Not all school lunches are bad. In fact, each school has the power to make at least one great dish. Whether that dish comes from instant potatoes or grade D meat is another question.
Earlier this month, Slow Food USA staged a series of potluck "eat-ins" at public schools across the country, in an effort to lobby the government to dedicate more money to school lunch programs. This comes just a few years after a similar movement in England, led by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who saw an opportunity to remake his image and improve the diets of British schoolchildren.
Now, whether the school lunch program changes dramatically or not, it's worth discussing the classics: sloppy joes, taco bars, french bread pizza (before the days of Elio's frozen pizzas), and breaded chicken cutlets (Serious Eats links to a vibrant discussion on Chowhound of).
My favorite was simple, wrapped in three layers of plastic wrap. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread -- the sugary taste of the grape jelly overpowering the peanut butter against bread sweeter than either. For a side, you'd have to pick the tater tots, toasted well on the outside with an interior nuclear lava quality that rivaled jalapeno poppers from the microwave or T.G.I. Friday's.
For dessert, a chocolate milk carton and a no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie. (The Chowhound threads links to a series of recipes, if you've never experienced the dirty joy of a no-bake cookie.)
So, how about it? What item on the school menu had you skipping to school, counting down the minutes to lunch and the nice lady in a hairnet handing you your tray?
[Image via Flickr: Cornell University Library]