School cafeteria food you enjoyed?

What foods did your grade school cafeteria serve that you enjoyed – either back in the day, or even today ?

(hat tip @John )


Tacos. Hard-shell, same ground beef used for sloppy joe’s. And Hostess fruit pies, lemon or cherry. Once my friend Rhonda and I started growing cultures in bio, and also reading food labels, we got grossed out that the lemon pies contained agar. Ew!

My mom was one of the grade school cooks so everything tasted pretty good! A school wide fave was chili and cinnamon rolls.


Gen Xers who went to schools in the greater Houston area (and maybe further in Texas) adored the plain sheet cake with peanut butter frosting. You’ll still see people online talking about it every now and then. It wasn’t terribly healthy, but this was around the time the federal government decided ketchup counted as one of our vegetables, so…

Our cafeteria ladies figured out the proportions for home cooking and ran it off on ditto sheets for all of us to take home - they were the best! Here it is, for a future person to find when they are googling:

1/3 cup solid all-vegetable shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk

Peanut butter frosting:
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

  1. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make cake:
    1. Cream shortening, peanut butter, and brown sugar well. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk in two additions.
    3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
    4. Let cool on rack before frosting.
  3. Frost:
    1. Combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, water, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
    2. Frost cake and sprinkle with peanuts.

I went to high school in the 1970s (graduated 1976). I honestly cannot remember anything that was a “must get”. I do remember having 7th period lunch in my senior year (in an 8 period day) and seeing elbow noodles that had swelled to almost the size of my thumb in that day’s American Chop Suey because it sat in the pan of sauce for 4 periods (4th through 7th period). They were beyond squishy and gross. I often went home for lunch that year, since I lived behind the high school, had 8th period free for “study hall”), and got special dispensation to leave because my mother used to teach there. LOL (To this day, I can’t abide American Chop Suey.)

Took a bit of searching but here’s what my HS has this month (Aramark). The only things I might try would be the bourbon chicken, Philly cheesesteak, Beef taco, and Italian Stromboli.


In grade school (K-6th back then) we were “cold lunch” kids. My mother usually packed our lunches but sometimes she gave us money for our favorites. English muffin pizza and Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. Spanish rice as a main course day was a source of silent entertainment from our cold lunch perch. Nobody and I mean nobody liked it. A few kids always got caught trying to stuff it into their empty milk cartons.


As a kid, I remember liking the cheese Pizza. It was rectangle, not a triangle slice. That is about all I remember liking from my school days.

In college, I was a night student… I can remember all my college had for night students (to eat) was the vending machines. The coffee machine had a “chicken soup” option. It was chicken broth with a few flecks of green “something” on top. And there was a machine with those peanut butter cracker (6 packs) and various candy. Many of my dinners (after work & before class) consisted of that horrid chicken broth and those PB cracker packs. It was better than nothing, but just barely.


PB cracker packs from the vending machine were my go-to dinner in graduate law school. Drove there directly from work, no ability to stop even for fast food.


I think school cafeterias made the best salisbury steaks.

It’s like in order to pass muster to open up a cafeteria kitchen you have to master the salisbury steak. The same way they make line cooks prove their chops by making a french omelet.


My school cafeteria (in India) made fantastic jalebis. I don’t know how — it is difficult to make perfectly crisp and not-too-sweet ones, and 99% of the ones I have eaten since then have not been as good as those :joy:

But most everything else was gross (to me, my sibling loved the food) and my mom switched us to lunch from home (I still haven’t heard the end of that from said sibling.)

The canteen (separate, with snacks for a la carte purchase vs monthly cafeteria plan) made the best patti samosas I have ever eaten in my life (ones made with spring roll-like wrappers, thin and crisp, vs doughy punjabi samosas, and stuffed with a differently seasoned potato mixture). They regularly ran out of them by the afternoon break because parents would stop in at lunchtime and buy in bulk. Then someone complained and some rule was instituted about that :rofl:


Life is so unfair.

Obviously I was last in line when god was handing out “charmed life” brownie points.

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I did not mention the gag-inducing blotchy grey irish stew. Took me decades to eat anything called “stew” again.


I see your “gag-inducing blotchy grey irish stew” and raise you a pile of overboiled green boils chopped into 2 cm pieces.


Well if the OP didn’t say “grade school” I could have commiserated about how the stench of over-cooked broccoli wafting everywhere from my college cafeteria put me off vegetables for all of college (and a while beyond too).


This must be a universal phenomenon. We called our school stew “Gravy Train.” For you youngsters, Gravy Train was a dry dog food that , as the TV commercial proclaimed “makes its own gravy!” You added warm water to the bowl of dry dog food, and voilà … instant gravy. Or school stew.

I have a friend who will not eat stew. Fortunately for me, that’s what I’m making for dinner tonight, because I know how to make it without dog food.


My private school tuition included lunch, so I didn’t bring from home. I recall the food was across the board pretty tasty. What I most remember and still replicate occasionally at home is hot ham and cheese. Served on a hamburger bun, with kraft singles I’m sure. Wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven until melty. Other memorables were sloppy joes, chicken a la king. Maybe it was the novelty factor, as this was all quite different from the mostly russian food I was getting at home.


Yeah, sloppy joes were definitely another highlight on the weekly menu calendar for me.

Not sure what was in those things, and I probably am better off for it.

Maybe Joe wasn’t. :eyes:

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Rectangular pizza
The cinnamon rolls that were served on chili day (but not the chili!)
Chocolate sheet cake
Ravioli with a small grilled cheese on the side


Rectangular pizza.

Beef tacos (which tasted remarkably like Jack in the Box tacos.)

I was a hugely picky eater as a kid so I mostly brown-bagged it. A pb (no jelly!) or baloney sandwich, a bag of Fritos/Cheetos/Doritos and a metal can of Snak-Pak pudding where I’d pointedly lick the pull-tab lid in front of the cafeteria monitor, terrifying her into thinking I was going to cut my tongue.

I was genuinely disappointed when they switched to plastic cups with the peel-able plastic top.

You can still find that pizza at caterer/restaurant supply places.