Woodworking: Hungry students can’t know what they’re bloody well missingSchool hot lunches have evolved dramatically since my granddad attended rural school back in the 1890s.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
School hot lunches have evolved dramatically since my granddad attended rural school back in the 1890s.
He always said you could tell the kids who were newly arrived immigrants from the “old Americans” by the meals they brought from home, usually carried in a syrup pail.
“The Polish and Norwegian kids came with slices of bread smeared with white leaf lard. The kids from more established families came with slices of bread as well, only ours were smeared with bacon drippings, much fancier.”
Is that what’s meant by eating high on the hog?
By the time I matriculated 50 years later, Wisconsin had just decided we kids needed something to warm our bellies to accompany the bread, which was now smeared with butter.
So a panel truck came from the county courthouse to Larkin Valley school and dropped off a hot plate, a kettle and two big bags. One was full of green powder, the other of yellow.
That’s right, green split pea and yellow split pea.
Along around 11 p.m. our beautiful schoolmarm, Miss Adela Hanson, put a kettle of water on the hotplate to boil and we kids got to vote. Green or yellow.
We always voted green, until the bag was empty then it was on to yellow, which looked a lot like what my father out in the barn called “calf scours.”
And then we moved to another farm, and I bade adieu to the beauteous Miss Hanson and wound up at the big brick school in Blair.
It was a sophisticated place and had a large dining hall in the basement off the boiler room.
Each noon, we filed down the stairs, got in line, and were served by the high school home economics girls, who each day prepared us lunch.
They didn’t spend much time on pheasant under glass or eggs Benedict. Blair was a Norwegian town and we ate what Norwegians ate. And what they ate a lot of was blood krub.
Blood krub is the Norwegian equivalent of German blood sausage, but not as tasty.
Pork blood isn’t cheap, you know, so Norwegians skimp on the blood and added more flour and flecks of pork fat and salt if the chef is feeling generous.
This was boiled and hardened into a brown dumpling, which was then sliced and fried in butter, splashed with cream and served on a cracked plate.
I adored blood krub when I was a kid and was happy to see the brown mass on my plate.
UNTIL, BEFORE I COULD STOP MATILDA BERG, THE HOME EC GIRL, SHE HAD POURED KARO SYRUP OVER THE WHOLE PILE.
Nowadays, I guess Blair’s hot lunch program wouldn’t pass muster with our government. Blood, cream and Karo aren’t a major portion of the basic food groups.
I should have known it was coming back in the 1970s when my mother sold her last restaurant after 50 years in the business and went to work as head cook of Whitehall Public Schools’ hot lunch program.
But before she could be paid, she had to spend a summer school at Stout State University (or whatever they called it back then).
The government, you see, wanted to make certain she knew how to cook.
That year when mother was a freshman she came home with all manner of stuff she had never cooked before. Like lasagne (How do you pronounce that?).
These days, our ever-vigilant government would have frowned on lasagne. According to the newspapers I read, the USDA figures our school lunches need to be healthier.
Apparently the reason we’re all so fat is that we learn to eat unhealthy foods even when we’re at school where we’re supposed to be learning how to live our lives.
Apparently playing video games and twittering all day has nothing to do with our obesity.
And so what does the government suggest?
It suggests that corn and peas are the villains that have added inches to our collective girth. Servings of corn and peas, says the government, should be severely limited at school lunches.
This new policy will likely have huge repercussions.
I recently read that Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken has taken exception to the USDA’s proposal, probably because he has his eye on voters in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, who haven’t been heard singing “ho-ho-ho” since the proposal surfaced.
But I’m not worrying too much about it. If they ban peas and corn, kids will probably begin to have a yen for them, sort of like the students in China who memorized the complete poetry of Emily Dickinson after the Chinese government declared the Maid of Amherst off-limits.
“Hold the mac and cheese, pass the succotash.”
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.