Lunchtime fads, pudding races, and two lucky readers

And the winner of the food excerpt contest is....Ramona Quimby, Age 8!

With an impressive almost-40% of the vote, this one was the clear favorite. I'm willing to bet that this passage won on equal parts nostalgia and writing. The story itself is clever, and something that many of us can easily relate to; grade school fads and trading lunches were a part of just about every one's lives at one point or another.

In seventh grade, my favorite lunch consisted of an onion bagel with cream cheese, a Snickers bar, and a bottle of Orangina. These were purchased from the local bagel store and cost just south of five dollars. My mom would stop the car in front of the shop while my little brother Gab and I would pop in and place our order, grabbing the snacks while the sweet round lady behind the counter (Linda, I believe) would quickly schmear the bagels and divide into two brown paper bags. It was the perfect combination: the sweetness of the chocolate, the saltiness of the cheese, and the fizzy orange beverage.

When I reached high school, I started attending a private catholic prep school about 20 minutes away so we rarely had time to stop anywhere to buy lunch before getting to school on time (this may or may not also have had something to do with my morning hair & make-up routine). With a mom that was just as busy, the idea of "making lunch" never really entered the equation so my dad got into the habit of leaving us each five dollars on the kitchen table for us to buy from the school cafeterias.

I used to consider these five dollars an additional source of income, and would usually opt for a cheap lunch of a 60 cent Snickers from the vending machine (I have a thing for nougat), pocketing the other 4 dollars and 40 cents. When you factored in the 3 dollars my dad also gave me for bus fare (unnecessary as I regularly had a friend drive me home) going to school quickly turned into quite the money-making enterprise.

There were, however, some days when hunger trumped mall cash and so on those days I often indulged in one of two of my favorite menu items: the "hot ham and cheese" on a roll (melty and salty and thoroughly un-nutritious) and "chocolate pudding." Now the chocolate pudding was more of an event than a meal. Best friend Vanessa and I quickly invented a rather absurd game that probably did little to ingratiate us with the "cool kids." It was called "Pudding Races" and it went like this:

1.) Vanessa and I would take turns buying a package of Peanut M&Ms from the vending machine, plus two bowls of pudding (one each).

2.) We would then divide the M&M's equally (about 14 or so each) and mix them into the pudding. These we referred to as "Obstacles."

3.) Next we'd call time and proceed to see how quickly we could shovel down our bowl of pudding and M&Ms (the obstacles there to "slow us down") before the M&Ms started to melt and lose their color in the pudding.

4.) Whoever finished first, won. There was no actual "prize"; just lots of giggles and strange looks from the "normal" girls.

Surprisingly, neither one of us ever choked during these races. Not quite surprisingly, we both had to ask our respective gay best friend to the prom. Related? Perhaps...

I'm contacting the winners of the Italian Rainbow cookie now and once I hear back from both I will post their names. In the meantime, why don't you share some of your grade school lunchtime memories in the comments section?


  1. Let's see...

    There was the time in 3rd grade where I dared one of the kids at my table to blow up his empty juice box, put it on the floor, and stomp on it just to see what would happen. He did, and the burst of sound caused everyone in the cafeteria to stop talking and look at us.

    There was the time in I think junior year of high school when a bunch of pranking seniors, clad in camo and ski masks, burst in the back door of the cafeteria with tanks of water on their backs and ran around spraying everyone in sight. My table got up and ran for the exit, and I jumped headlong over a 6' tall wall separating the walkway from the actual cafeteria and cleared it with room to spare with a tuck and roll landing.

    There was also the time my best friend, wearing a ski mask, jumped up on the table and mooned the entire cafeteria our senior year, proclaiming that it was "from the class of 98" before running out the back door. Of course, I didn't actually see this happen, since I was the getaway driver.

  2. In seventh grade at Bedford Middle School, all the cool girls (or at least the ones I thought were cool) bought a bagel smothered in cream cheese, a blue slush puppy and a chocolate fudge brownie. This lunch was especially cool because it cost exaclty $2--the same amount as a "lunch ticket" that could buy a hot meal from the other part of the lunch line.

    I always brought my lunch. The most embarrassing days were when my mom packed slices of cheese for protein. I thought the idea of a single slice of cheese was absolutely humiliating.

  3. I think the best part of this blog is the potential that some guy could pop in and say...

    "I'm not gay!"

    Everyone loves a good train-wreck.

  4. I remember high school best. Growing up in a small town had its advantages. We had an open campus and I was notorious for being able to stay out of trouble with teachers and administrators while regularly breaking rules (pretty much out in the open). My favorite memories are of arranging for group picnics on the lawn in the spring.

    I would use class time to talk others into it and collect money, then I would go to the office and ask to use the phone to call in a pizza order (yes, this was before cell phones were big). Then I would skip the rest of class and go to the grocery store for napkins and forks and drinks before I would usually pick up a chocolate cake or brownies or something from the bakery.

    Then we would pick up the pizza, head back to school and have a bit of time to relax before the rest of our friends would show up.

  5. My favorite school lunchtime memory involves my mother's daily ritual of saying to one of us: "*insert name*, you want to tell your father what you did this morning?"
    We always shrunk in our chairs as we were met with my father's ominous glare, waiting to hear what sorts of wrong-doing we'd performed that morning.

    She was always betraying our trust this way. On one hand, she felt that my father was a little too harsh in his disciplines but on the other, she was always dying to instigate this sort of lunchtime drama. All five of us always approached the lunch table with nervousness. Two hours ago, we thought that our mother's discipline would suffice in cleansing our wrong-doings, but as lunchtime neared, that confidence always shrunk into a fleeting hope.

    Admittedly, this comment began as a joke and then I realized that I really did have a school lunchtime memory...

  6. All I remember is hanging out with the drummers and something about canned goat.

  7. I was a 3rd grade teacher. I love Ramona...

  8. Alejandra,
    love your blog so I had tagged you for a MEME.

    Keep up the great writing...and cooking!

  9. Lol my gay friend asked me to the prom, too.


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