Peanut Butter and Pickles

In today’s fast-paced society where food is easily accessible and readily available, I’ve often wondered what school-age students ate for lunch in the 1940s. Of course, they ate what we generally eat today (minus all the fast-food); but as I was perusing a cookbook from the 1940s, I was amused to see how precise each section was, and especially the chapter on “The School Lunch.” According to The American Woman’s Cookbook of 1940, published for the Culinary Arts Institute, a child’s school lunch should contain all of the essentials so that he/she will be able to prochildren-eating-lunchperly attend to schoolwork. On page 60, the American Woman’s Cookbook states:

  1. [The school lunch] should be abundant in amount for a hungry, healthy child. A little too much is better than too little.
  2. It should be chosen with regard to the nutritive needs of the child and in relation to the whole day’s food.
  3. It should be clean, appetizing, wholesome and attractive.

Each lunch item was individually wrapped in wax paper, with the heavier items on the bottom, and placed inside the lunch box in the order the food was to be eaten first. I wonder, did children know what to eat first?

What stood out to me was that this small chapter devoted to the school lunch emphasized the value of the meal, made “carefully and well” (60). Mothers packed one of every food group in each school lunch. Fruits and vegetables, the book said, “are not always easy to include in the school lunch, yet if the child is to be well nourished, some way must be devised to get them in” (61). Perhaps it was hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter time, but that’s why gardening and canning was vital to the American family. I appreciated the determination presented in this chapter to find a way no matter what.

It may seem strange to learn a lesson from reading a chapter about preparing a child’s school lunch, but I’m glad there was a time in history when people cared about even the smallest details.

Even though our lunches may not be wrapped in wax paper and placed in a tin box, I think we’re getting back to the organic way of eating, but would you want to try a peanut butter and onion sandwich? Or how about a peanut butter and pickle sandwich?

Photo Credit: Google.com/WWII+American+Schools

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