But you had to eat your veggies first.
The only thing I balked on was cooked spinach. I had a deal with one of the classmates who ate mine and loved it.
Ham and beans with cornbread and hot syrup. I learned later that the hot syrup helped control gas so the afternoon classes were not distracting...if you get my drift.
But I do recall quite well a particularly repellent dish that we called "Mystery Meat." This was a sort of ground beef in gravy with large globs of fat, poured over instant mashed potatoes. I last saw it in 1965 and I can still remember the sight and smell as if I had stumbled across it yesterday while cleaning up cat vomit.
All of your ingredients but baked dough over top. Yuck
Viking shepherds? How did they get the sheep into their longboats?
In any event, at least you had the baked dough to hide the nasty globs of fat and "meat."
...bore more than a passing resemblance to cat vomit, IIRC.
Our Mystery Meat looked a lot like the upchuck my cat produces when she eats her Fancy Feast too quickly.
I have tried to figure out why our cats, when they start to hack something up, will run from the tile floor in the kitchen, onto the carpet in either the family room or dining room. Especially my one Oriental carpet. Happens every damn time.
They did almost everything from scratch. When they baked rolls you could smell it all morning. To die for spaghetti with rolls. I still dream about it. So different now. They also baked birthday cake once a month. Soooo good.
On edit: Lunch was $.30/day.
Caroline Street (elementary) School, Saratoga Springs, NY, lunch was a quarter. You placed it on the corner of your tray and the lady at the cash register would pick it up when you walked by. At some point, I believe it went up to 30-cents.
The kids who brought their lunch paid a nickle for milk. We also put it on the right-hand corner of the tray. The lunch ladies had all worked there for eons and knew all of us by name and they also knew our birthdays. So different now.
When I was first in school farther north - Ticonderoga, NY - we had a milk break at some point in the morning. Milk was 2 or 3-cents, IIRC, and kids took turns bringing in a package of cookies. Chocolate milk was an option and I regretted the weeks I forgot to choose it. The milkman who brought the milk every day had a daughter in my class, remember envying her because she got to see her Dad. But there were no hot lunches in those old schools, you were expected to bring something from home and we ate right in the classroom.
We got to bring a snack from home to eat mid-morning. It had to be something healthy: an apple, carrot sticks, etc. That was the first time I ever saw a pomegranate. One of my classmates brought one for snack time and I was fascinated; it looked so exotic. I couldn't wait to tell my mom about it when she picked me up that day. She HAD to buy me a pomegranate for snack. It's so funny what we remember.
And sometimes a coconut - it was up to my Dad to deal with those, he'd drill a hole in in and pour the "milk" out before splitting it. I guess they wanted us to experience something different.
One thing I really liked was a big barrel of half sour pickles at the grocery store. There were these tongs and you got to pick out your own pickle!
Dad traveled a lot visiting cotton gins all over the south and he would bring sugar cane back from LA.
We will agree to disagree about pickles. I have never been able to stand even the smell. Don't know why because everyone else in my family enjoyed them.
I've always liked pickles, especially the half sour ones. I was the first child in my entire extended family so I spent a lot of time with adults. My grandmother would reminisce about the times she and my aunt would take me out to lunch with them when I was really young - they'd let me order anything I wanted and apparently one time I chose a pickle!
And apparently I felt that way all my life. I do know that not everyone cares for pickles, I'm used to having people say "Want my pickle?" I never say no...
Their .75 cents a piece I love em and the boog the chocolate lab will drool as I eat it. Telling me hey man boog dogs love pickles, and I reply to him what food groups do boog dogs not love. I never offered him any but in his mind if humans eat it I need it.
1953 and 1954 we had a milk break in the morning. I believe we paid 7 cents for the milk. Our choices were orange drink, white milk, or chocolate milk. We ordered a week at a time, as I recall, and I always got chocolate milk except for one week when I thought I'd try orange drink. What a mistake. I still recall it as an awful week I simply had to endure.
That Catholic school had a basement level "cafeteria", which I'm putting in quotes because I'm pretty certain no food was prepared there. I know that I always brought my own lunch (and having a lunchbox and thermos was very important) every single day. Mostly peanut butter and jelly.
But it does sound like a similar experience. Except it was only white or chocolate milk for us - and I always regretted not remembering to choose the chocolate - and, yes, it was always for the entire week. But from what you said, I guess we were lucky, LOL. One thing I do remember was that it was always ice cold, it was brought right into the class every day by the milkman, whose daughter was my classmate.
And I went to a parochial school for kindergarten. We had a "snack break" there, as well. But no milk for us as 4 and 5-year-olds. I remember that very well, it was graham crackers and ice cold water, served in little Dixie cups. Since my parents paid tuition for that school, I wonder why, but that's just the way it was...
but I enjoyed them. I think the fact that my mother loved to cook and was fearless and adventurous in her cooking made a big difference. I grew up being encouraged to eat just about any and everything and enjoying most of it. Those split pears weren't bad, either.
we had those rectangular pizzas. I liked them. Relatively. They always came with a side of corn.
the pep grease pooled in each slice of pepperoni! 😋
is that it doesn't get that little grease pool like the real stuff.
My schools had english muffin pizzas. Same thing, basically. I loved those and still make them from time to time.
Enjoy your weekend!
The food wasn't too bad, though.
I grew up in Rochester NY, in the late 1950s and all of the 1960s. Rochester has a huge Italian population, most of whom are Catholic - no meat on Fridays. Lunches on Friday were, alternating on an every other week pattern, fish sticks or cheese pizza. The pizza was reasonably tasty. That was it - one "entrée," if you could call it that, per day. No choices.
Milk was 4 cents a carton. Lunch was 30 cents.
A regular, and repulsive item was lemon or lime jello with canned peas and shredded carrots in it. Truly vile.
I grew up in the 50s in NJ.. Shepherds' Pie and......?
We had a baked potato with fixings line in HS and thought that was awesome. Have to say the school meals in NoVa are miles ahead of anything I had growing up. https://www.arlnow.com/2017/09/05/new-fresh-lunch-options-launch-in-countys-public-high-schools/
Everything else was quite forgettable.
Chili with a big cinnamon roll with lots of icing.
Edit to add, this was in the mid 60's and everything was cooked or baked in the school. Those rolls smelled so good every Friday. I think the first year I was there we had something else because of the "no fish on Friday" rule for the Catholic students. I cannot remember.
I remember how nice it was to eat at school. In grade school you had to bring your lunch or walk home to eat no food was provided since most of our Moms did not work. I always had to walk since it was only about 15 minutes away and 15 back. Fun in the snow!
...nothing compares to it nowadays..nothing! and it wasn't creepy gluten free crap either...
the local women who had fixed meals for field hands in her younger days. Everyone called her Aunt Cord. She was a wonderful cook and made the best chocolate cake that I have ever tasted in my life. I don't know how she made it, but it had the taste of fresh cream to it. After 60+ years, I can still remember that cake.
Best peanut butter cookie ever.
Our favorite desert was the peanut butter crunchies made with peanut butter and cornflakes.
I've never actually managed to replicate this. It had the consistency of good brownies, and kind of a ganache frosting. I asked the cafeteria lady what made it so good, and she said, "We use pickle juice instead of water."
I never have figured out whether she meant this, or if she meant, "Go away, I don't reveal my recipes.
I can taste it now... only in my head. I wish I could actually taste it.
On pizza day they brought in pizza from a local restaurant (not a chain). Fabulous. Potato chips in little bags, made nearby, still warm. Sadly both the restaurant and the potato chip factory are long gone. The schools get Dominos now (yuk).
They would use ice cream scoop to ladle out the potatoes, then indent top with scoop and ladle in melted butter.
I brought my own lunch most of time, which was just as awful with soggy bread with peanut butter and jelly or thermos of awful canned soup and crackers. My favorite lunch from home was just a can of sardines that I would open, but I could expect no friends to sit nearby on those days.
I never could eat at school... They had a pot roast (congealed/nasty) and slimey lima beans--among other offerings that would make me nauseous before I ever entered the cafeteria.
In first grade a teacher made me sit in the cafeteria for more than an hour because I refused to eat.
I don't remember what happened after that but I don't remember ever even attempting to eat at school again, except sandwiches I brought myself.
I still can not even look at a lima bean, mak3s me want to vomit..
What was god think8ng ehen she invented tgat one?
Interesting - I can still smell it all these years later.
A weird, familiar concoction of meat and medicinal cleaning products on a big sesame-seed bun.
Ah the good ole days.
This was in the Elementary School in Seattle I spent 4th - 6th grade in, the year before they switched to a Middle School system.
They always served it with French cut green beans with almonds - which were okay because they always used frozen veggies rather than canned.
The one that made it did her own roux sauce with real grated Colby cheese (not Velveeta!) in the sauce before mixing everything together and tossed bread crumbs on top.
The lunch ladies also baked their own Lasagna, which was hit or miss depending on who was making it at the time, and made halfway decent chicken fried and/or Salisbury steak. Mash potatoes were almost always fresh. We only had the package potatoes during January/February, when fresh potatoes were harder to come by.
Breakfast if you got there early - fresh baked sweet rolls and breads for toast, where they made French Toast, scrambled eggs and ham, those little box cereals you opened up and tried to put milk in without getting it all over the place, and seasonal fruit.
First time I discovered was when I was in a school cafeteria. I assumed it was white ketchup so I poured it on and it was and still is the nastiest "food" in the world.
No school lunches for me sloppy joes and their pizza was hideous.
I brought my lunches, don't recall cafeteria dishes. DO remember hoping to trade my sandwiches for favorites from friends, loved/LOVE hard salami (and good tuna fish,) still favorites!
It was so good that when the PTA held a fund raiser, they sold tickets to a spaghetti dinner at the school - and sold out!
The worst thing they made was this stuff we called Prune Whip - it was made from powdered milk and canned prunes, beaten until it was fluffy and purple. Nasty stuff that everyone hated.
I sometimes make this for myself for lunch or dinner. It is comfort food and I have a nostalgic feeling about it.
and the little ice cream cups with the wooden spoon.
My high school cafeteria had a section of the cafeteria line called "Mexican Food Bar". This is way before that stuff made it onto fast food menus. Also had a burger stand there with killer fries and onion rings. We love our food in Palm Springs ca.!
I can't believe anyone would serve that to anyone, much less to a child.
except those ridiculous roast beef sandwiches with the nasty cup of hot liquid you were meant to dip it in. That I couldn't stomach.
And sloppy joes. I never cared for them, though I ate when they were served. Everything else on the menu I recall enjoying.
I wasn't too picky as a kid, which is funny because I'm a label-reading, ingredients-examining vegan as an adult.
They had these things called cowboy hats. Ugh. A piece of bologna topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a slice of cheese. Gross.
Like "the kitchen ran out of food"-weird, if you know what I mean. That said, it had bologna, cheese, and potatoes -- I'd have eaten it.
a cowboy hat, hence the name? I'm thinking it was something like grated Velveeta on the top.
I never ate them, always brought mine. I do however remember how much they disgusted me.
The absolute best thing was cabbageburgers.
It's a Nebraska thing.
A mixture of ground beef, cabbage, and spices baked inside a pocket of bread.
Sort of a Eastern European version of a pasty.
They were wonderful.
EVERYONE showed up on Cabbageburger Day, the lunch line was the biggest every time.
in school in Lincoln NE. When we went to the fast food chain Runza's to eat we all got the swiss mushroom burgers rather than the Runza sandwiches, which are a kind of meat hand pie.
brought in a hot dog roaster. We were thrilled. No cafeteria. You brought a lunch from home.
We called it "shit on a shingle."
If you were hungry enough you ate it.
In one form or another it was served at very school I attended. Usually it was a concoction of pureed stewed prunes and whipped cream, chilled and spooned into dishes with chopped nuts on top. There was also a pie version that mixed the prune puree with molasses in a custard base with nuts on top. I like prunes so I always ate the stuff, but most kids hated it.
The sauce was so meaty and they let us heap on unlimited Parmesan cheese.
I was a brown bagger. But on spaghetti day I threw my sack lunch away and ate two trays of spaghetti.
My mom taught at the elementary school I also attended and we lived within easy walking distance, so we'd walk home for lunch every day. EXCEPT on sloppy joe day, she'd let me have "hot lunch"! Mmmmmm......good memory.
In one high school, ice cream was available every day for dessert, with three toppings: caramel, chocolate, and marshmallow. Yum.
And, we had fish every Friday. The rest is a blank, and I ate from there every day, never took a lunch from home.
First time I ever tasted Southern veggies. They were cooked fresh in my school in Georgia.
Next: sloppy joe's. Killed my weight in high school.
I also remember those huge cinnamon buns, but I never liked the main dish with it, so I would bring my lunch that day.
I thought school lunch was pretty gross. My mom didn't serve sloppy joes or shepard's pie at home, so I bought school lunch on those days.
Fresh, hot yeast rolls. We could smell them baking. They were divine.
Junior High 1960-63
Fried chicken. On those days you could pay an extra dime and get a paper towel filled with the crispies dipped out of the deep frier and drained on paper towel. We always looked forward to fried chicken day.
I think they contracted with the local farmers for the raw ingredients because our food was incredibly good. I will admit that my favorite was ice cream, which might have been local but it was still ice cream.
Right before my freshman year of high school we moved to Tucson, Arizona. This was 1962, so the food was still going to be local and largely made in the school cafeteria, as industrial food wasn't much happening yet. I actually didn't often eat the lunches, because at that point I couldn't afford them. I would get a carton of milk and a couple of chocolate chip cookies (total cost a dime) to take me through the day my freshman year. Then I had a bit more money and bought lunch about half the time and as I recall it was pretty good. Again, it was being made on site, with fresh ingredients. The only specific meal I can recall was the Thanksgiving lunch, which was incredibly good.
A lot of the answers here are going to depend on when the respondent went to school. After 1970 or so, industrial food started showing up, and so less and less real food was out there.
Oh, and at my school in Tucson, I could buy a couple of chocolate chip cookies (rather light on the chocolate chips I always noted) for five cents. Keep in mind this was 1962.
Our one lunch lady granddaughter liked my brother. And grandmother lunch lady would load his plate up with extras and us other boys just got the regular rations.
were shaped liked a burger with a hard crust that I think was supposed to be the bacon. It didn't taste like bacon and the burger did not taste like burger but so good!
My kids went to the same schools as I did and when my daughter was in middle school I gave her money to bring me home a baconburger lunch and she did and it was the same as I remembered, still mysterious.
It was so good. Had some kind of creamy gravy and peas. Served with a side of mashed potatoes and more gravy!
The cafeteria made really good yeast rolls. Once a quarter, they would use that dough to wrap hot dogs in. Elementary and middle school kids' pigs in a blanket had one hot dog; high school pigs in a blanket had two.
If I asked for the burned pieces, I got two!
As a Junior High Student hot lunch was often the only real food I got all day.
Those buns were the best!
In elementary school, which was the 60's for me, it was all food cooked by lunch ladies. My mother was one of them for a couple of years. It was good food, but not particularly memorable, except the time Bryan S* and I had to stay in the lunchroom until we finished our spinach. That was some revolting stuff.
I think PoindexterOglethorpe has it right upthread; the answers and descriptions of food quality are dependent upon the time period.
Our cafeteria food was actually pretty good when I was in elementary school.
There was milk and that was it. Highschool had a cafeteria but my mom was scotch and did not want us wasting money on cafeteria food.
it was a creamy style with long tubular noodles rather than elbows. it was so good, and I have never found or made from scratch a similar version.
fish sticks, sloppy joes, and the baked chicken breasts were pretty damn good too. the square sauce-on-soggy-bread-with-powered-parmesan pizza sucked.