An Old-Fashioned School Lunch

In Mexico, Día del niño – Children’s Day – is celebrated every April 30; children still go to school that day, but elementary schools often hold special festivities for the youngsters (except probably recently, due to the pandemic!)  I was looking through one of my elementary school yearbooks, from the 1970s, and found this page:

It reads: “CHILDREN’S DAY CELEBRATION – As always, April 30 could not pass by without notice as a special day, when we celebrate our elementary school students.  The school administration, with the teachers’ enthusiastic collaboration, organized its traditional costume contest, granting prizes to those pupils with the best characterizations.  The clowns, as an ever reliable source of joy for the children, delivered a fun time for all and at the end, distributed lollipops and candy.”

I completely forgot about the clowns and their guff (not my favourite performers, to be honest), and recalled the “school administration” as being strict and somewhat mercurial at times, but I certainly remembered that the best part of the day was wearing whatever we wanted, and the bag of sweet treats to take back home. 

In contrast, on regular days in my girls-only school, we wore our uniforms, consisting of navy blue jumpers, with buttoned-up white blouses and a white apron on top, to protect the jumper; during recess, we could buy candy, but we mostly ate “el lonch”  brought from home.  This term is taken directly from the English word “lunch”, but “el lonch” generally applied only to a packed meal eaten at school; a late-morning meal should otherwise be called almuerzo.  The standard lonch back in the day, was a torta de jamón, the Mexican version of the ubiquitous ham sandwich, prepared with a crusty bun called telera.  I much preferred grilled cheese sandwiches, even though they were cold by recess time, and had the disadvantage of being popular with my friends, so if I snoozed, I would lose most of my lonch.  Sometimes I could not eat breakfast at home, and my mom thought of filling a telera bun with scrambled eggs for me to eat at school; at some point, I noticed that when the torta had that unusual filling, my friends were gobsmacked and did not ask for a taste, so I could eat in peace.  Unlike my friends, I loved the eggs in my lonch, and that became my all-time favourite, particularly if the eggs were mixed with roasted poblano strips

I have recreated this old-fashioned lunch, as shown at the top of this post; fixing the torta was very easy, making it extra special just as my mom used to, by adding finely shredded lettuce topped by a (very) generous dollop of mayonnaise:

005 assembling torta

The torta would get put together in the morning, and wrapped with a paper napkin.  My mom also gave me one of those cumbersome Tupperware™ plastic tumblers with a “liquid-tight seal” lid which, in spite of the claim, had the tendency to leak, so she only partially filled it, usually with homemade agua de limón (limeade, similar to lemonade, but made with lime juice).  Below, I tried to reproduce the feeling with one of those cups from restaurant take-out kids’ meals:

We ate standing up, and as quickly as possible to take advantage of our recess time.  *Sigh* ah, the memories! When my daughters were in elementary school, lunches were eaten sitting down, with a designated time; I had fun preparing creative meals for their lunch boxes.  A definite improvement was in the beverage department, with the option to buy milk at school, and they also had reliable stainless steel bottles that did not leak!

Click on the highlighted text for my recipes for: homemade bolillo and telera buns, roasted poblano strips, and refreshing beverages, including limeade.

I could not believe it, but they still sell those plastic tumblers! I do not know if I would recommend them, but from the reviews, most people love them; however, they use them primarily for leftover beverages stored upright in the fridge, or to place in car cupholders, so I guess they are good for those applications, but not for el lonch.  For your convenience, click on the images below for products available on Amazon™.  DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased (or were given by my mom!), not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you (thank you to readers who have bought any other products starting with a click from my links!):

7 thoughts on “An Old-Fashioned School Lunch

  1. Children’s Day. I feel like Asian people also celebrate this type of day… I can’t remember when, though. Sounds like fun! Sandwich looks delicious as always. We bought a breakfast sandwich maker awhile back and just re-discovered it in our pantry last weekend. Today, we’re going to do up some eggs and cheese on English muffins. I love eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yum! A quick, easy go-to.


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