I’m not even going to try to lie about it. As a child, I loved hot cafeteria lunches. In Kindergarten I went to a public school and my mom packed my lunch every day. Desperate to trade my bagel with cream cheese and jelly in for something like beef ravioli, I resorted to occasionally dumping my brown-paper-bag lunch in the trash before entering school. I would mention to my teacher Mrs. Peeler that I forgot my lunch and she would be forced to fork over something like 75 cents so I wouldn’t starve. I’ll never forget the first time the gushy ravioli hit my lips. It was pure bliss. My mom refused to buy canned ravioli, so it was my first glimpse of just how good fake meat and overloaded sodium sauces could actually be.
I transferred to a Jewish day school in 1st grade and since they were kosher, lunch was served by the school. You could choose between hot lunch, salad bar or peanut butter and jelly. Well, you can guess what line I was in every day, all the way through middle school. While most girls in my 7th grade class were going through a vegetarian phase, I prayed for meat lunches like hamburgers, chili and roasted chicken (that sometimes had random feathers). I would come to the lunch table with things like “chicken” or “meat” written out in carrot sticks by my so-called vegetarian friends (who as far as I can tell from Facebook all eat meat, loud and proud now). My favorite day, along with my pal Jenn, was fish stick day. I loved biting into the crispy breaded outside and tasting the mushy, fishy middle. Jenn and I also loved movies like Funny Girl, Stepford Wives (the original) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While most of the other gals were in “I-follow-my-older-sister/brother-and-only-listen-to-Grateful-Dead” mode, Jenn and I proudly blasted Spice Girls – and not in the ironic kind of way.
I wasn’t the most attractive child, so I got used to pretending to not care what other people thought of my choices, though I did spend time crying to my mom that I needed new clothes because a not-so-nice girl mentioned my pleated khakis were out of style and I needed to jump on the J. Crew straight khaki train (my mom then took me to Old Navy for new pants as she refused to spend $100 on khakis for a 12-year-old). However, when it came to food I was never ashamed to dive into something the other girls deemed uncool or cruel to eat. In my eyes, they were the ones missing out. Plus if they weren’t going to eat their fish sticks, that meant there was more for me.
When my husband proclaimed that he didn’t like peas and said they reminded him of terrible school lunches, I was devastated. Should I come clean and let him know I had a secret love of cafeteria food? Hell no. Instead, I made this recipe and turned him into a pea lover…or maybe he just loves anything covered in truffle butter.