It seems never-ending.Â â€œExpertsâ€ claim which foods are good for us and which are not.Â Wait a short while and, like the weather in Minnesota, it all changes.
When I was young my grandmother told me her mom would pack her school lunch in a small bucket.Â Mostly it was fresh baked bread smeared with pork lard, and maybe a cookie.Â â€œIf you were lucky there might be a tiny chunk of meat in the lard, but usually not. There was no refrigeration back then, so we preserved meat in crocks by pouring lard over the fried pork.Â Mom would scoop out the lard for our sandwiches like people eat peanut butter now.â€
I would shudder at the thought of eating a lard sandwich, but by time I was in grade school there was a cafeteria and hair-netted lunch ladies serving hot meals. I was safely removed from the realities of what I was eating and how it was prepared.Â Or was I? At least Grandma knew the source of her food
I also remember my mom keeping a soup can near the stove in which to dump, and reuse, bacon fat. Â However, she mostly used Crisco in her baking.Â Which is better? Back then I would have said Crisco.Â But now, knowing a bit more about the dangers of Trans fats, I would go with the bacon grease if I had to choose.Â Hereâ€™s a YouTube address if youâ€™d like to learn more about Trans fatty acids. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp0nc4kY-tc
Another memory I have concerning grade school food involves a classmate named Rhoda.Â She was a quiet girl, always wore homemade dresses, sturdy shoes, and a hairstyle that required nothing more than a scissors to cut a straight line.Â I liked her, but never got the chance to know her.Â Rhoda kept to herself.
Rumor had it her family was involved in a religion that didnâ€™t believe in doctors or modern conveniences.Â Like my grandmother, Rhoda brought her lunch to school.Â It was usually wrapped in a bandana, and I can still see her carefully unfolding the cloth as she prepared to eat.Â The teacher would encourage her to get a glass of milkâ€”back then our school milk came from large stainless steel dispensers with rubber hoses.Â The base of our â€œglassâ€ was a plastic holder into which weâ€™d put a disposable conical paper cup.Â Think of a Madonna outfit with pointy paper bra cups and youâ€™re close.Â Iâ€™m not sure if there were cost issues because Rhoda was reluctant to get a glass of milk she hadnâ€™t paid for.Â The teacher would tell her it was okay, but Rhoda seemed uncomfortable as she sipped her milk.
My best friend and I observed that Rhodaâ€™s usual lunch was a slab of homemade breadâ€”usually dark breadâ€”with butter, and a handful of raisons.Â It seemed scanty at best and less than delicious at worst.Â My BFF and I concocted a plan to bring food from home and offer it to her.Â It went over about as well as the free milk.Â She was cautiously accepting until I brought in a hamburger one day.Â â€œI donâ€™t eat pork,â€ she said quietly.Â I was baffled for a moment.Â â€œItâ€™s not pork, itâ€™s beef,â€ I said. â€œThen why did you say it was HAMburger?â€Â I thought she had a good point, but since I was only in the third or forth grade didnâ€™t have a way of Googling the history of the term â€œhamburger.â€Â We stopped bringing her lunches, and she happily went back to eating her fresh baked bread.
All these years later I think about Rhoda and her lunches.Â They were probably waaaaay healthier than what I was eating in the days of Wonder Bread and Kool Aid. I havenâ€™t seen Rhoda since the sixth grade, but I bet sheâ€™sÂ doing just fine.Â Hopefully she has maintained her real food lifestyle.Â Me? Iâ€™m reconsidering those lard sandwiches and the fact my grandmother lived until she was almost 102.