/2 c. smooth peanut butter, 1/2 c. grape jelly. Remove crusts from bread. Using a rolling pin, roll bread until very flat. Spread with peanut butter and jelly and roll tightly. Cut into 2” pieces and serve.
PICKLE ROLL UPS
4 slices of your child’s favorite lunch meat such as ham or turkey breast. Spread mustard or mayo on the slices of meat, layer some cheese then another layer of meat. Roll a pickle wedge up and pack tight. You can use any variety of meat, cheese or condiments in this dish.
TURKEY CLUB ROLL UPS
4 slices deli turkey, 2 tsp. mayo, 2 slices cheddar, halved or quartered, 1/2 c. shredded or chopped lettuce, 1/2 tomato, sliced, 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 avocado, sliced, 4 slices cooked bacon, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper. On a clean work surface, place two slices of deli turkey and spread a thin layer of mayo on top. Top with 1 slice cheddar, half of the lettuce, tomato, red onion and avocado, and 2 slices bacon. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roll up and secure with a toothpick, then repeat with remaining ingredients.
GRILLED CHEESE ROLL UPS
8 thick slices of soft white bread, 1.5 cups finely grated cheddar, 2 Tbsp. melted butter. One by one, slice the crusts off of each slice of bread, then use a rolling pin to flatten. Add a pinch of cheese to each slice, making sure you leave a small strip at the end to brush with butter. Tightly but carefully roll up each slice to the end, brush with butter, then roll shut and place seam-side-down. Brush all over with butter. Add roll ups to a dry pan seam-side-down over low-medium heat and fry until golden all over with the cheese starting to leak out. Use your tongs to frequently turn them. You may need to do this in two batches depending on the size of your pan.
NUTELLA BANANA SUSHI
This recipe is by the single serving, so repeat as many times as you need. Nutella, I use about 1 Tbsp., 1 banana, 1 whole wheat wrap. Lay your wrap on a breadboard and slather with Nutella. Place the banana on top of your chocolate coating, Roll the wrap as you would sushi or a burrito and carefully slice into rolls.
HAM, MAC N CHEESE MUFFINS
2 cups of your favorite macaroni and cheese, fresh works best after it is well cooled, 2 large eggs beaten, 1 cup diced ham, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs plus 2 tablespoons. Combine macaroni and cheese with eggs, ham, and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. Stir until well combined. Spray eight openings in a muffin tin with non-stick spray. Use an ice cream scoop to add 1/2 cup of mixture to each cup. Gently press mixture down with your fingers to flatten it into each cup. Sprinkle with additional bread crumbs. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes ... depending on how soft or firm you prefer your muffins. Immediately remove from cups to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate after 30 minutes of cooling.
RICE KRISPIE PEANUT BUTTER BANANAS
2 bananas, peanut butter, 1 cup of crispy rice cereal, foil or parchment paper so you don’t have to wipe peanut butter smears off your counter. First peel the bananas and cut them into thirds. Then dump some cereal onto your wax paper, smear the bananas in peanut butter, and roll the peanut butter bananas in the cereal.
PEPPERONI PIZZA STICKS
1 Pillsbury pizza crust tube, 40 pepperoni slices, 10 mozzarella cheese sticks, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp dried parsley, your favorite marinara sauce for dipping. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spread pizza dough out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut the dough into 10 equal size rectangles. Arrange 4 pepperoni slices on each rectangle and top with a mozzarella cheese stick. Roll up the pizza dough, enclosing the cheese stick, pinching the seams closed. Melt the butter and add the garlic powder and dried parsley. Brush the pizza sticks with the butter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.