Remembering a classic NJ school lunch that is no longer allowed for most
Another school year is upon us in New Jersey. For some parents, it's a major relief that the kids are going back, whereas, for others, it's a bitter reminder of the summer that's now in the rearview mirror that you wish you could hold on to for just a little longer.
Instead of preparing what beach attire should be worn and how much sunscreen should be slathered on, parents are gearing up for homework nights and altered morning schedules to get the kids ready for school.
Oftentimes, parents will prepare lunches for their kids to take. The most common and basic lunches are usually a sandwich that is easy to put together, along with a piece of fruit or yogurt. In general, it's something quick since time is usually tight in the morning for most working parents.
Then there are those days when preparing lunch is simply too much. In that case, parents may just send their kids to school with some lunch money where they're on their own to feed themselves.
Here in New Jersey, some school lunch traditions seem to stand throughout the test of time. For example, pizza tends to be served on Fridays even if lunches on other school days change.
Perhaps one year, chicken nuggets were on a Monday, but then got moved to Thursday the following year. Pizza, however, always seems to remain firmly on the Friday schedule.
What always made the pizza interesting, however, is that it wasn't your classic Jersey pizza. Instead, it resembled and tasted more like a typical frozen box pizza. Nevertheless, we never cared.
Now, not all schools might have that tradition, but for the most part, there are certain staples that have remained throughout the decades. One of those staples, however, is no longer an option for many.
Peanut allergies over the years have become an increasing issue with some students. As a result, this mostly led to the elimination of one of New Jersey's most classic lunches of all.
The completely beat-up and smushed-to-hell peanut butter and jelly sandwich you'd purchase at school.
Most of us of a certain age will remember those sandwiches at the school cafeteria. They'd usually be wrapped in plastic with the cafeteria staff having tons of them. If you asked for one, the sandwich might look like it went through some sort of torture device.
Instead of the bread being in good form, it usually looked like someone took the time to smash the daylights out of it. Almost as if it was being tenderized like a piece of meat.
It was also usually always on white bread. And you can tell when eating it how smushed up it was. It's how it was for decades, and yet, we didn't care.
Despite the sandwich not resembling something you would make at home, it was delicious. And it always hit the spot for many kids, who didn't think twice about it while they were eating it. It was just a great sandwich that hit the spot.
But that was back in the day. Today, you usually can't bring anything with peanuts associated with it to school. And I completely understand that since more is now understood about how severe peanut allergies could be for some kids. After all, we're always learning more about our health as time goes by.
Maybe peanut butter and jelly is still allowed in some private settings, but for the most part, you won't find them anywhere near most public schools in New Jersey. I know for my family it makes preparing lunches tougher since my kids love peanut butter and anything associated with nuts.
But like I said earlier, it's completely understandable why it's not allowed, and we work around that to prepare other types of lunches. Luckily for me, my kids aren't that picky. Unfortunately for others, however, this might force some outside-the-box thinking when it comes to getting meals ready for school.
So as we roll forward with another school year in New Jersey, please take a moment to remember the classic peanut butter and jelly. Not the ones you make at home, but the smushed-up ones all New Jersey school cafeterias used to serve.