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Old 04-19-2008, 02:58 AM   #1
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The (school cafeteria) Classics

No, not the famous French classics like duck a la orange, or sole veronnique... I'm talking the stuff you grew up with in your school cafeteria... the good stuff done bad that sometimes you just absolutely crave.

I've been on a serious comfort food kick lately, but oddly enough its food that wasn't really comforting at all when I originally ate it! I've been reviving classics from the school cafeteria, but I've been doing them right.

I've made Turkey Manhattan with whipped yukon gold potatos loaded with butter on wonder bread (it IS good for something!), from scratch fried chicken with some buttered corn, my very first baked mac 'n cheese with my very first bechamel-based cheese sauce (i've always been a pasta tossed in a cream reduction kind of cook), BBQ pork chops with homemade sauce, chicken noodle soup from my own stock and handmade noodles, grilled cheese sandwich with roasted tomato bisque.

It's been time consuming but man has it been GOOD. I was just wondering if anyone ever falls into these old dishes that are remembered without much fondness, and like to turn them into some really wonderfully soul-satisfying comfort food.

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Old 04-19-2008, 03:22 AM   #2
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College cook; we didn't do school lunches much. We always had the good stuff kids wanted to trade for. I did like hot dog day though, so that became our weekly treat. Chicken a la king looked exotic, but disgusting. We had our lunch box and thermos in the winter for soup. We got change for milk and jello or pudding.
Those were the good old days!
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:42 AM   #3
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I, through so many years of school and work, have eaten so much institutional food I almost alwqys give it a pass.

Will rarely eat anything at our current cafeteria. I am so sick of that stuff.

College I am sure you are making the dishes taste great, the way they should be, not the way they came out of the many cafeterias I have eaten in.

Sorry, but no fond memories of the decades of garbage I was exposed to.
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Old 04-19-2008, 09:30 AM   #4
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I was extrememly fortunate. In the grade school I was in, everthing was made fresh, in the school kitchens. The aroma of freshly baking bread filled the school, and we frequently had real mashed potatoes, with gravy and roast beef, and decent veggies. The pigs in the blanket were to die for. I happen to like fish sticks, and the american cheese product they used to serve us in little sticks. I've always been a big milk fan and so would purchase a couple of milks to go with the meal. We had freshly baked sticky buns, real spaghetti, though the sauce was fairly bland. There were no bad things cooked in that school.

In 6th through eith grade, I transfered to a Catholic School that had wonderful cooks as well. The food was made by a couple of Italian ladies who knew how to cook for a bunch of people. Again, we had freshly made everuthing. Even the pizza was pretty tasty, made on a freshly baked thick crust, with a rich sauce, gound beef, and cheese. It wasn't a great pizza, but it wasn't the dried out, tough, tastless cardboard served in today's schools.

I had to cringe at the food served to my kids in comparison to the stuff I was priveleged to eat. Teh food was baked off campus, trucked in, and re-heated. The only good things were cottage cheese and canned fruit.

High school for me even had pretty good food. Now some of the stuff I was served aboard aircraft carriers... We used to say that The Navy spent a great deal of money teaching cooks how to ruin perfectly good food.

I made sure that my dids all had great meals as they grew, at home. Tehy even go to have home made pigs in the blanket, made with fresh bread dough wrapped around hot dogs, allowed time for the dough to rise, and then baked to a golden brown. Home made cheese macaroni wasn't served often as it just takes to long to prepare properly, and everylone loved the Kraft boxed product (gasp!). What my kids didn't get at school, they got at home, and then some.

Do I miss school food? I miss the school food I had.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:22 AM   #5
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For me, for some reason, every now and then I need that bland spaghetti and tomato sauce that you can really only get at a school cafeteria. My mother is Italian, so it would be tragic if she even *tried* to make bad tomato sauce! Strangely, I also discovered that Ikea sells the exact same pasta in *their* cafeteria :-)

Mike
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:28 AM   #6
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School cafeteria food? Classics? Not where I went to school.

Thick gummy pan pizza, Dry, overcooked burgers, tasteless American chop suey. No thanks.
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Old 04-19-2008, 11:50 AM   #7
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lol Andy.. I was thinking about the same thing... Once I got to highschool we did have a pretty decent salad bar though.
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:38 PM   #8
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I've been trying for years to recreate the mystery meat on a bun but just can't quite find the mystery meat!

I really can't remember what we ate - except when I lived on Guam I know we had rice every day with "whatever".

College Cook - Sounds like you have upgraded the cafeteria food to a 5-star status!!! Keep up the good work and keep posting your results! Love reading them.
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:04 PM   #9
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I guess I'm lucky in being so old that our "lunch ladies" actually cooked everything from scratch ... except for "Fish-stick Friday". But, hey - I liked fish-sticks!

To me - recreating "comfort food" means trying to recapture the food as close to the original version as possible ... the version that brought me comfort.
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:23 PM   #10
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To this day I still make a pan pizza the same way they did in our cafeteria, in a cookie sheet with a thick crust and crumbled sausage on top. I also on occasion make spaghetti the way they did as well, and the pigs in a blanket, and the meat loaf with the tomato sauce on top. I guess you could kinda call it a type of comfort food. The only thing I could never duplicate was the chicken a la king and the tuna casserole, and I did like them as well.
Mind you, this is only once in a while when I am kinda missing it. Most times I make the better versions of it all, the kind you can only make with fresh ingredients and probably not on a grand scale anyway.
I have to place myself in the 'we had good school food' crowd, especially in high school when we got a salad bar as well. And like GW I always got extra milk, couldn't get enough of it and usually one whole milk and one chocolate milk. They had glasses for those that wanted water and I used that to mix the two so the chocolate wasn't so thick.
One thing we never got where vending machines, not even pop machines.
They didn't make their own bread, and I am sure they used many of the canned and boxed stuff others did, but they certainly knew how to cook it up and make it decent to good!
But more importantly, we were dirt poor growing up. We lived off a lot of government food despite both parents working. Just a bit of bad luck when the garage my dad co-owned burned down destroying everything. Turned out his partner set the fire to get some quick money, and of course that means no insurance money but plenty of bills. Took them a long time to dig their way out of it.
So, for us, school lunches were a God send of regular filling meals!
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