I was raised a Baby-Boomer Catholic.
That meant several things. First, I went to Catholic or private schools, not "public." My church and school was ST. JOSEPH in the small town of Dyer, Indiana. I loved that small town! It was once a beautiful church until pagans remodeled it. Very, very sad.
In the 1950s, there was a clear divide between Catholic and "public." For example, we were not allowed to walk in front of the "public" school. We had to cross the street! I'm serious!
Even though "public" school busses took us to school and back, we were not allowed to sit with any of the "public" school kids.
School lunches at private, Catholic schools were pure torture for any child. There was no federal or state money or aide. No menus or recipes. They were just terrible. At best, food was donated. Lots of cans. I honestly do not remember anything FRESH or made from scratch, except peanut-butter cookies. It was cheap. It was garbage.
For the most part, my siblings and I had "packed" lunches prepared by our mother. Back in the cafeteria, kids who had packed lunches ... were separated from kids who had "HOT" lunches. Note the dichotomy ... Hot/Cold ...
The worst was the Friday lunch. We were not allowed to eat meat on Friday's ... so the lunch was always the same ... ALWAYS! Putrid fish sticks (often cold), canned peas, a piece of cheap mostly-stale white bread and a pat of "butter" that was so dense it ripped the bread when you tried to spread it. The redeeming ingredient, hopefully, not always, was a peanut butter cookie.
Well, come Friday, my mom was done making lunches for me and my brother and sister. Instead, she gave us a quarter to buy our lunch, and sent us on our way ...
It was a death sentence. The worst lunch of the week.
Nuns served as guards next to every garbage can to make sure every child ate everything (even if we had a home-packed lunch.) There were "children in the world starving to death," they loved to remind us.
Well, from Grade One I learned early. Screw that piece of white crappy bread. I stuffed it in my pant pocket. Canned peas and horrible "fish" sticks? Drain carton of milk ... and stuff it into that. Out of sight--out of mind. The nuns smiled. And I was cleared to leave cafeteria prison to enter playground freedom ... regardless of starving children in the world.
I can't begin to tell you how often my mother yelled at me ... when she went to do laundry ... and stale bread fell out of my pant pocket. Looking back, it should have been a wake up call ... NO SCHOOL LUNCH ON FRIDAYS! Better yet ... contact school ... discuss school lunches ...
I graduated to a classy catholic high school ... Great food! They figured it out ... Make good food ... and reap a profit!
Eventually, I became a public school teacher, in rural Indiana. Many of the lunch ladies were regular moms and moms who worked on farms. They were all good cooks! Sadly the Feds eventually barged in and put an end to home-cooking. It was a horrible period of bad food until everyone eventually figured it all out.
One of my favorite Lunch-Lady foods was yeast rolls, usually served with beef stew! In the mornings, the smell of rising rolls permeated hallways. I once asked the head cook for the recipe and she obliged, but it was the original recipe, 25 lbs of flour, etc. I wish now I had saved it. I have made an effort to contact people who may still have it, but to no avail ... and some have simply passed on.
Lunch-Lady Rolls have become a cult classic in the U.S. Below is a video of a former lunch lady, Miss Lori, from her You Tube channel, Whippoorwill Hollow, making yeast rolls. In other episodes, she also shares recipes for Lunch Lady Pizza and Lunch Lady-Peanut Butter Cookies. She's a great cook! Enjoy!