Thursday 13 August 2009



Things have sure come a long way since my plastic Scooby Doo lunch kit with its matching orange thermos from the seventies. I recall having to dispose of it shortly after discovering something smelly growing in it.

Ahh. Vancouver elementary schools in the Seventies were a different affair back then. Back then, I attended Laura Secord Elementary school and the population was primarily Italian, Portuguese and what I could only distinguish was other White kids. I mean, all white kids kind of looked the same to me. So though I could generally tell the difference between Portuguese, Italian, German and so on, on the whole, I just thought of them all as White kids. Asian kids were a minority and South Asian kids you could count on one hand. Actually we used to call my friends East Indian, though currently the term might be politically incorrect; I don’t know. But I digress…as usual.

But this is my blog and I’ll digress if I want to!

The popular lunches of the day came in brown bags and I must confess, it was not that cool to come to my school with a lunch box. You were more than certain to be judged by the picture on the outside and though I did love Scooby Doo, I wasn’t too sure if any kids thought he was cool too. I noticed all the cool kids had brown paper bags. I know that for sure, you could get mocked for wearing a red t-shirt with “Disco Skate” emblazoned on the front in sparkly gold letters (because all the cool kids listened to Kiss, and “Disco Sucks”, don’tcha know?) Hey…it was comfortable and it seemed like a cool idea at the time.

I know that you could get teased for wearing your hair in a pony-tail and of course it was taken for granted that you’d get ridiculed for being too fat, too short, too skinny, too tall, Chinese, Japanese, East Indian or pretty much anything other than white.

So, let me be clear here: I ate at home.

What I did notice on the days I did hang around school around lunchtime was that kids ate white food: white bread sandwiches and juice; cookies, cheese, apples, potato chips and stuff I surely have eaten but rarely had the opportunity to at home for lunch were staples of the day.

When I walked the 3 blocks home on Lakewood Drive and crossed the Grandview Highway (it wasn’t really a big highway—only two lanes-- but it was still called a highway), and then walked across the bridge that spanned over the train tracks below, I knew that awaiting me upstairs in the Office of the Mid-City Motel that we owned and operated, would be a plate of my mother’s fried rice.

Herein lies my nasty aversion to peas. I hate peas in foods that ought not to have peas. My mother poured frozen peas into fried rice and macaroni and cheese. Today, I realize peas are indeed classically in “Yeung Chow” Chinese Fried Rice, but I never thought it a good idea at the time. I used to deftly flick them into a pile only to have my mother cruise on by and comment I had better eat the peas by her next pass by. Fortunately, I had a huge black German Shepherd waiting below the kitchen window outside and she loved peas. I wasn’t allowed out of that kitchen chair until my fried rice was finished.

Thus during my formative years I was sort of psychologically scarred by peas. You see, in China, there were thousands of children who would love to even have a plate of plain rice. In fact, that pile of fat we would rip off and discard on the side of our plates would be coveted morsels that a small village would extend for a week as “soong” (the good stuff you make to go with your rice, like a stir-fry) with their bowls of white rice. So the stories go…and the guilt is slowly ingrained into my little soul. Every morsel of rice must be cleaned from your bowl or you would marry a man with a pock-marked face. Each grain would represent an ugly scar on his face. Every grain was harvested by hand and represented the toil of poor Chinese farmers somewhere across the ocean in a mystical land I had never visited.

So, I never argued. Talking back inevitably resulted in more stories of filial piety and whatnot.

Today, as I cruise by highschool students in our hallways during lunch, I notice potstickers, vegetarian samosas, tofu, meatballs, spaghetti, fried rice, perogies, falafels, pizza and yes, even sandwiches. It brings a smile to my face to know that these kids will never know the pains I took in my youth to fit in with my peers by bringing the appropriate style of lunch to school so they wouldn’t be repulsed or worse, find another way to mock me for being not-White.

Fortunately, I knew how to fit into Seventies Vancouver. I was raised by Seventies television. I knew what western values were and I watched the Monkees, Mister Rogers, Sesame Street, Happy Days, The Love Boat, the Carol Burnett show, Donny & Marie and so much more. I could tell you the time of the day by the show that was on. PBS was my mainstay and thankfully television programs were actually pretty clean back then.

When our elementary school was required to do some surveys, I of course responded on my forms in a manner that I thought they wanted me to respond. In my grade 5 class, we were asked to record everything we ate for a few weeks or so. Everything for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks was to be written down. Today, I realize these forms were collected and I presume, used for statistical purposes to determine something about our population. Currently, there are inner-city schools that provide lunch programs and I guess this was a source for determining such a need.

Anyhoo…at the time I didn’t think too much about why they were doing, but I did what I normally did. I wrote down for breakfast: milk, juice, toast, jam, butter

and for lunch: a ham and cheese sandwich, milk and an apple

and for dinner: pot roast, potatoes, carrots, corn and milk. And so it went for the whole week. I had quite a few ideas of what I thought a balanced western meal was supposed to be because I had learned about the food pyramid on PBS!

I didn’t think I was fibbing. I was just telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I thought it highly unlikely that the people reading these forms would know what tofu was and I can’t imagine what the translation for “jook” was in the seventies. I didn’t even know it was called “congee” until the Eighties, when Chinese food evolved past Sweet & Sour Pork and Chop Suey. Bok Choy wasn’t a mainstream veggie you could buy at the local Safeway. You do realize of course, that Chinese-Canadian food is stuff Chinese people in restaurants cook for non-Chinese and where soy sauce was a condiment poured over rice (horrors!)? I didn’t even know what Chop Suey was until I heard about it on t.v.

Today, I purchased for my daughter what I think is a cool lunch kit. It’s “green” and has no phthalates. It’s reusable and efficient because you don’t have to try to fit plastic containers into a lunch bag that doesn’t fit all that plastic. Everything nestles nicely and is durable. What’s even more enticing to me was the fact that your food can be presented separated in their own containers sort of like the yummy Swanson salisbury steak t.v.dinners I relished as a youngster. You know, with the watery mashed potatoes and gravy, the mixed veggies (with peas…that I ate!—because they belonged there) and the apple cobbler dessert! Yup. Loved them. You would too if you lived at my house motel. I’m so fond of compartmentalized food that I even like airplane food. I’m the only person I know who actually likes airplane food. I like that everything comes in its own little compartment like those t.v. dinners.

Don’t worry. I don’t like t.v. dinners anymore. Everything just seemed tastier back then it seems. Ding Dongs, fudgsicles, popsicles and wagon wheels were bigger, richer and tastier.


I don’t know whether or not my daughter will be teased about her Laptop lunch kit in her school this coming September, but I think not because they have this anti-bullying campaign going on and there’s plenty of action going on in our district concerning safe schools. But hey, just in case…that’s why I enrolled her in karate classes. Kiai!


Inside the Laptop Lunch kit there is room for an ice-pack in the mesh-lined cover! Yes, at least her lunch will be literally “cooler” than everyone else’s! The patterned carrying bag has a handle, an adjustable strap and a zippered pocket built into the front for napkins and little notes and treats.


I liked the slick black kit which opens up easily to reveal the coordinating pink accents. You don’t have to pull out all these separate plastic boxes to get to your food. You just zip open the bag and you can the inner plastic box inside it while eating. You could even do this on you lap! Inside the outer plastic container you’ll find nestled securely the food containers. This particular kit comes with three resealable lids which seem pretty tight-fitting. You even have a compartment for the matching fork and spoon that comes with the kit! The water bottle I’m not crazy about but it’s practical, light-weight and fits neatly into the space.


I don’t know if I’ll be able to post any pics of her lunches in the style of the cool bento blogs out there, but I do have all the bento paraphernalia and I suppose I ought to have a go at it and see if I can keep it up. I may not be as passionate about posting bento lunches as I am about my baking so I may just try one post in the future to see.

I wasn’t looking to buy this product, but I knew about it from all the bento blogs I read. I happened to see it at my local Chapters store where it was promoted as a “Green” product. I purchased my Laptop Lunch kit with a Chapters members discount (10% off) and a $5 off coupon. Not so bad. They had cool colours. List price was about $49. I hadn’t thought to purchase it online, where it’s for a special internet package price for $25! yikes. oh well. But the shipping is $22.25 to Canada so the total would have been $47.24. I think I got an okay deal in the end.


Jessica604 said...

That is definitely a cool (and cute!) lunch bag! I wished they had that stuff for adults.

I guess my freebie "heart & stroke foundation" coolpak will have to do for now. :)

If my memory serves me correctly, I had a red strawberry shortcake lunchbox with matching thermos. Also met the demise of the mold-monsters.

The P & A Food Chronicles said...

hahah, yup wish I had that back in the day!!!

Manggy said...

Whoa, that is actually quite a shipping fee O_o I didn't even know it wasn't *your* lunchbox for going to work and whatnot. It looks so sophisticated, I think your daughter will be very happy to carry it.

Thanks for sharing your childhood experience (though listening to Donnie and Marie now... aiaiai.). I'll never experience what it's like for a kid to be in a multicultural society, but not really. But I'm glad everyone else is more open now :)

My lunchbox was a nondescript plastic thing with no design :/

Mélanie said...

Well, I had no idea that integration was not so good and that it used to be so difficult. I thought that it was more open for foreign cultures in the US and in Canada. I'm glad you see it is better now.
I did not have the "lunchbox problem" as a kid, because in France we have almost a 2-hour break for lunch. So you can either eat at home, or eat in the cafeteria (which I did not like at all! it's usually bad, I guess like everywhere!)
I guess I would have liked the lunch bag you bought for your dauughter, it looks very practical, with all these separate box! I could use one now, that I don't have a cafeteria any more ;-)


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