It’s lunch |  Lake Minnetonka

It’s lunch | Lake Minnetonka

Were you cold or hot? Did you have coveted snacks to share, or did you spend time at the table looking longingly at other children’s treats? Was he carrying the last lunch box or was it a brown bag? Sit alone or with your crew? Face it; School lunch could serve up much more than rectangle-shaped pizza slices, hot weekend entrees made with leftover entrees from earlier in the week, or trade-worthy homemade treats.

Regardless of what you brought, who you sat with, or where you went to school, parts of the school lunch experience are universal, and author Lucy Schaeffer examines the collective experience in School Lunch: Unpacking Our Shared Stories (Running Press, 2020).

The book includes 70 interviews from around the world, including the US and 25 countries. Schaeffer draws on the memories of a variety of people, including Padma Lakshmi (co-host of The best chef), Jacques Pepin (French-born American chef), George Foreman (former professional boxer), Marcus Samuelsson (chef and TV personality), Gail Simmons (food writer and co-host of The best chef), Joy Behar (comedian and co-host of The view), Katie Lee Beigel (chef and co-host of The kitchen) and Lake Minnetonka Realtor Natalie Webster.

It’s lunch |  Lake Minnetonka

“[Schaeffer] He found me through another person he was interviewing for the book. They knew that I was from Hawaii and that I have a great love for spam, which also occurs here in Minnesota, ”says Webster, a Lake Minnetonka Magazine member of the advisory council. Growing up, he attended various schools on the island of Oahu and Aiea High School, which was not far from Pearl Harbor.

“Growing up in Hawaii meant being exposed to multiple cultures, including its culinary options. As I walked through my school cafeteria, I would see more dishes like Spam musubi, which I brought, or Asian-inspired noodle dishes, than sandwiches, ”says Webster. “Some friends brought dishes made by their grandmothers, who lived with them. Multi-generational living was and is very common in Hawaii. ”

In the book, Webster says, “My mom, God rest her soul, wasn’t exactly mom of the year on this kind of thing. I worked full time, that woman was not willing to peel and cut fruits for me. “She explains:” My mother worked full time plus in our family business. This meant that my sister and I were alone most of the time, even when it came to packing lunch for school. Spam musubi was an easy option to bring to school for lunch. It was easy to toss in a bag, along with any ripe fruit in our garden. ”

“When I went to my friend’s house, her mother cut fruit and made us sandwiches. I thought this was cool at the time, ”says Webster. “My sister and I would make our own food and fend for ourselves at a young age. It’s what we had to do. Growing up that way prepared us for the real world. Taking care of ourselves more than most children our age meant that we also learned to defend ourselves. That is a life skill that I have today … If I want to achieve something, I don’t look for anyone else to do it. ”

Webster agrees that life in a school cafeteria is much more than what is for lunch. “It was the biggest social interaction of the school day,” she says. “It is where exchanges were made and gossip was shared. Lunchtime was always our kids time. How i have been reading [Schaeffer’s] book, I’m really seeing that this was a universal experience. The food we ate may have looked different, but the social bond that occurred during these lunches is what brings many of us together. ”

As Webster read the book, he discovered something else. “What strikes me is the shared vulnerability, especially in families that faced food insecurity,” he says.

A conversation with the author

LKM: What was the impetus for the book?

LS: This book began as a personal photography project. I had intended to make a promotional mailing card for my commercial photography business on the theme of a school lunch, but once I started interviewing people and collecting stories, I quickly realized that it was such a rich topic that I wanted to. explore it further.

What areas of life experience did you cover?

The book includes stories from people ages 6 to 93, from 25 different countries, and from as many diverse backgrounds as I could find. For international stories, they are all currently American but grew up around the world. Diversity is the strength of our nation and I wanted to show that. I was living in Brooklyn at the time of writing this book and was able to get a wide variety of ethnicities and stories from people there. I also took some trips to California, Minnesota, Texas, and Florida to shoot stories. I was drawn to Minneapolis as a city to learn about issues because of the large Somali refugee community there, which was a point of view that I wanted to include. Saciido Shaie was a pleasure to interview and photograph, and I loved her story. I also shot Natalie Webster, Catherine Campion, Eli Grubbs, and Melinda Nelson in Minnesota.

Did you learn anything about children’s food insecurity?

George Foreman was one of the most moving lunch stories for me. He grew up very poor and his family could only afford one meal a day. Instead of going to school empty-handed and facing ridicule from your classmates, you would carefully blow up an empty paper bag and bring it back to make it look like you had a lunch like everyone else. During lunch, he would fold it up again, saying he had already eaten.

Was there an unexpected response from someone?

I must admit I was surprised by Jacques Pepin’s lunch story. I approached him wondering what a French-born culinary icon would have had as a child and I was expecting an elegant and delicious answer. The truth, however, is that he grew up in wartime and was sent by his mother to a Jesuit school, where they served him stale bread that he had to pound on the table to remove the bugs before trying to eat it. He begged and bargained with the farmers, who had jars of duck fat or homemade jam, to try to improve the sad fare.

Was there an answer that resonated with you?

To some extent, all the stories resonated with me. I believe that school lunch is such a universal theme that we can all relate to stories that remind us of our own food with stories that are very different from our own experiences. I focused on the elementary school days, as when you are a young child, you are at the mercy of the culture and family you were born into. No matter who we are when we grow up (celebrity, rabbi, circus artist, tattoo artist), we all share that school lunch experience.

What did you discover about the social aspect of a school cafeteria?

The school cafeteria is one of the main social spaces of any elementary school. Who you sit with, what you eat, whether you bring from home, buy or get free lunch, all of these things are important to children … Chinae Alexander [lifestyle personality] She was moved a lot as a child and talking about how dealing with the new dining room over and over again shaped her ability as an adult to take on new situations and have compassion for people.

Spam Musubi

contributed by Natalie Webster

  • 12 oz. of spam
  • ¼ cup soy sauce or coconut amino acids
  • roasted nori seaweed
  • 6 cups of cooked sushi rice
  • ¼ cup oyster sauce (optional)
  • ¼ cup Japanese rice vinegar
  • Musubi spam creator (

Prepare the rice in a rice cooker and let it cool. Add the rice vinegar. Cut the spam into slices and place in a plastic bag, and add oyster sauce and soy sauce or coconut amino acids. Seal the bag and marinate for about 15 minutes. Drain the marinade and fry the Spam over medium heat, until slightly crisp. Place the seaweed (shiny side down) on a cutting board or clean surface. Place the musubi mold in the middle of the seaweed. Add about an inch or more of rice to the pan, add Spam, and press firmly and evenly. Dip your fingers and pan in water to prevent sticking. Wrap the seaweed and seal with water on your fingers. Enjoy it bathed in soy sauce or coconut amino acids.


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