One of my granddaughters had some sushi in hand when she arrived at my house after school the other day. The other granddaughter checked out the freezer and asked me to make her chicken fingers another day.
I can’t imagine either of them wanting what I used to make for myself after school: lettuce and tomato sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread. We lived in New Jersey, and I was brought up to believe that Jersey tomatoes were the finest kind, but I am pretty sure those after-school tomatoes were the tasteless store-bought kind. I think it was mostly the Hellmann’s that I liked.
Because my family moved from one neighborhood to another when I was in middle school, there was a time when, instead of going home for lunch, I went to my Tanta Laka’s house, which was nearer school. She served me the same thing every time: two scrambled eggs with bread and grape jelly on the side, and a 7-Up. (Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it was her fault that I was hungry after school.)
Sometimes, when Uncle Chiel was home, I would find him sitting at the lunch table eating strange things. It took a while for me to get over the fact that he was eating calf’s brains one day. Let’s just say it was instructive. They kept a kosher house, and, thinking back, I wonder what Tanta Laka used to scramble those eggs. It probably was chicken fat — schmaltz — which was a standard in the households of recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. But times were changing.
On Friday afternoons, I would sometimes have lunch at my cousin Marilyn’s house instead. One day, she got up from the table and went into the kitchen. I heard Marilyn tell her mother, my Aunt Kate, that she couldn’t give me any bacon for lunch because my family was kosher. Don’t worry, her mother said. “Just tell her it’s fish.” I’m not sure we thought that was funny at the time, but we’ve laughed about it since.
We never had bacon at home, but we didn’t use schmaltz either. My mother favored margarine. But then my parents gave up being kosher when I was about my older granddaughter’s age.
But back to the granddaughters, I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about what they should have for lunch. They are fortunate to live in a time and at a place and with a family where food is not only bountiful but awfully good. Not only at home, but at the Ross elementary school, they have been treated to ample and healthy lunches, which are likely to be delicious. At least I thought the meal I had there once was. Now, as the girls get closer to being teenagers, I am at a loss about what to stock for those occasions when they come over after school and I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about what they want for lunch. Tomato and lettuce sandwiches heavy on the mayonnaise probably aren’t a good idea, but you never know.