Do you ever think back to when you were in school and think about those memorable meals that once filled the school with such a delightful aroma? I can still remember the smell of the fresh baked bread, or the taste of those delicious cinnamon rolls. We can all vividly remember our favorite school lunch served on those hard plastic trays designed to keep all our food separated. I’m sure you’ll never forget those wonderful lunch ladies. Lucky for me, I was blessed with two wonderful lunch ladies in my own family. My great grandmother Marie Miller worked both for Bluejacket and Centralia, Ok during her time as a cook. My grandmother, Inez Friend worked for more than 20 years with Miami Public Schools as a cook. Its women like them that work so hard to keep our children nourished and happy at lunch time day in and day out.
Schools first began providing food for children because so many were undernourished and farmers had extra crops to sell. Children eating in elementary school cafeterias in the 1950s, might have joked about the strange “mystery meat” that was infrequently served and was always greeted as a big treat. For the most part school cafeterias back in the 50s and 60s served real food. Ladies in hairnets mashed “real” potatoes, boiled “real” pasta and even baked “real” cookies. And that’s not all. Most of the food was free of dyes and artificial flavors which have been known to trigger bad behavior, decreased learning capacity, and health problems. In the 1950s vending machines didn’t line the hallways, and a half-pint of cold milk was the only drink on the menu.
I took the opportunity this week to ask my grandmother questions about how things were done back in the '50s and '60s in the school cafeteria. Of course, it was more directed at how her mother did things. I am still astonished to learn that the Centralia meals for over 100 people were made each day on a stove like we have in our own kitchen. There were no convection ovens, 12 burner stoves, and instant mashed potatoes in the Centralia school kitchen. The two cooks would come in early and begin peeling potatoes or making fresh bread for that day. Some of the menu items might have consisted of Weenies and Kraut, Pork and Beans, or my grandmother’s favorite, Salmon Loaf. I’m not too convinced on that last one. Also, back in the day you ate what was cooked and they only offered one choice. Kids today are very lucky to have so many choices at lunch. Where my kids attend school they get to choose from 3 menus each day. The cooks prepare all three meals and this ensures that children are sure to find something that they like. There is also a full fruit and salad bar provided for each child to get fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to the meal they choose. The cooks also make fresh bread and food from scratch. It is nice to know that they have so many options to choose from.
I’ve been recently working in the school cafeteria and have gained some much needed respect for the lunch ladies. It is incredibly hard work day in and day out working in the kitchen. From preparing both breakfast and lunch to all the dishes and cleaning to keep it functioning up to high standards, it makes for a very busy day of exhausting work. I strongly urge you to have a newfound respect for the Lunch Lady. She is a hard working woman.
To make cinnamon rolls I half my bread recipe. Then roll it out in a long rectangle. Melt one stick of butter and spread evenly over the surface of the dough. Use as much or a little cinnamon and sugar as you want over the butter. I apply pretty heavy. Roll into a log and cut about an inch thick or thicker for larger rolls. Place cinnamon rolls in a greased pan and allow the dough to rise. Bake at 350 degrees till a light brown. Remove and allow cooling for about 10 minutes. Apply icing and enjoy.
School House Bread
Yields: 2 dozen Rolls and a pan of Cinnamon Rolls.
4 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup oil
1 Tbsp salt
2 pkgs yeast
7-9 cups All-purpose flour
Combine water, yeast, and sugar to dissolve yeast. In a separate bowl combine milk, salt, and about 5 cups of flour. When yeast dissolves add the oil and pour into the dry mixture. Add flour a little at a time till it gets to the right consistency. You don't want it too sticky but you also don't want it to heavy. Allow to rise double in size. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until you get the coloring you want.
Use this for rolls, buns, loafs, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, or pig in a blankets. Enjoy and I hope it takes to back to your school days.
1/2 cup milk
1 stick melted butter
1/4 cup brewed coffee
2 lbs powdered sugar
1-2 tsp maple flavoring (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Mix together and drizzle over hot cinnamon rolls. Store left over icing covered in the fridge. To reuse bring to room temperature and stir.
Farmhouse Favorites, tying tradition back to the good old days one apron string at a time. www.facebook.com/FarmhouseFavorites