Tales From A Hungry Life

August 20, 2014

Let’s Do Lunch

by Maria Schulz

As a child, there was nothing more wonderful than the prospect of lunchtime. I remember sitting there in Sister Felicity’s math class, feeling as though time and space had collapsed in on itself. There was no hope for escape and my stomach ached. I was STARVING! But then…the bell would ring, and it was time for lunch.

What's for lunch?

What’s for lunch?

LUNCH! LUNCH! LUNCH! I would throw on my jacket, say the prayer before meals, and then skip down the stairs two at a time until I hit the door to FREEDOM!

I can still feel the sun on my face…smell the flowers in bloom…feel the rush of fresh air filling my lungs. I was one of the lucky ones who went home for lunch since I only lived across the street. Of course, since this was Catholic school, I would have to walk in the complete opposite direction for one block before I was allowed to walk home. So, I’d walk down to the corner and then double-time it back home for the 45 minute lunch break that was the highlight of my day.


The best part of lunch

The best part of lunch

I’d rush through the door, greet my two barking dogs, kiss my mother, and grab a sandwich and some chocolate milk. Sometimes, my grandparents would be there too, and they’d sit down with my brothers and me as we sprawled all over the couches in the living room for 1 ½ TV shows.

We’d flick on Channel 11 and watch I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Partridge Family, Gilligan’s Island, or The Gong Show. Jeannie! Major Nelson! Samantha! Uncle Arthur! Thurston and Lovey! Jean Jean the Dancing Machine! The Unknown Comic! Chuck Barris! The laughs just kept coming.

Gene Gene The Dancing Machine & Chuckie B dance!

Gene Gene The Dancing Machine & Chuckie B dance!

Money was tight back then, so our lunch menu included some pretty horrible fare. This included:

  • Deviled Ham: You could spread it on white bread or crackers! I’m gagging just thinking about this.
  • Liverwurst: yes, it was the worst of times.
  • Baloney: my baloney had a first name, it’s A-W-F-U-L.
  • Chicken Roll: ughhhhh….
  • Canned spaghetti and meatballs: I had a reignited love affair with this during the 3-week-long blackout following Hurricane Sandy.
  • Canned ravioli: ditto.
  • Salami: one of the few Italian foods I do NOT love
  • Mayonnaise sandwiches: terrible for you with no redeeming nutritional value, this was one of my favorites. It would take the introduction of real turkey breast to break me of this ghastly lunchtime habit.

    Real stick-to-your-ribs fare

    Real stick-to-your-ribs fare

  • Fluff and bananas: ick, ick, ick. We most likely had this on hand because it was on sale at Hill’s Grocery Stores. At least there was fruit involved.
  • Peanut butter and Jelly: this was by far my favorite. It wasn’t mystery meat, it was easy to make, and it was cheap. Plus it gave me energy to face another 2 hours of school when lunch break was over.

It was a rare occasion when we got back to school early enough to play outside with everyone. Why? Because the kids who ate lunch in school had their own Lord of the Flies arrangements with one another, and we didn’t want to mess with that.

It's a jungle out there

It’s a jungle out there

Of course, when lunch was over, you couldn’t just cross the street and go in through the little door across from our house; you had to walk about a block and a half around the school to a different door. Again: Catholic school = arbitrary and pointless rules. There were quite a few times that Chris and I lingered a little too long to see who might get gonged and we had to run like the wind to get back to that door before it was locked and we got demerits. The fear of having our permanent record cards marked up with the 70s equivalent of LOSER kept us on our toes.

Every once in a while, there was a “special” lunch day or food-related treat. Usually it was a fundraiser; sometimes it was disguised as a treat (but was really a fundraiser). These random “treats” included:

Get your overpriced pizza here

Get your overpriced pizza here

  • Pizza Day: come hungry, pay a $2.00 a slice (back when a pizza and a coke cost 50 cents) so we can get a new roof
  • Hot Dog Day: this was never a day that I looked forward to. Give me sausage and peppers on a crusty roll over this any day. I remember asking to go to the bathroom, then slipping out the door, cutting across the street and having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home before I went back
  • Bake Sale: always held right after lunch. Sometimes we’d run back with some money and hope that all the good cakes weren’t eaten already by the stay-in-school lunch crowd
  • Mrs. D’s Homemade Italian food: Mrs. D. was the mom who always came up to school with a big tray of lasagna or baked ziti. If you weren’t lucky enough to be in her daughter’s class, you prayed that she’d bring enough for your class too. You didn’t even have to pay!
  • Breakfast with Santa: there wasn’t much going on in my neighborhood, and a $2 all you can eat smorgasbord of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon and SANTA was just too good to miss. My father ruined this for me for a couple of years by playing Santa, because, as he explained it to me, “Santa was too busy at the North Pole.” Boy was I glad when Santa was free again.
  • The Fair/Carnival: just imagine Judy Garland singing “Meet Me In St Louis,” only substitute the words with “meet me at St. Robert’s, Robert’s, meet me at the fair.” Or the carnival. Whatever. This meant zeppoles, sausage and pepper heroes, big crusty pretzels, brownies with nuts, giant cookies, rides and games. I spent a lot of time staring out the window, watching them set this up. When it finally sprang to life, I was the first one on line, riding the Ferris wheel, eating the cotton candy, and playing the games. I still remember that Blues Brothers poster I won. Good times!

    They're on a mission from God

    They’re on a mission from God


Sausage and Peppers

This recipe caught my eye because it’s from Lidia Bastianich (from Lidia’s Italian Kitchen). It looks delicious, and would probably go well over rice or with some penne pasta. You can re-heat this easily and take it with you to work.

Finished in the oven. Delicious

Finished in the oven. Delicious

Here’s another recipe for Sausage and Peppers on a roll. Personally, I would go for the sweet Italian sausages and omit the hot sausages, but that’s your call. For those of you watching your weight/salt intake, try it with low sodium Italian style Turkey sausages. Yum!

Perfect for summer grilling

Perfect for summer grilling

So, Hungry Lifers…what was your LEAST favorite lunch item when you were a kid? What’s your favorite now? Do you like Sausage and Peppers? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!




  1. All this has done, is made me hungry again…even though I ate lunch already. Great read though, put me back to those elementary school days minus the going home for lunch and I love hot dogs…and salami.

    Comment by Steve Rios — August 20, 2014 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Steve! Tell you what…next time we have lunch together, you can have my salami.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 20, 2014 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  2. One of your sister-in-laws eats Baloney sandwiches till this day. She considers this a treat. As to liverwurst, hey, chopped liver in a roll called wurst. A German dish. Ask any German or Jew and chopped liver is great. Of course it ruins one’s own liver but what the hey? In the Army I was introduced to Spam. It wasn’t so bad at least it wasn’t something cooked by Army cooks, or say your Mother during our first year of marriage which is too long to go into at this time. I also was introduced to SOS (S**t On A Shingle) a beautiful creamed breakfast dish which when I first had it gave me the runs and caused me to vomit. I got used to it and after a while really loved it. Living close to school is always a great convenience. I had to walk to school every day even in the rain and snow. But then I didn’t live just across the street from it. And for lunch there was no TV only the radio which we couldn’t play because Uncle Sal was still asleep, too long to go into at this time. Loved the blog..

    Comment by Bglou — August 20, 2014 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

    • Thank goodness Uncle Sal didn’t live with us, I would’ve hated to miss The Gong Show. I’m not a big fan of liver or baloney, sorry. I do remember having SPAM when I was little…not one of my favorites. Luckily, Mom didn’t make SOS, ever. Hooray! Thanks for commenting, as usual. 🙂

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — September 6, 2014 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  3. LOL! I was an across-the-streeter too — but we didn’t have the reruns you enjoyed; in my day, those were on at night!! I remember watching “Concentration” and “Jeopardy!” … two great game shows 🙂

    Comment by thedailypeeve — August 20, 2014 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

    • Oh I loved Jeopardy and Concentration! I also remember when Press Your Luck was on, as well as Wheel of Fortune with Chuck Woolery was the host. You had to buy your prizes. That was a lot of fun. I would yell at the TV like they could hear me! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — September 6, 2014 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  4. Funny, I loved Hot Dogs. I love Hot Dogs. I will always love Hot Dogs. In grade school, we had a Hot Dog Day too, different moms would volunteer to come in to school that day and be the “server” of Hot Dogs. I loved it! I loved it too when my mom would be the “server” mom. It was one of my favorite foods growing up. Another favorite, but not at lunch time, was a sandwich that was made mostly at night, a night time sandwich snack, toasted bread with mayo and tomato (omit bacon) it was so yummy, especially after night swimming next door with my long time girl friend Lori. Yum! School lunches… you know i too lived close to school, we walked to school growing up but i don’t remember anything about lunches per se- just don’t. In sixth grade my school opened up a cafeteria to serve lunches to us and that was awful, seriously really awful crap and very depressing time, i do remember hating lunch period at that point. I hated a lot of things about grade school at that point anyway! Back to Hot Dogs, you probably want to throw up now but I have two shorts to tell you… when I was 7 and got hit by a truck laying in the hospital room, I remember i was not able to eat solid food for some time and all I wanted was a hot dog. Years later, more grown up (highschool) visiting my older sister in Brooklyn – my first visit to NYC – she takes me to a chinese take-out place and I am staring at the menu posted up on the wall in front and not really knowing much about chinese food at that time I finally say to her “can’t ya get a hot dog here?” I am so much more “New York” now!! In Pittsburgh, we do Italian real good – we’ve got that covered and sausage hoagies is one of my favorite foods and favorite dinners to make. Now I’m hungry! Oh yeah, one time my father, marine soldier in WWII he made me Sh@# on a Shingle one night for dinner, that’s somethin’ somethin’ on a couple of pieces of toast, I ate it all up! Now, one of my lunches i make is peanut butter and banana sandwiches- Yum! Great blog. Food is always fun to talk about.

    Comment by Anne — August 21, 2014 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

    • I know what I’m making for dinner the next time you come over! I am glad I never had to eat lunch in school. The food they make now is kind of awful, so my kids brown bag it. That mayo and tomato sandwich sounds great–I think I’ll go make one right now. 🙂

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — September 6, 2014 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  5. Maria, I hated Chicken roll. For the first 15 years of my life I thought cold cuts were awful unless they came from a Deli in a big hero. Ham was a delicacy in the house and eaten up in a flash. Mom, in order to stretch the budget, bought the cheap meat. That’s why I stuck to PBJ. To this day I can eat two or three at a time and enjoy lunch. Now that I have found Honey Turkey that’s the sandwich for me as an adult. You talked about the times going home for lunch across the street. Well for the first seven years of school I had to walk for 10-15 minutes each way from and back to school. That gave me less time to watch TV and lay around. It felt like as soon as I got home it was time to go back. I don’t remember going home for lunch in 8th grade, but I’m sure that the walk across the street was much better than the six block hustle to the first house.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — August 25, 2014 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • I would’ve thought that crossing the street (instead of running all the way home) would be etched in your memory! I cannot even stand the smell of chicken roll. I remember when ham sandwiches were the most amazing treat ever–but only on a Saturday afternoon, every once in a great while.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — September 6, 2014 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: