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?