This project is a carefully crafted collection of lunch memories, universal in its appeal and nostalgia. Some of the stand-out stories are about the kids who desperately wanted the cafeteria offerings instead of their own home-packed sacks, and celebrity names like Jacques Pepin offer humanizing and poignant stories of being constantly hungry and eating rotten bread during the war. Even the greatest food writers were not always dining on duck confit.
To be clear, this is not a cookbook with recipes for your kids’ home-packed lunch. Instead, School Lunch — much like books such as Hungry City or My Last Supper — is a look at our shared humanity through the lens of food. These portraits and first-person stories are poignant, surprising, funny, and universal; they remind us of our own experiences, of sitting down and eating school lunch next to friends, of being proud or ashamed of our stinky tofu, of trading Oreos for our friend’s mango lassi, of making our first friend, of bringing extra to share, of hoping someone else would bring extra to share. We see ourselves in some of these faces and stories and immediately remember what we ate, who had the “good” lunches, where we sat, how we felt, and what we did about it. We can trace a part of who we are today back to those lunch tables.