Lunches were really under $5
Daniel was telling me earlier that he was eating Hokkien noodles. I haven’t had Hokkien noodles in the longest time. So immediately, his mention of noodles reminded me of something that happened in my childhood. I was in primary school, grade five, and I’d recently started at a new school. My mother had always made me lunch, every day. Well, I can’t say always, because there would be the occasional canteen order. I was pretty happy when I got to order my lunch, because it was a nice change from salad sandwiches.
For the longest time through school I had salad sandwiches. Sometimes with ham, silverside. I got lucky sometimes, and got an egg sandwich. Those, I’d manage to eat completely. I sort of struggled with silverside sandwiches. I was very small-stomached, and an incredibly slow eater. I remember taking at least an hour to eat dinner. I’m utterly grateful to my mother for feeding me well, though. I was a damn healthy kid.
The ritual of grabbing a paper bag, writing my name, class and lunch order on it in a Sharpie (or a marker, because back then Sharpies didn’t exist), was awesome. My mum would always write my lunch orders out for me until I felt comfortable writing them out myself. At my old school, we always used to stick the money on the top corner of the bag with a lot of sticky tape. We couldn’t risk money falling out of the bag and therefore not having enough to purchase lunch, and being left with no lunch. I saw it happen to other kids but it didn’t happen to me.
Sticking money on the bag with tape was the cool thing to do.
At my new school, they obviously didn’t think it was cool, because after a few orders, they wrote on my paper bag, “please don’t stick money on bag”. I wasn’t too disappointed, because the cool thing to do was not to simply put the money in the bag — nah, I wasn’t doing that — my mum and I decided to put the money in a small plastic bag, then put it in the paper bag. Just because we didn’t want that money to get lost. I don’t know, it just wasn’t cool to us to put the money straight in.
I loved ordering chicken drumsticks and hot soup. They were the best things on the menu, I kid you not. $1.10 for a drumstick and $1.10 for the soup. It was beautiful, it was perfect. It was “my meal” for a while. I don’t eat chicken anymore (I’m a pescetarian) but those chicken drumsticks were amazing. And the soup was just plain chicken soup with some noodles. It was so tasty, so awesome. My friends and I would often be the group of girls who got hot soup, so that when the kids in charge of picking up the lunch basket — there was a roster of pairs of us — returned with the basket, there would be six cups of hot soup for all of us.
One day, I ordered fried rice.
I now don’t like fried rice, but that’s beside the point.
I did like the fried rice at the canteen, so I ordered it a couple of times. One day, when the kids on roster brought up the lunch basket, there was something written on my paper bag.
Sorry — no fried rice left. Have given Hokkien noodles instead
I was curious. I had heard of Hokkien noodles, and my mum had made them before, but what was in front of me was different to what my mum cooked. I sat there eating it, taking small nibbles. It was an interesting experience. I picked out the bean sprouts and the vegetables that hadn’t been cooked as awesomely as my mum’s, but the noodles were delicious. I thanked the food gods for running out of fried rice.
And while I sat there remembering this, I suddenly felt really happy. Really warm and fuzzy inside. Despite that feeling, I also felt kind of sad, just a little bit sad inside, for a moment passed. For a moment that wasn’t sad at all.
When I told Daniel we agreed that that is the best kind of nostalgia. ♥️
Image from Blue Apocalypse