School’s out but school lunch is in
“School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, I’m bored to pieces.
“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers, dirty looks. Out for summer, out ’til fall.” – School’s Out, by Alice Cooper, 1972
When this song first came out, radio stations either refused to play it or were pressured not to by school officials and parents. The lyrics made it sound as if children were being told to be rebellious, disrespectful to teachers, and pushed towards violence (sound of an explosion at the end of the song).
Then there were those who thought it was an anti-Vietnam War anthem with the words:
“We can’t salute ya. Can’t find a flag. If that don’t suit ya that’s a drag.”
And “We might not come back at all” meant they went off to fight and died in a war the United States should not have been involved in.
Alice Cooper (yes, I am a big fan of his music and theatrics) could have cleared up all the misnomers if asked though. The title and lyrics were inspired by a warning often said in Bowery Boys movies in which one of the characters declares to another, “School is out,” meaning “to wise up.”
The Bowery Boys were characters featured in 48 movies that ran from 1946-1958. They were young tough guys in New York City who were always finding trouble.
Oh, and I grew up watching the Bowery Boys reruns on Sunday afternoons along with Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy. I loved them all!
But I digress… Alice Cooper also stated, answering the question, “What is the greatest three minutes of your life?”: “There’s two times during the year.
“One is Christmas morning when you’re just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there.
“The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you’re sitting there and it’s like a slow fuse burning. I said, ‘If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be so big.’”
Being in school affects everyone differently. Some have the greatest time while others cannot wait to get away from the entire system. When that final bell rings in May or June, it indicates freedom and the beginning of summer fun.
However, there is one thing that might just be missed, and that is the school lunch. Whether brought from home or purchased in the school cafeteria, it was between a half hour to one hour of enjoying a meal with friends and classmates.
My elementary school was a strict Catholic school where meals were not offered for purchase, only milk and snacks. The lunch ladies created meals for the nuns, priests, and teachers before monitoring the children in the lunchroom. So you either brought your lunch from home, went home for lunch, or went without.
Middle and high schools were public. A monthly menu went home with each student, listing what was to be served each day.
My favorite was the meatball sub and the pizza. Dessert choices were fresh fruit, pudding, and jello. Baked goods were prepackaged from factories.
So imagine my surprise when I found a recipe for “Lunchroom Lady Brownies”. Imagine my bigger surprise when I found out that many schools actually made food from scratch!
Many of my Facebook friends offered up comments on their favorite meals or separate items, such as yeasty rolls warm and melting with butter. Be still my racing heart!
Now I can go on and on about former First Lady Michele Obama and The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver, and their campaign to bring healthier, fresher foods to the school lunch menu. Or how many children go hungry due to not being able to afford a school lunch, or there is just not enough funding for a full-on school meal program. This is not the time for that for all I want to do is reminisce good memories.
One site archives every recipe for every school lunch item in the public schools of the United States: https://archive.org.
Lunchroom Lady Brownies is a 50-year-old recipe, supposedly created by a lunch lady in the 1970s, primarily claimed by the South, but other sites state it was Idaho.
After baking, it has a cake-like texture, but as it cools, shrinkage creates a chewier texture. Whether frosted or not, the brownie itself is fudgy and tasty.
Lunchroom Lady Brownies
1 cup butter, softened, 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 4 tsps. Vanilla, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 cups all-purpose flour (add 2 Tbsp. for high altitude), 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional).
Preheat oven to 350F; spray 9 x 13 baking pan with baking spray, or line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in eggs one at a time, beat in vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift cocoa with flour; mix dry ingredients into wet until fully incorporated (will form a thick batter). Mix in nuts if desired.
Smooth out batter into pan; bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick, inserted in center, comes out clean.
1/4 cup softened butter, ¼ cup evaporated milk, or 2% milk, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 cups powdered sugar, Dash of salt (optional).
Beat all together until smooth; frost brownies after completely cooled; cut into squares.
Makes 15-18 brownies, depending on size cut.
For the pizza, the recipe on the archive site is a bulk recipe, so I was able to find a modified version for a smaller version.
In the past, I have made a similar recipe using either store bought pizza dough, or, for a thicker pan-pizza crust, bread dough.
School Lunch Rectangle Pizza
scant 2 tsp (6 g) active dry yeast, 2 2/3 c (317 g) all-purpose flour, 3/4 c (52 g) nonfat dry milk powder, 2 Tbs + 1 1/4 tsp (34 g) granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp (3 g) salt [feel free to increase up to 1/2 tsp salt for more flavor!], 1 1/4 tsp (6 g) vegetable oil, scant 1 2/3 c (384 g) warm water, 16 oz part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded, 2 c prepared pizza sauce, 22 slices (40 g / 1.4 oz) pepperoni, minced (optional)
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Spray a half-sized sheet pan (18” x 13”) with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together the yeast, flour, milk powder, sugar, and salt. Add the oil and stir to combine.
Add the warm water and stir until a thick batter forms (there will still be lumps remaining, that’s okay!). Spread the batter into the greased sheet pan and let the pan sit for 20-30 minutes.
Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. The crust will probably pull away from the edges of the pan, and that’s fine too.
When the crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle on 4 ounces of the shredded cheese. Spread the pizza sauce over the cheese, leaving a bit of crust showing around the edges. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the minced pepperoni.
Bake the pizza for 12 minutes, until the cheese is melty and the edges are browned. Let the pizza sit 5-10 minutes before slicing into rectangles, two rows of 5 rectangles each. Serve hot!
To store any leftovers, layer pieces between parchment paper or foil and store in a zip top bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Makes ten pieces.
Now, whether you want to have your own lunch room memories revived or make these recipes for children, grand, even great-grand children well, have at it! School’s out for summer.