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  • Hollie Mealy

For the Love of Lunch

It has been so fun getting to make bag lunches for Caregivers at Kathy's House this month! It got me thinking about all things LUNCH! It is one of my three favorite meals... ;)


During my childhood in Peshtigo, lunch consisted of box Mac and Cheese, leftovers (see my post about this important food group) or frozen pizza. It almost always included an ice cream sandwich after (if it was summer and a weekend)! The Becker's are big card game players and we had any number of running games going of Canasta, Phase 10, Uno, Michigan Rummy, Sequence, Dominoes...we played while we ate! Many people who I tell this to don't get it. We ate and played at the same time almost every meal! It was just something we really enjoyed. Most games had a team aspect which we liked and of course we were a bit competitive. Many bragging rights were won!


I do have a funny story about one summer lunch on a weekday when we had a babysitter and my parents were both working. We usually had camps/summer classes in the mornings and then would ride our bikes home since we were only one mile away from the school. Then a babysitter would meet us there and help with lunch. I was getting to be too old for a sitter (but try telling that to my parents hehe) and one day we requested mac and cheese. I basically got everything out and filled the pan with water to boil. At that point the sitter took over. We were getting really hungry and anxious to eat and were wondering what was taking so long. She had put the burner on low heat because she'd never boiled water before! Needless to say, I made the mac and cheese from then on no matter who was home ;)


During school, I almost always took the hot lunch. Chocolate milk in a bag, rectangle pizza and chicken patties. Those were the days LOL. In high school we did have a salad bar on certain days and I felt so grown up if I chose that because a lot of teachers would too. I did start being a bit more aware of the need to eat healthier once I started track/cross country in high school too. Not really the best idea to run after having greasy hot lunch. So I started making cold lunches especially on days when we had meets. Usually a sandwich and fruit in a trusty brown bag! Read more about cross country team meals HERE.


Once I started at Ripon College, there was a whole new world of lunch options. On days I didn't have back to back classes I frequented the cafeteria which was actually pretty good usually. My absolute favorite was Friday Bread Bar. I could really do a whole post on this :) It's exactly like it sounds...BREAD! There were all of the sweet breads you could think of as well as fresh made sandwich bread and savory breads. That's literally all we ate Friday's for lunch: bread. Heaven for a carb obsessed college kid (who thankfully started training for a half marathon freshman year)!


There was also a quick grab and go option bag lunch which I really liked too. Lots of different sandwich choices and you got chips a dessert and a drink (and if you wanted milk, you got not 1 but 2 cardboard cartons since we were now adults!) I often ate outside during my short break between classes.


My senior year I started student teaching at two local elementary schools. I got to know many of the teachers and would eat with them. This started my "sisterhood" of teacher friends. There really is nothing like it. They all "got it." We all were tired and needing adult conversation for 22 minutes (minus bathroom break). At one of my placements I was introduced to the world of Lean Cuisine. At the other we went out to McDonald's multiple times a week. That schedule was great as I remember because the kids had their specials right after lunch so we got a little longer to relax.


My first job as a freshly graduated 22 year old teacher was at Franklin Elementary in West Allis. I was living on my own in a tiny apartment and loved it. I shopped for myself and got to pick whatever I wanted. I loved the group that ate together during my lunch period in the staff lounge. Those ladies got me through the stress of being a first year teacher but also my Dad's cancer treatments and his passing. Four very special friends from this group drove 3+ hours during their spring break to the funeral/service we had for him. I really couldn't have asked for better women in such a challenging time in my life. (One even set me up with my future husband Kyle but that's another story!)

Another of these above mentioned friends, Julie, was quite close to retirement when I started. She had so much experience that is was kind of laughable to compare us. But we got along great and still stay in touch. She liked to bend the rules once and awhile and wasn't afraid to share her opinion during staff meetings. One day we had an inservice day with no kids so we could take a 45 minute lunch as opposed to 22. This was reason enough to go to an actual sit down restaurant. We wrangled up a biggish group and went to Baker's Square in West Allis. On a weekday at lunch, it's mostly older people who go there and the waitresses just tend to be slower. By the time everyone had ordered, food finally arrived and we sorted out paying with separate checks, it was WELL past the 45 minutes and we were VERY late getting back to our afternoon meetings. Julie just laughed and said, "what are they going to do, fire me?" which was easy for her to say as her retirement was months away. We came in a side door and got quite the looks from the principal when we slunk into the meeting room after!

My next school was Country Dale Elementary in Franklin. Here again, I was beyond lucky to be on a team with ladies who became close friends; so much so that we attended everyone's baby/wedding showers and I even was a bridesmaid in my friend Ruth's wedding. Several attended my bachelorette party and wedding. Our lunches were always in the veteran teacher's classroom as she had a mini fridge. There was nothing too personal to share and there were some really funny conversations and tons of laughter that often resulted in people peeking in the door at us wondering what was going on. The topics sometimes turned PG13 so we usually had the door closed! Many secrets were also revealed including my pregnancy with Violet. I just couldn't wait to tell them all and did so way earlier than I probably should have!


When I met Kyle, he introduced me to a new all time favorite lunch: Sunday nachos. This is a football tradition with his Dad that I wholeheartedly adopted too. It has grown and changed over the years especially once we took up gardening and making our own salsa. MMMM nothing like fresh garden salsa on top of a big pile of nachos and a Packer game to watch.


Presently, my lunch dates are Violet and Robbie (and once and while we visit Kyle at his office) and I couldn't be happier. They're only little once, right?


Cheers to lunch! Take an extra long one next time and blame it on me :)





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