I would say my first food service job was an unpaid position. I was a 6th grader at Wisner Elementary School when I started working in a kitchen. Our school district was a combination of Wisner Elementary, Pilger Elementary, and Wisner-Pilger Jr. – Sr. High School. The cooks at the high school made all our food and they shipped it in a van to the elementary schools to serve. We had two staff people who worked in the kitchen and the school nurse marked off our names as we walked through the lunch line. The school asked if 6th graders could help the kitchen staff serve the meals. Our role was simple, we usually placed dessert on the tray and passed it to the cooks to finish filling. The advantages to helping in the kitchen was you got to leave about 15 minutes early for lunch, your meal was free, and you were the first to get seconds. Whoever worked in the kitchen was the most popular 6th grader that day because everybody wanted to know what they had seconds of. The bad part was that they sometime ran out of food so you had to eat a hot dog instead. (Hope this brings back some memories for those of you who attended my school.)
Once a year, I recall them opening up the lunch room to our parents to join us. My mother decided to come one year when they were serving French fries because she didn’t believe us. We told her they were black on the outside and raw on the inside. My mother was shocked to learn we were correct about this particular food item. I guess that’s one way to get kids to stop eating fries.
I was a terribly picky eater as a child. My sister complains that I got to bring my lunch way too much because of it. I would usually call my dad at the station the night before I planned to take my lunch. Getting him to bring home a bag of Highland or Barrel of Fun chips was a very important component of my sack lunch. I took so many peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches to school in my Strawberry Shortcake metal lunch pail. The best day was the last day of school because we crossed the street to Dinklage Park and had our picnic lunch over there. It was the one day my mother would let me bring a Hi-C juice box. I have no idea why it was so cool since it was directly across the street from my school and a block and half from my house.
I did have a few dishes that I just loved to eat at school: the hot dog, rainbow cake, French dip, homemade dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and Salisbury steak. But probably my favorite dish was creamed turkey on mashed potatoes. I’m not sure if it was my favorite because we never really ate turkey at my house outside of holiday meals. Our elementary school also implemented this cool thing (I think when Ms. Pint was principal) where we made a Thanksgiving feast. I’m talking little kids peeling potatoes and older kids making pie from scratch. It was so much fun.
A few years ago, I started turning Thanksgiving leftovers into Creamed Turkey on Mashed Potatoes. Just this past year, I did it before I left my sister’s house. She said, “Oh I loved that dish in Elementary School. How do you make?” Guess what folks – it’s super easy!
Creamed Turkey on Mashed Potatoes
1 box of Betty Crocker Creamy Butter Mashed Potatoes
1 jar of turkey gravy
1 c. of chopped cooked turkey
Fill a small pot with gravy and chopped turkey. Cook at a low temperature until hot. Meanwhile, cook boxed potatoes according to instructions. When finished, put one serving of potatoes in a dish and top with gravy mixture. Voila!