This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Mothers are beginning to realize that the school luncheon must consist of something more substantial than white bread sandwiches made with jam, jellies, or fruit butters, a slice of cake and a piece of pie. These are all foods that, rightly used, may have a definite place in the diet, but they must appear in suitable combination or else the child will practically be "starving in the midst of plenty," i.e. be suffering the bad effects of malnutrition, because of a diet over-filled with starch and sweet, and lacking in the elements that give stamina and promote muscular development.
There is a widespread notion that the balancing of the daily ration can be stretched over the three meals without regard to actual combinations in each menu: that a lunch consisting of a too large proportion of starch and scarcity of other foods can be reckoned in at the close of the day as having furnished a generous share of the starch needed for the twenty-four hours, the other meals being made deficient in starch to keep up the general balance. Theoretically, this may be true, but practically, it does not work out well, because the body is being constantly torn down, or laid waste, and needs the actual replenishment of all food elements three times a day. This does not necessarily mean that large quantities of food must be consumed at each meal, but rather that smaller portions of each element needed for replenishment should be provided. As a general rule this is not true with the school luncheon, whether carried by the child or furnished by the school at small cost. When the luncheon is carried, this condition is entirely under the mother's control, but, when it is provided at the school, it should be controlled by someone who knows dietetic values and who can provide a well-balanced meal.
The receptacle in which the luncheon is carried has a great influence on the food. A papier mache, or leather, box, for instance, absorbs odors and at the same time imparts this accumulation to fresh foods that are packed in it. The most satisfactory utensil is a tin or granite-ware pail, or box, that can be scalded and sunned each day; or a wicker basket that can be washed and aired. Most school luncheons, in comparison to regular meals, contain very little nourishment, and mothers frequently say that the children will not eat what is provided, laying the responsibility to small appetites. In only too many cases the decreasing desire to eat is due to disagreeable food flavors.
It is impossible to lay down hard and fast menus for all children, as they differ in their likes and dislikes. Girls, for instance, enjoy carrying little jars of creamed meat, or stewed fruit, which necessitates a spoon and they really anticipate the noon hour with its possibilities for "make believe" housekeeping. On the other hand, the average boy says he doesn't "want any frills" and begs for a compact lunch that can be eaten quickly. Unfortunately this is one of the worst features of the school luncheon, for too rapid eating causes indigestion and the consequent mental heaviness which is the bane of school teachers. This can be overcome in a measure by the mother who need not prepare the luncheon too completely - hard-cooked eggs, for instance, should be left in the shell, crusts left on the bread and whole fruits provided, so that it will take the boy a few minutes to get his food ready to eat. For this same reason, nuts in the shell should be provided; they cannot be eaten too quickly and their rich protein is worth working to get.
The general directions for planning the school luncheon should be the same as those for any other meal.
There should be a meat or its equivalent, enough starch to correspond to the bread and potatoes eaten at most meals, something bulky to fill up the chinks, one sweet and a refreshing food, as fruit. The obvious food for the main part of the lunch is the sandwich, which may be varied by different types of bread as well as fillings. Whole-wheat-meal or bran bread, made with yeast, are excellent types of bulky foods, which, at the same time, will supply the child not only with ballast and minerals and other food principles, but with the vitamins, or life-giving principles found in the husks of wheat, as well as in other foods. These breads are richer in general nutriment than white bread, so, if a sweet filling is to be used, it will balance to best advantage in this combination.
The following fillings are particularly good for these breads: Cottage cheese and chopped walnut meats; peanut butter and well-drained, stewed prunes; thick honey and sliced bananas, sprinkled with lemon juice; cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes; dates and cream cheese; cold welsh rarebit made with milk; cream cheese and marmalade; ground dried beef, cooked in a thick tomato sauce and a little grated cheese. In all of these cases the butter should be beaten to a cream and spread out to the edge of the slice. If cake or other sweets are provided, sweet sandwiches should be used sparingly. In all cases the filling should be moist, but not wet enough to make the bread soggy; the slices should be cut not more than a quarter of an inch thick, as, otherwise, the children will get too much bread for the amount of filling.
White bread sandwiches should usually have a substantial filling of meat, cheese, nuts, or eggs; fish should not be used, as it imparts odors and is likely to spoil through conflicting temperatures. If the bread is comparatively fresh and moist, thinly-sliced tender meat can be used if the bread is spread with enough butter to make the slices cling together. However, in many cases, it is a better plan to mince the meat and cook it in a thick white sauce, as this makes a moist filling and at the same time utilizes meat that cannot be sliced. Whenever possible, it is a good plan to provide one or two vegetable sandwiches. These may be made of well-dried lettuce leaves, chopped celery, sliced radishes, spinach mixed with a little cream cheese, or even well-drained string beans dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Fruits, like sliced and sugared peaches, also can be used as fillings. For meats the variety is unlimited; thin cakes of broiled hamburg steak; crisp, but not dry, bacon, and broiled ham, all helping out the usual cold meats. Whatever the sandwich, it should always be wrapped in paraffine paper to prevent dryness. Sometimes cold corn bread or muffins can be used to good advantage, and there are always the quick loaf breads, as Boston brown bread, nut bread, raisin loaf and wholewheat date bread that can fill in an emergency.
Whenever possible, a tid-bit, as radishes, celery, or ripe olives, should be furnished. Dessert may consist of some simple cake, preferably of the sponge variety or wholesome cookies, as the old-fashioned gingersnaps, or sugar cookies, and the more modern oatmeal cakes. Stewed fruit may be furnished, or a custard, or a single portion of cereal pudding, baked in a jelly glass, will often furnish a welcome change. 'A delicate child that needs special nourishment should be provided with a hot-cold bottle for milk, soup, or cocoa.
The following menus are well adapted to the average child.
White Bread and Tomato Sandwiches
Hard-Cooked Eggs Radishes
Sponge Cup Cakes Peaches
Boston Brown Bread and Nut Butter Sandwiches
Celery Ripe Olives
Chocolate Gingerbread Grapes
Whole Tomatoes with Salt