Hot lunch, revisted.

by Holly on January 12, 2011

in childhood,recipes

I never EVER ate hot lunch in school growing up.

And I liked it that way.

I happily stuffed my brown paper bags with turkey sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, veggies + ranch, cookies and Little Debbie snackcakes (preferably Nutty Bars or Fudge Brownies) instead of being forced to choke down lumpy globs of mashed potatoes topped with what looked like cat vomit.

They called it Turkey Gravy; I called it disgusting.

However, there was one day of the month where I yearned to pick up my carton of milk, smile sweetly at the lunch ladies in their hairnets and buy hot lunch. When the monthly lunch calendars were printed, I would scan each and every week searching for that one day. That one single day where I sat at the lunch table quietly eating my turkey sandwich and staring enviously at the plastic marbled trays all around me plated with one thing:

Italian Dunkers.

Now, 20 years after my inaugural day at the cafeteria lunch table, I find myself with a food blog and still dreaming about the elusive Italian Dunkers of my youth.

Warm marinara sauce.

Cheesy, garlicky toast.

A hint of Italian seasoning in the form of basil and oregano.

All the cool kids were eating them.

And now, so am I.

In the form of Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Soup with Italian Dunker Croutons, that is. It’s a sophisticated twist on my biggest childhood regret, which is fitting seeming as I am now 26 years old and should perhaps start thinking about throwing away those Hypercolor t-shirts, pink scrunchies and Keds shoes already.

But let’s not mature quite yet.

Naner naner poo poo!

You’re going to have to read my guest post onĀ Mara’s blog for the recipe.


Jessica January 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I ate hot lunch a couple times growing up and it was disgusting. If my elementary school had served something like this, I probably would have ate it every single day.

Abby January 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I always brought my lunch too, made by mom and complete with a note. It was usually something similar to what you mentioned, but sometimes she would get creative and make bologna and cheese chunk kabobs on toothpicks or hard salami and cream cheese wedge things in a thermos/cooler thing.

However, pizza day was a day I would eagerly bring my little envelope of money for hot lunch. It was the square kind and I swear nothing tasted like that pizza. But good lord, the soft shell tacos were questionable at best and cruel punishment at worst. I stuck to the pizza and saved my change for 10 cent popcorn Fridays. Priorities.

BroccoliHut January 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

After one rather nasty experience with chicken cacciatore, I never ate hot lunch either. Bologna sandwiches, all the way.

Sarah (Sarah Learns) January 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

hahah, i think we said naner naner Boo Boo. not poo poo! i was a bagged lunch girl too – except for on grilled cheese day and grilled ham & cheese day.

Mackenzie @ Whatever, Gatsby January 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm

holy bajoly! that’s what i juust had for dinner! how about this, let’s start a cool kids club and bring your pink strawberry milk and we’ll meet behind the tire swings at recess and talk about jake gyllenhaal’s abs. and personality and stuff.

sound good? good :)

Amy B @ Second City Randomness January 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Ah school lunches. That lunch schedule printout was GOLD. My favorite day was chili and cinnamon rolls. Our cooks were mediocre, but that’s one thing they knocked out of the park!

Matt January 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm

YUM! I used to LOVE the chicken fried steak at school. That was my favorite ;)

Katie January 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I like the pizza and the weenie critter day (mini corn dogs? Yes, please.) Everything else was NAST. They scooped the lasagna with an ice cream scooper!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

We grew up in the same area of the country. Italian Dunkers WERE on my school lunch menu…along with tater tots and mixed fruit cups, i.e. fruit salad from a can. And I actually loved them all!

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey January 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I always ate hot lunch, and now that I’m a teacher, I kind of gag at the thought of it. My kids are never getting hot lunch (read: fast food)

Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I never had hot lunch either and I always secretly thought it was because my mom loved me more than other kids’ parents loved them since she would make me a good lunch and other parents wouldn’t for their kids! ha! what a punk I was. Or just very loved…. ;)

Emily January 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

oh my gah! That looks so good it makes me want to say bad words.

I went to the rare school where hot lunch was awesome…and also usually themed, thanks to a fiesty little lunch lady we had. Honestly, I’ve always missed it. Except the jello….yuck.

Autumn @ Good Eats Girl January 12, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Oh. Wow. I’m making this. And soon.

I always ate hot lunch…my favorite was crispitos! They were SO good! :) (Okay, maybe the memory of them is so good…I’m not so sure I’d love them any more!)

janetha @ meals and moves January 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm

you crazy. i LOVED the shit out of school lunch! it used to actually be tasty food, not what it is today.

XOXO thanks for your email, doll. i want a teleporter.

Leianna January 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm

I miss Italian dunkers so much, we would run to lunch even as seniors! Must be a MN thing though!

maria @ Chasing the Now January 13, 2011 at 1:39 am

Oooh! You got me with that one. Looks amazing and I am heading over to grab the recipe right now!

Madeline - Greens and Jeans January 13, 2011 at 7:11 am

I brought a packed lunch every day of my school career!

Kacy January 13, 2011 at 7:29 am

We had such a small school that everyone could pretty much eat hot lunch for free. I never ate it, because all the cool kids brought their lunch in cute lunch pales and I desparately wanted to be cool. But… on tomato soup and grilled cheese day all bets were off. I went through the line with the “un-cool” kids and grubbed on that shiz. And this roasted red pepper soup you present looks a million times better than that. Fo. Sho.

Erica January 13, 2011 at 7:31 am

I love it! It validates eating bread and marinara sauce for dinner (essentially). I’m so in! The only food item I ever seemed to purchase at school was giant cookies

Maya January 13, 2011 at 7:56 am

SCRUNCHIES. Good times. I, too, enjoyed my packed lunch, especially as I was a vegetarian even as a youngin’. I love anything resembling tomato sauce, and would love to bathe in a big bowl of it, so this recipe is glorious!

Katie January 13, 2011 at 8:32 am

Ahaha…we still have Italian Dunkers on our school menu! That’s too funny. I always brought my lunch unless it was chicken nugget day or salad bar day.

Sami January 13, 2011 at 9:26 am

mmmm. is it wrong that i have been enjoying light ragu by the bowlfull? like tomato souP? haha. because i have :)


Suzanne January 13, 2011 at 11:18 am

OH WOW! That looked CRAZY good! :)

Angharad January 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

Lovely photos my dear!

Susan January 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I packed my lunch every day too (pb sammie, apple, carrots, not much has changed!), but the day I was envious of was BISCUIT day.

Megan (Braise the Roof) January 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I’m intrigued by what the actual cafeteria version of this recipe is because it really does look grown up! :) I was a brown bagger most days, too. Although there were a few times a month when my mom would let me buy a deli sandwich or burger from the lunch line. Or tacos. Taco day was the BEST.

emily (a nutritionist eats) January 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

We only got hot lunch a few times a month so it was something I looked forward to as a kid! (French toast sticks were my favorite!)

Jen January 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm

My daughter won’t touch school food, my son only wants to buy on Super Nacho day…can’t say I blame him ;)


Little Bookworm January 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

That recipe sounds great, and amazing guest post as well! I have awarded you the Stylish Blogger Award by the way: :D

glidingcalm January 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm

recipe pleaseeeeeeeeeeeee.


Cassie @ A Very Busy Mind January 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I was actually a hot lunch fan; our cafeteria food wasn’t too bad.

Err, you know what? Now that I think about it…


Mary @ Bites and Bliss January 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I was the same way- gimme a cold lunch anyday over a hot one! Then for the past few years, it’s been all about hot lunches. Now, I’m going back to cold ones. :P That soup sure does look freaking amazing, though!!

glidingcalm January 28, 2011 at 8:21 am

giving you a shout out on this post in less than 3 hours! :D

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