Ever since my first day at school way back in 1978 I’ve had a problem with school lunches!
Back in the day it was Marmite sandwiches, (Vegemite if you’re in Australia) occasionally Mum would splash out and we would get Raspberry Jam. If we were super lucky, we would get 50c to buy a pie at the tuck shop (once or twice a year). You had to take your hat off to Mum and Dad, us kids used to joke that they were so tight they couldn’t pass a Caraway seed! But if it wasn’t for their frugalness then Gladfield malt would never have got off the ground so I have a lot of respect for them.
You see food was always seen as a highly valued, precious commodity by the older generation. We were constantly told about the sacrifices that were made to survive the depression and wartime by previous generations etc. To waste food was almost a hanging offence in our household so you can imagine the consequences of not eating your school lunch! It was bad enough not eating all of your dinner at night which resulted in being picked up by the scruff of the neck, given a clip round the ear and sent up the hall where I would burst into tears and hide under the nearest bed until Mum would drag me out. You can imagine what it was like when we went to other peoples places for dinner and if any of the other families children didn’t eat everything on their plate we would look nervously at the old man half expecting him to rise from his seat and give the kid a blast! He never did of course which we could never understand.
One thing is for sure we never went hungry especially growing up on a farm, but we certainly got pretty cunning when it came to avoiding eating what we didn’t like. My brother used to hurl his sandwiches out of the bus window on the way home from school each day until the bus driver finally had enough and kicked him off the bus making him walk 5 km home. Imagine that happening today! My brother thought he got off lightly because if Mum found out it would have been a whole lot worse. After that, he used to hide his sandwiches in his wardrobe or under his bed which wasn’t the smartest of moves because after a while they started to smell and of course he got found out. Poor bugger, I think the Old man wanted to make an example of him that day, which is why my sister and I made sure we destroyed any evidence much more carefully after that!
I never liked spinach despite reading Popeye, yet mum would insist on serving it up every night. One day I decided enough was enough and dealt with the Silver Beat Mum had growing in the vegetable garden. I completely destroyed it. Bracing for a good hiding I was relieved to hear my Mum talking to my Auntie on the phone that night telling her how bad the opossums were lately and how they had completely destroyed her Silver Beat. Shit, that was lucky, but the poor bloody possums got plastered over the next few nights as the old man showed them no mercy with the shotgun! (Remember they are considered a noxious pest here in N.Z and not protected)
When I left school, I thought I had escaped the terror of school lunches for good but then Bel, Fred and Trev came on the scene which wasn’t a problem until Gabi started going away on extended sales trips spreading the good news of Gladfield. I became the stay home Dad which, to be honest, I quite enjoy except for school lunches! The first time Gabi left me in charge I was ready for the challenge, I had the kids up out of bed early, gave them breakfast, sorted their homework, tidied the house and got everyone ready for the bus with absolute military precision. I was quite proud of my self and decided that I needed to ring Gabi who was in Melbourne at the time (2 hrs behind) and give her an early morning wake up call and explain quite pompously how easy this parenting thing was. As soon as she answered the phone, I suddenly thought shit! And remembered school lunches, there was no time left the kids were about to catch the bus. I hung up the phone and said, kids here are 5 bucks each, get yourselves a pie at the tuck shop!
Some people might say why don’t you let the kids get their own school lunch, well it’s simple if I did that young Trev would just take a lunch box full of cheese slices to school and Fred would just take a 2 litre of ice cream! 12-year-old Bel actually took a full lunch box of popcorn to school the other day because I wasn’t quite on the ball!
It’s the wee things in life that help shape us and forty years on its funny how suddenly, we are being told the same things by the media that Mum and Dad taught us 40 years ago, eat healthily and don’t waste things. But you know what 50c doesn’t buy you are pie anymore! Were not allowed to tell the bus driver to kick the kids off and make them walk home and you’re not allowed to give them a clip round the ear so good luck with that!
One thing is for sure though if you put a little bit of Gladfield Toffee malt and light crystal malt in your kid’s lunch box every morning it always gets eaten!