The secret ingredient in the Manse’s long-ago lunchbags

Tomorrow's school lunch

Tomorrow’s school lunch (and breakfast, truth be told): Yogourt with granola (from Saveurs et Gourmandises, North Hatley, Que. – the fantastic food shop of Raymond’s daughter Justine) mixed in, check. Leftover vegetarian lasagna, check. Cutlery, check. Chocolate-chip cookie (from the Hidden Goldmine Bakery), check. (Andy Warhol-inspired kitchen-utensil holders in the background, check.) But where is the carefully folded Kleenex?

Hands up: How many of you out there have made school lunches until you thought you couldn’t stand to see another lunchbag, section another orange, or add one more layer of jelly to peanut butter? Oh, there I go dating myself again: peanut butter isn’t allowed in schools any more, is it? It’s a crazy world.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about school lunches because I’ve just finished making my own. Because, you know, when you’re a teacher, and you’re packing up a lunch for work the next day, it becomes once again – as it was in your long-ago student childhood at Madoc Township Public School – a school lunch.

What I was thinking about as I put together my lunch in the Manse’s tiny pantry kitchen (as opposed to the large kitchen kitchen, where the kitchen table is and, sadly, the old Findlay wood-burning stove of my childhood in this house is not) was that I would have been doing exactly same thing in exactly the same place 40 and more years ago.

Because my mother, Lorna, was impossibly overburdened back in those days – what with dealing with four young children, filling the demanding role (social and otherwise) of the minister’s wife, and holding down a full-time job as a high-school teacher – we kids were quite sensibly pressed into household-chores duty to help out. I believe we took turns at washing and drying the dishes and making the school lunches, but somehow in my mind I always see myself, and none of the others, in charge of those lunches. Perhaps it was my household-chores area of expertise, though I never much liked doing it.

Laura Secord puddings

An important part of the school lunch, once upon a time: Laura Secord puddings. Apparently they are no longer produced.

What made me smile as I was remembering all that was how my mother had the routine of making lunches down to a science. There, laid out on the ironing board (conveniently located just outside the pantry door) would be four paper lunchbags and/or metal lunchboxes, four sandwiches (peanut butter or pimiento-flavoured cream cheese or an evil [I subsequently decided] mixture of chopped ham and sweet relish, or macaroni-and-cheese loaf, or Kraft sandwich spread) wrapped in waxed paper (I never did get very good at the art of folding waxed paper so that it would stay closed around the sandwiches, but those were waxed-paper days); four desserts (some Oreos or Coffee Break cookies – remember Coffee Break cookies? What ever happened to them? – or a Laura Secord pudding with spoon – hey, what ever happened to Laura Secord puddings?); and four pieces of fruit, like an apple or a banana or that orange cut into sections. And finally, always, always: a folded Kleenex. My mum insisted that a Kleenex be packed with each lunch. Because you just never know when you’re going to need a Kleenex.

And you know, that was rather a sensible thing on my mum’s part. Those Kleenexes probably came in handy lots of times, like when you’d come into the warm classroom from recess on a cold winter day and your nose would start to drip. And there was the solution, right there in your lunchbag.

Which suddenly makes me realize – I’ve forgotten to pack something in tomorrow’s lunch!

6 thoughts on “The secret ingredient in the Manse’s long-ago lunchbags

  1. Macaroni and cheese loaf! Sandwich spread! Waxed paper! The funnyt smell those metal lunch-boxes always had! Thanks for the memories, Katherine!

    • I love bringing back memories like the smell of metal lunchboxes, Lindi! Hey, do you remember how they smelled when you opened them upon your return home from school in the afternoon? A combination of leftover sandwich-spread scent and stale orange, in overly warm stale air? Yipes!

  2. Hmmmmm……memories……
    Maybe not the nicest memories. My mother did not exactly shine in the school lunch category, however in elementary school we lived close enough to usually come home for lunch as Mum didn’t work outside the home. It was usually Campbell’s soup (a favourite is in your pic!) and some sort of sandwich, in the cold weather at least. She made our lunches when we went to High School (my sister always threw hers away.)
    Because I did not like the fare that was provided to me as a child, I would make super-human efforts to make appealing lunches for my three little poppets. I soon came to the conclusion that not appreciating Mum-made lunches must have a genetic component.
    Now regarding the wax paper. Our sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper with what my parents referred to as a chemist’s fold. (They were from Britain.) The term here is druggist’s fold. It really wasn’t quite as complicated as a true druggist fold but worked fairly well. A bit like wrapping a gift.
    Before I retired, I would often make a veg lasagna simply for the purpose of dividing it up into Ziploc sized portions and freezing for the week ahead. More (recent) memories, inspired by the photograph!

      • I actually have given this some thought! I have some theories, but it does seem that as my three have reached adulthood, they are FAR more appreciative of my efforts! Not that I still make their lunches!!!

        Oh dear, that smell. Proof that time travel exists. Walk into any Canadian elementary school, as an adult, and you will be immediately transported to another time and place. Add in the smell of wet mittens optimistically put on radiators to dry, and you have the essence of Canadian winter.

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