Monday, October 14, 2013

The Salisbury Steak Haunts Me...

Let's jog the ol' memory tonight.

Nah...let's more like shake the crapness out of my memory until it wets itself and surrenders any and all information I ask it for.

If you read between the lines (not the Blurred Lines) on my Kenny Rogers-related post, you'll get that my childhood family meals were pretty Amurican.  Beef stew, pot roast, pan-fried pork chops.  I do recall cans of La Choy Chop Suey and chow mein noodles, and in the later years, tacos (and that was ethnic food at our house).  But, for the most part, Hamburger Helper (and this was long before Tuna, Chicken, or Asian Helper) and Swanson's made up the bulk of my childhood eating.

And here's where things get even more murky: What in world did I eat for lunch when I was a kid?

Take a moment to ponder this very question for yourselves.  Are you having as much trouble as I did answering this question?  Or am I just getting old?  Or have I repressed it?

I know I did not get the cafeteria lunch very often when I was in elementary.  So...what did I bring to school to eat?  Did I have a metal lunch box?  A plastic one?  A paper sack?  Manky old Tupperware?  Gods, did I even eat anything?  Were my parents that horrible!?  I cannot recall! 

The few cafeteria lunches I do remember from the younger years include: instant potatoes with chicken gravy, salisbury steak, beef and noodles, and that kick-ass rectangle-shaped pizza with the diced "pepperoni".  I also remember canned fruit (cocktail, peaches, pears).  Maybe tater tots in middle school.  No salad bars, though, that's for sure. 

In the early 90s, when we weren't as worried about childhood obesity, Type II diabetes, and trans-fats...I remember a new pasta bar, hamburger line, and even better colossal pizza offered at the high school.  However, I don't think I ate these very often, but I'm drawing a big-arse blank when it comes to recalling what I did eat for lunch instead.

I think of all this tonight as I'm brainstorming school lunch cafeteria ideas.  The Food and Nutrition Director here in town (someone I know personally as well) has asked me to collaborate on a project with her: Come up with a "signature dish" or some cool ways to make vegetables.  Of course I wanted to get in on the action!

Whoa, first.  This is the age of government-influenced nutrition and healthy eating.  I don't even so much as I think about bacon-wrapped asparagus until I check the USDA Standards for School Lunches.  To meet guidelines, I must watch the calories, sodium, and trans-fats; also, I need to make sure the kiddos get a specific amount of fruits, vegetables (now broken down into Dark Green, Red/Orange, Beans/Peas, Starchy, Other, and Additional), grains, meat/meat alternative, and fluid milk (Hey - where the hell's the cheese?).

But wait.  Here's what else: Calorie-wise, meals must be between 550-650 (Elementary), 600-700 (Middle Grades), or 750-850 (High School).  Saturated fat must be less that 10% for every meal served, and sodium cannot be more than 640, 710, or 740 milligrams (elem, middle, and high school, respectively).  And - nutrition label must indicate zero grams of trans fat per serving in all cases.

Oh, how times have changed.

Indeed, a great and grueling work lies ahead.  It shall be the first of my Herculean Labors.

Okay, I'll bring down the supercilious, elevated tone.  But still...this is going to be hard.

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