Forget girls versus boys: the real social hierarchy in grade school is the division between kids with Cool Lunches and kids with Dorky Lunches. I suppose fewer kids "brown-bag" it or have a Snoopy lunchbox today. But my elementary school had no cafeteria.
I was the child who brought lumpy tuna sandwiches stuffed with funny, brain-shaped lettuce crinkles. To prevent spoilage, my mother froze my sandwiches the night before. The centers were often unmelted and the crusts slightly soggy with water.
I longed for my friends' mini bagels, pale little donuts stuffed with globs of cream cheese and grape jelly. And the packets of crackers accompanied by plastic liquid cheddar designed to be spread with a plastic red stick. I even envied the kid who lived with his father and got a slice of cold sausage, olive and onion pizza and a can of store-brand soda wrapped in tinfoil. And the petite girl who brought salads with tiny canisters of homemade dressing, croutons, and bacon bits, who was the only person to buy a blue container of warm skim milk, rather than the red containers the rest of us drank.
My real shame came with dessert. My sandwich was invariably indented with the curve of a tough or mealy Red Delicious apple. Or accompanied by a tiny box of "nature's candy" in the form of raisins. The murderous thoughts I had about the Sun Maid Raisin girl! I pined for plastic sacks of homemade chocolate chip cookies and Fruit Roll-Ups!
But not even Oreos could compete with my friend Amy's lunch treat. Amy had the officially, totally tubular, Coolest Snack of all: Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets. I was not even allowed to ask for Krimpets when shopping with my mom.
The fact that Amy had a ritualized manner of eating the kakes made the pain and suffering of my deprivation harder to endure. Amy would open the Tastykake package upside-down and eat all three pastries, one by one, peeling the soft sponges off of the icing. When she was finished would she begin to tackle the frosting, all by itself, using her finger. Sometimes everyone at the table would stare at her. We knew that the treat was just too sticky—and too awesome (in the original, rather than the early 1980s sense of the word)—to share.
To this day, I have never had Butterscotch Krimpets. I am pleased to say that the quality of my lunches has improved. Now I can make my own butterscotch lunch treats! However, these contain oatmeal and are, perhaps, somewhat healthier. I've even found that substituting unsweetened applesauce for butter in the original recipe works very nicely, as does using almond milk rather than regular milk. But while I love raisins in oatmeal cookies, I don't think "nature's candy" would be the ideal add-in. Reese's Pieces would do nicely: a little bit of lunchtime indulgence, in moderation, is a good lesson for us all.
About the author: Mary Pagones (known as HeartofGlass) eats food, mostly plants, but still worries far too much what she is eating in New Jersey.