Dena and I were talking a while back about the serious lack of real lunch ladies in the world today. When we were kids at a teeny tiny school, the women who served lunch were a bunch of sweet matronly older women, and the food was GOOD. I remember my mother looking at the menu every week to see what was going to be coming up so that she could see if they were having chicken and dumplings or chicken and dressing. These women used what I can only guess were their real recipes that they used in their own kitchens, and from the homemade rolls to the meatloaf, it was good. Really good. And they knew many of the kids by name, and if they knew a kid wasn’t getting much food at home, they made sure that kid got a little extra. It was those little things that made the lunch ladies endearing and sweet characters.
Somewhere in the years since we graduated and moved on to the world of adulthood, school cafeterias became a business. They became about turning a profit instead of feeding kids good food that doesn’t come in the form of a nugget. Now I am not saying that I don’t realize a school district can’t just bleed money in order to keep kids fed, but I also wonder if there isn’t another way to feed kids other than the process pre-packaged things that they eat now. The lunch ladies are sometimes not even connected to the school in any way and work for a company contracted out to serve the frozen pizza and chicken nuggets that pass for meals on a daily basis in most schools.
As a nod to the women who made us enjoy school a little more and who provided us with a little comfort food to get us through the day, here is a recipe from a very sweet woman who spent years serving the children in our cafeteria.
Chicken and Dressing
- 1 lg chicken, boiled and deboned
- 1 lg pan of cornbread, crumbled
- 2/3 full of the same pan of white bread, crumbled. (all bread is better if it is 2 or 3 days old)
- 8 ribs of celery, diced
- 2 lg onions, diced
- 6 eggs
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 T. sage
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- salt to taste
Cover the celery and onions with water and boil until done. Beat the eggs, soup, milk, sage, and black pepper together in a bowl. Add diced chicken last. Mix the cornbread and whitebread together in a large bowl. Then wet it with the broth until really wet. The add egg mixture and salt. Add celery and onion mixture and some of the water. Pour into a well greased pan and bake at 400º for about an hour or until set and browned.
*This recipe is from Shirley Eddy and is found in a cookbook from the Genoa Athletic Booster Club. The cookbook is dedicated to her for 27 years of “carefully and lovingly preparing hot meals for our kids”.