Hey Lab Rats, just a little something I wrote for an Industry pub, I would be curious to know what your best lunch box was.
In 1935 a Milwaukee company named Geuder, Paeschke and Frey licensed the likeness of a new cartoon character named Mickey Mouse for their oblong shaped lunch kit. This metal container was sealed at the top with a loop of stiff wire that doubled as a handle. From that moment on, kids have used their lunchbox as a means to acquire street credibility and social status.
When I was a child attending elementary school, I remember we didn’t have assigned seating in the cafeteria, but for whatever reason, all the boys sat together isolated from the girls. If this segregation wasn’t bad enough, we also upped the ante by making Catholics sit across from the Lutherans.
God forbid you’d sit next to a kid from a rival religion, if you got caught doing this you wouldn’t be run out of town, but you sure wouldn’t get picked first while divvying up teams for kickball.
Even at a young age I had my eye on obtaining authority. I wanted to be selected to be in charge of the entire second grade, but all of that came to a screeching halt the day Ron Est transferred to our school.
Up until that day, I was for all practical purposes the go to guy in the Catholic camp, but the first day Ron joined us for lunch all that changed.
Our popularity wasn’t measured by looks or intelligence, if it were, I would have been king. But our table leader was predicated by who had the coolest lunchbox, and Ron Est won this hands down. He sported an Evel Knievel lunchbox that had a matching Thermos bearing the Harley Davidson logo.
There I stood, helpless in the line of ridicule because my lunch was stored in a facsimile of Snoopy’s dog house, and yes, it was the one adorned with Woodstock the baby bird.
Looking back, I can see how important the school lunch hour is. Not just for nutrition, but social development as well. That’s why I reached out to some of my colleagues and ask them if they would be brave enough to speculate on the lunch hours of their youth.
DIANE SAVINO / MANAGER
ROMOLO’S PIZZA RESTAURANT
“I was always torn between my lunchbox and brown bagging it. I mean, I liked my lunchbox a lot. Mine was Barbie, and when you opened it up, it always seemed to smell like bread, but it had rust dots on it. Somehow my PBJ didn’t seem as appetizing when I had to look at rust. I mostly went with the brown bag.”
JESSICA FLEMING / FOOD WRITER
SAINT PAUL PIONEER PRESS
“I went to Catholic school, and I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but our highlight was the one time a month we were served McDonald’s. But my lunchbox was Hello Kitty, and to be honest, I don’t remember if it was mine or my sisters, but we both used it that’s for sure. Each day we were given either turkey and cheese sandwiches or PBJ’s. On special occasions, my mom filled the thermos with chicken noodle soup or macaroni and cheese that always remained warm right up until lunchtime.”
GENA EKBOM / GENERAL MANAGER
THE DAY BY DAY CAFÉ
“I got my favorite lunchbox in kindergarten. It had Rainbow Brite characters on it. We pretty much had PBJ’s every day, but when nobody was looking, I’d sneak extra cookies into it and eat them at school.
RICK NELSON / FOOD WRITER
“I had the same lunch every day from 65 to 72. It was always a sandwich and an apple. My mother wasn’t a very good cook (p-a-u-s-e). Well she would agree with that since its true, but I always wanted a Peanuts lunchbox in the worst way. I can’t recall why we never had lunchboxes. We always used brown bags.”
JOAN IDA / EXECUTIVE CHEF
“My mom was one of the lunch ladies at the elementary school I attended. Every day when I passed through the line, her and her friends would wave at me while calling out my name. Of course this embarrassed me. My lunchbucket was Barbie, and I remember it was really pink. Oh, before I let you go, I wanted to tell you I was thinking of you. Recently I was in Rome doing some research for an upcoming menu. And one afternoon while I was in my room, a helicopter sounded like it was going to land on my roof. When I looked out the window, it was the Pope. I waved at him and he waved back. I was told that he flies over the city and prays for all the people.”
Alright folks, I’m starting to run out of column space, but before I go, note the emotional duress that some of my peers were exposed to by not having premium lunchboxes. The couple extra dollars you’ll invest in a “platinum upgrade” will be returned tenfold.
And finally, I love a great PBJ as much as the next guy, but it wouldn’t kill you cats to throw a salami or egg salad sandwich into the rotation every now and then.
Until next month…..