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Monday, April 2, 2007

Frito Pie

posted by on April 2 at 13:11 PM

As a native Houstonian, I grew up eating Frito pie: Fritos topped with chili (meat only, of course!) cheese and chopped onions. Traditionally, they’re served right in the bag, like so…


… but I always bought them at the school cafeteria, where they looked more like this:

Frito Pie 02.jpg

Friends here have never heard of Frito pie. Often, they seem disturbed that I grew up eating this stuff—along with chicken-fried steak, pork tamales, and cheese enchiladas. (Were you just dirt poor? Were your parents abusive? Did you grow up in the time before the FDA?) But it got me to thinking: What regional specialties that others might find revolting did Slog readers grow up eating and loving? (Searching middle-school menus across the country, I find exotic delicacies I had never heard of in my palate’s formative years: Things like bagels with cream cheese on Long Island, chicken teriyaki in Virginia, and Philly cheese steak in Pennsylvania). Do your middle-school food memories inspire nostalgia or revulsion? And do you still make them for yourself?

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Weird thing. I grew up in Spokane and we always had chili with maple bars for school lunch. It was one of the more popular lunches too.

Posted by Steffany | April 2, 2007 1:13 PM

Growing up in Oklahoma, I also enjoyed Frito Chili Pie (though never out of the bag!). But the thing that our cafeteria served that I'm pretty sure was regional was actually on the breakfast menu: Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy.

It's not as gross as it sounds, trust me.

Posted by Joey the Girl | April 2, 2007 1:14 PM

I no longer eat Frito Pie (which simply must be served in a cut-open bag if it is to earn the name). But I remember it fondly, and should I ever find myself totally stoned at a Texas snack bar, I might try it again.

However, chili with maple bars is a hate crime.

Posted by David Schmader | April 2, 2007 1:17 PM

That sounds fantastic. Mmm, Fritos.

My own school-lunch memories just involve unspeakably shitty lowest-possible-cost garbage served out of huge trays: spaghetti boiled for hours, mixed with sauce, and packed into cut-uppable chunks, hideous bare-patty hamburgers on stale buns, that sort of thing.

In college, they served us pickle ice cream once. Bright yellow, with flourescent green pickle bits. Said "pickle ice cream" on the side of the tub, which I know because I helped lift it out of the freezer and throw it out of the second story window. To this day the word "SYSCO" gets my dander up.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 1:18 PM

When served in the bag split down the side like that it's not really a Frito Pie but a Frito Boat. That's what Frito-Lay called them back in the day. Whenever Frito-Lay would have a booth at some event that's what they served.

My dad worked for Frito-Lay for 40+ years and during the time I was a kid. Every time there was a class party and the teacher would make the list on the board of who was going to bring what they always started with the assumption that I was bring chips and dip.

I love Frito Boats. It's comfort food.

Posted by monkey | April 2, 2007 1:19 PM

Crispy-fried salmon skin! yum.

Posted by Sachi | April 2, 2007 1:25 PM

@1 - I grew up in Pullman and our chili was always served with a cinnemon roll. What is it with mixing chili and some kind of breakfast pastry in Eastern WA?

We had plenty of chili-cheese fritos growing up, but never called them Frito Pies. I remember eating it off a picinic bench one time because my bag tore all the way open. ewwwww, i really wanted that frito chili goodness.

Posted by longball | April 2, 2007 1:25 PM

I never encountered Frito Pie until I lived in Austin where I also ate my first chicken fried steak. FWIW the best FP I had in Austin was at Mad Dog and Beans which is apparently, along with every other place I used to frequent there, gone.

As for my high school cafeteria? We had this stuff called mush-gush. In its liquid state it was poured over hamburger buns and called Sloppy Joes, in its semi-congealed state it was ladeled on top of spaghetti and in its fully hardened state it was sliced and called Meat Loaf.

Posted by E. Steven | April 2, 2007 1:25 PM

Rib-e-que FTW.

Posted by John | April 2, 2007 1:25 PM

Ah, Fnarf. We have something in common. Our school cafeterias must have had the same cooks. I distinctly remember those cold grey hamburger patties. I mean, how badly can you fuck up a hamburger? Any kind of bread product was always plain white bread, stale and dried out. It's like they went out of their way to make the food as unpalatable as possible.

I have no fond memories of high school food at all. The food I got in Navy boot camp was better (and that stuff was pretty gross too).

Posted by SDA in SEA | April 2, 2007 1:28 PM

I have heard that in New England McDonalds serves up a McLobster sandwhich, which along the lines of a McRib, is some kind of ambiguous seafood patty in the shape of a lobster. I've almost flown to boston just to confirm this.

Posted by longball | April 2, 2007 1:28 PM

My fondest middle school cuisine wasn't in the lunch room, but a delicacy we made on Boy Scout raft trips- "Spam au Gratin" (or as I fondly nicknamed it, "Fatty Fat-Fat-Fat") Basically it's cubed Spam mixed with cheesy au Gratin potatos.

...And yes, it was as salty and greasy as you imagine- but after eating Ramen for a week, it was a godsend.

Posted by Colin | April 2, 2007 1:29 PM

Ahh, the frito pie. I just had one of these for the first time in years last weekend at Smarty Pants in Georgetown.

They have both meaty-meat and veggie versions. I had the veggie, and unfortunately wasn't in love with the chili, but it was pretty early on a weekend morning so it may have needed more time to let the flavors mingle.

I have very fond memories of this delicacy. It's been a while since I've made a batch of chili, but this post may have convinced me to make up some trashy gourmet tonight!

Posted by andy | April 2, 2007 1:29 PM

You can get a good Frito pie at the terrific SmartyPants in Georgetown:

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | April 2, 2007 1:30 PM

2 - I had biscuits and chocolate gravy down in Tennessee, at an old boyfriend's grandparents' place. Pretty awesome stuff, though I think I prefer sausage gravy.

Posted by wench | April 2, 2007 1:30 PM

Poutine during my youth in Vancouver

Posted by Andrew | April 2, 2007 1:32 PM

I grew up in Northern California with hippy parents. We ate fruit leather, and carob chips as a treat and drank organic goat's milk.

But, when I went to college in New England I was introduced to fluffer nutters. Peanut butter and marshmallow "fluff" between two pieces of bread. Fluff is like sauce for those of you not from New England. In my four years I couldn't bring myself to try it.

Frito Pie/Boat sounds yummy. I love salt.

Posted by Papayas | April 2, 2007 1:33 PM

Do they serve antacids with Frito pie?

Posted by impossible prince | April 2, 2007 1:35 PM
Posted by John | April 2, 2007 1:35 PM

To this day, I've still never heard the words 'Turkey tetrazini' outside of a school lunchroom...

Posted by Rottin' in Denmark | April 2, 2007 1:43 PM

My junior high served something called a Hidden Burger. The tray looked like they served you a roll with a side of fries. Basically, a tray of starch. Everybody was happy about this until some unfortunate soul bit far enough into the roll to discovered the still-frozen-yet-somehow-blackened meat product tucked inside. That was a dark day in school lunches.

Posted by Hidden vomit | April 2, 2007 1:44 PM

I spent part of my childhood in Brunei, and at the school 'tuck shop,' they served deliciously greasy, msg-ed mee goreng (fried noodles). It was pretty wonderful.

Posted by nick | April 2, 2007 1:44 PM

Oh, god, Sloppy Joes. Thanks for nothing, E. Steven. I used to eat that garbage at school, and then come home and beg my mom to make it there! Which she did, using a little foil packet that said Sloppy Joe right there on the front; Schilling? McCormick? I can't remember, but I'll bet it was 90% the same as the similar "Taco Seasoning". Oh, I'm so sophisticated now; I haven't had a Sloppy Joe in 30 years. Oddly, I don't feel like breaking that streak.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 1:47 PM

I grew up eating fluffernutters (well, a few times) in New England. Surely it's not a regional thing? I'd be kind of horrified to know we're unique in the absurdity.

Posted by Lythea | April 2, 2007 1:47 PM

I spent part of my childhood in Arkansas, and besides black-eyed peas, which now everybody has, I only remember a couple local-specific things.

Peanut butter and syrup. Only works if served with milk. It's incredibly thick and rich, so a little goes a loooooong way - as an adult, I had a heaping helping that prompted a violent bout of projectile vomiting, and now even the smell of the two foods can bring on nausea.

And 2 is right, biscuits and chocolate gravy is WAY less nasty than it sounds.

Posted by switzerblog | April 2, 2007 1:55 PM

Macaroni & Cheese with Spam.

Posted by elswinger | April 2, 2007 1:56 PM

@17, 24. I grew up eating fluffernutters, too, but I was born in NYC and my family continued the tradition when we moved to Seattle. It's definitely an East-Coast thing. And Papayas, how could you avoid trying one for four years? Fluffernutters are fantastic! Not like the hot dogs in elementary school that had green spots in them, or the cake w/ frosting that tasted just like toothpaste.

Posted by steve | April 2, 2007 1:57 PM

Here's one I remember from my grade school menu.

Flying Saucers.
A round slice of bologna with an ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes on top.


Posted by blah | April 2, 2007 2:00 PM

I don't remember this, but my older brother would eat Philadelphia Cream Cheese'n'jelly sandwiches every day for lunch. (Yes, we lived in Philly at the time.) I can't believe he didn't have a heart attack at age 9.

Nothing exotic for me. I remember Tuesday "Taco Days" around here and I also ate a lot of drippy patty melts and turkey and cream cheese sandwiches, fried to a crispy brown and served with...fries. I had high cholesterol at 13. Yuk.

Posted by good | April 2, 2007 2:01 PM

nothing like authentic Poutine from Quebec

(provenance must be within 50 miles of the Quebec border to be considered 'authentic'; no Toronto or Vancouver, or worse MacDonalds wannabe's)

If Andrew wants to set up an outlet here in Seattle, we'll be millionaires - it's that good!

1 Portion French Fries
1 portion Cheese Curds (preferably fresh cheese curd from Quebec)
1 large portion of steaming hot gravy

Smoother Fries and Cheese Curds with steaming hot Gravy thus melting the aformentioned cheese into a large, mouth watering cheesy gravy topping.

Hey don't knock it till you tried it!

Posted by ho' know | April 2, 2007 2:02 PM

Everyone knows that you put canned tuna in your Kraft (tm) macaroni and cheese, not Spam (tm). Mmm. And a half-cup of frozen peas. Oh, hell yes. I'd eat that right now.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 2:04 PM

Fear not, New Englanders: we had the equivalent of a fluffernutter where I grew up in southern Idaho. We used "Marshmallow Creme", but Wikipedia claims that they're basically the same thing.

Upon moving to Wenatchee for my middle schools years, I encountered the "Zombie", a big, doughy roll with nacho cheese (and sometimes little sausages) inside. Carbohydrates galore.

If a Zombie wasn't enough for you, the school lunchroom also sold little tubs of cookie dough. Gotta love the directness of that gesture -- might as well give the kids what they want!

Posted by Bryan in the UK | April 2, 2007 2:05 PM

Marshmallow Fluff came straight outta Somerville, Massachusetts, not unlike me.

Yay! Hometown pride!

Posted by Levislade | April 2, 2007 2:06 PM

Growing up in New England, I only ever remember seeing the McDonald's Lobster Roll in Maine. Rather than a lobster-shaped mystery nugget, I believe it was, in fact, chunks of lobster in a mayo-based dressing, like a regular ol' lobster roll. If you've ever been to Maine and driven RT 1 in the summertime, you know that you can get a lobster roll at virtually any restaurant or shack along the road - so I only assume that McDonald's added a lobster roll to their menu so they wouldn't lose out on this extremely lucrative part of the Maine tourism market. I don't know how much McDonald's charged for them, but elsewhere, a lobster roll will set you back anywhere from $11-$16, or more. But when done right it's divine.

Posted by Juliette | April 2, 2007 2:07 PM

In the Highline School District they served something they called a "hootenanny". I have no idea what it was, but wouldn't be surprised if it contained both owl and goat.

Posted by Paulus | April 2, 2007 2:07 PM

In Springfield, IL we had the hamburger horseshoe..... two pieces of toast, two burgers served open-faced, french fries piled on top and everything covered in cheese sauce. It was, of course, the cheese sauce that was the key ingrediant! For those with a lighter appetite you could get a ponyshoe.... just one burger. Oh and you could get them with bacon and eggs, or shrimp, or buffalo-style. I have to have one everytime I'm back home.

Posted by devo | April 2, 2007 2:07 PM

fluffernutters sounds delicious. I'm going to the store.

My high school cafeteria sold a giant, doughy, glazed donut for $.25. By 'giant' - I mean probably 8" diameter, with barely a hole in the middle. I loved those things. I'd eat right now if I was in Gillette, WY and it was 1989.

God I miss high school.

Posted by flufferwhaters? | April 2, 2007 2:08 PM

In my high school cafeteria, they sometimes served what they called "American chop suey". Not even remotely faux-Chinese, this was really just macaroni with meaty tomato sauce. This recipe almost makes it seem palatable. Then, of course, there's chicken fingers.

BTW, Erica, if you have to call it "Philly" cheesesteak, it isn't.

Posted by N in Seattle | April 2, 2007 2:09 PM

John, merci bien pour le link mon chum.

Posted by ho' know | April 2, 2007 2:11 PM

Burgoo. Mmm, Kentucky burgoo. Burgoo is a massive stew made of mutton, game meat such as squirrel and venison, whatever other meat happened to be on hand, and piles of potatoes, carrots, beans, okra, and whatever other vegetables are around. It's made in big-enough-to-cook-a-child vats by church teams that take shifts on recipes that call for the pot to be stirred for 72 hours straight--making burgoo is a three-day, ten-man event. Think Brunswick stew, but a thousand times yummier.

Posted by Christin | April 2, 2007 2:14 PM

Sloppy joes - yeah, I think I begged my mom for those too.

But in high school I actually ran 2 miles home (in the mountains - down one side and up another side of the valley) to get home for lunch - part of my training program for marathons.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2007 2:15 PM

Not uphill both ways, Will?

Posted by N in Seattle | April 2, 2007 2:16 PM

Southridge High School (Kennewick): Mashed potatoes with turkey gravy! There were long lines for that lunch in the cafeteria on those days. There were bits and chunks of turkey in the gravy, and even though the mashed potatoes tasted mostly like water, it was still delicious.

Mmmm, I wish I had some right now.

Posted by Carollani | April 2, 2007 2:20 PM

I never had Frito pie at school.
I'm from Indiana and my Mom always made it for me in a pie pan. It was da bomb. . .loved it then and love it now! I even make it once in a while for my BF and I. He had never heard of it and doesn't get into it as much as I do.
My Grandma alwawys made me elbow macaroni with undiluted Campbell's tomato soup andthat was another must have in my weekley menu. . .unlike the Frito pie I lost the taste for that and not had it in prolly 20 years. PlusI'd add lotsof salt, like there wasn't enuf sodium in the soup!

Posted by irl500girl | April 2, 2007 2:24 PM

I love that Eastern Washington has it's own cuisine...

@32, Bryan, I grew up in Okanogan and we had Cheese Zombies with chicken soup as a regular lunch item.

We also had the chili and cinnamon roll, and the Frito pie, but we called those Pepper Bellies and they were served pretty exclusively at the annual PTA carnival.

Posted by Soupytwist | April 2, 2007 2:28 PM

If it wasnt for my school lunch and the summer lunch program, I would not have eaten. Shit, I grew up on goverment cheese, and colorful food stamps, so I have very fond memories of my school lunch. In middle school it was sloppy joes, pizza, fish sticks, ham and cheese, mac and cheese and whatever else they could invent with yellow cheese. wash it down with a chocolate milk and it was all good in da hood u peckerwoods.

Posted by SeMe | April 2, 2007 2:28 PM

Scrapple, dude. A brick of fatty pig parts and cornmeal and secret spices. Slice it and fry it crispy. Also: creamed chipped beef on toast (a.k.a. shit on a shingle). This wasn't cafeteria food, this was what we had at home when my stepfather was cooking. To this day I don't know what the hell "chipped beef" is.

Posted by Mike | April 2, 2007 2:29 PM

I grew up on Liverpool UK. I remember the food was not too bad. Roast Beef, mashed potatoes and peas. For desert it was a sponge cake with jam filling and custard poured all over it. I still make that today. Oh they also made Corn Beef Hash with a fried egg on it too. It looks disgusting but fills you up good.
When I moved to Canada it was lunch in a brown bag which I hated. White bread mayo and warm Baloney and a stupid apple. Bleh!
It is really my fault because I could have made my own lunch and made something good but, Like I was going to do that

Posted by -B- | April 2, 2007 2:32 PM

Fnarf @ 31, I feed that to my two year old daughter a couple of times a week. But the tuna I use is fancy, $2.50 a can, packed in virgin olive oil. Nothing but the best for my girl.

Posted by Matt from Denver | April 2, 2007 2:32 PM

two most memorable school hot lunch (har har) dishes for me were Scandanavian Tuna (noodles with a cream sauce and tuna fish) and Cowboy Stew (beef stew, not sure what made it 'cowboy')... both seemed deeee-lish way back then in good ol' enumclaw, but now that i'm all grown up with a mature palate and all, well, the thought of ever having eaten such trash is revolting... as is the notion of frito pie. in a word, blech.

Posted by jameyb | April 2, 2007 2:33 PM

God, what was that casserole called? Bottom layer was cheap ass gristly ground beef, with a can of cream of mushroom soup on top of that, then a layer of frozen corn, then finished off with a layer of crunchy tater tots. Served with ketchup, of course.

And I grew up eating school lunches in south King County.

Posted by meh | April 2, 2007 2:34 PM

God, what was that casserole called? Bottom layer was cheap ass gristly ground beef, with a can of cream of mushroom soup on top of that, then a layer of frozen corn, then finished off with a layer of crunchy tater tots. Served with ketchup, of course.

And I grew up eating school lunches in south King County.

Posted by meh | April 2, 2007 2:34 PM

Everyone knows that you put canned tuna in your Kraft (tm) macaroni and cheese, not Spam (tm). Mmm. And a half-cup of frozen peas.

No, you put cut-up hot dogs in your Kraft mac&cheese. Canned tuna goes in Minute Rice with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup.

Posted by stresskitten | April 2, 2007 2:36 PM

Smarty Pants in Georgetown has Frito Pie. I had it there about a month ago and their chili is too sweet. It was also barely warm. Butif you like Super Bike races that would be a good place to watch. . .just try something else from the menu if you don't like sweet cold chili.

Posted by irl500girl | April 2, 2007 2:38 PM

Smarty Pants in Georgetown has Frito Pie. I had it there about a month ago and their chili is too sweet. It was also barely warm. Butif you like Super Bike races that would be a good place to watch. . .just try something else from the menu if you don't like sweet cold chili.

Posted by irl500girl | April 2, 2007 2:38 PM

@42 - no, downhill and then uphill one way and the same on the return trip.

Which is uphill both ways - it was in Trail, BC - my high school across the valley is J.L. Crowe Sen. Sec. (not much of a hill, only a few hundred feet up from the river), my house is up about 24 flights of stairs as you cross the southmost (new) bridge.

I remember splurging on Tofu Burgers at S.F.U. in my early college years - yum!

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2007 2:46 PM

Weiner Wink!

Take a piece of white bread toast, top with a hot dog and a slice of American cheese, warm until the cheese melts. Fold into a triangle and skewer opposite corners of bread together with a toothpick.

I still make them sometimes. On whole wheat bread now, with fat-free hot dogs. But still the American cheese.

There's no butter or mayo, so it's fairly healthy, especially if you have a cup of veggie soup with it.

Posted by Chrissyliz | April 2, 2007 2:53 PM

chicken a la king.

Posted by longball | April 2, 2007 2:54 PM

Well, if people are going to actually try fluffernutters, you have to have the Jiffy/Peter Pan "peanut butter" with white bread. It just tastes wrong with the good stuff. And Fluff is from Somerville? That's so awesome. I used to go to the Somerville Theatre all the time when I lived in Boston, I loved it.

Posted by Lythea | April 2, 2007 3:05 PM

I'm pretty sure that the frito pie existed in the lunchrooms of southwest Michigan. I think it may have been known as a walking taco?

Posted by josh | April 2, 2007 3:18 PM

Oh how could I have forgotten Cincinnati chili! When we went to Cincinnati spelling competition we would get spaghetti covered with chili (which is different there then it is in texas) and hot-dogs, topped off with cheese and oyster crackers.

I remember liking it and my dad saying it was the most american thing in the world and that it'd never sell in Canada.

Posted by Andrew | April 2, 2007 3:19 PM

i remember being sickened by our high school's daily option of a slice of pepperoni pizza high utop a heap of shoestring french fries. it certainly made it easier to give up meat.

i made it through evergreen thanks to weekly consumption of the deli's vegan chili and a bag of fritos.

and if memory serves, the chicken fried steak, white gravy and mashed potatoes served in the mid 80s in omaha were fabulous.

Posted by jen | April 2, 2007 3:24 PM

Urban New Jersey school cafeteria, circa 1985...

Fried pork roll (Canadian bacon's bastard cousin) and yellow American cheese melted on a Kaiser roll.

Or, the same Kaiser roll stuffed with warm Steak-Um slices and ketchup. Yellow American cheese optional.


Posted by Miss Stereo | April 2, 2007 3:34 PM

In North Dakota, they serve flesch kiekla at schools (kind of a hamburger patty wrapped in dough and deep fried).

Posted by Ryan | April 2, 2007 3:43 PM

@34: You're right, the McDonald's Lobster Roll in Maine is not lobster shaped, but is a mayo-based "salad" like tuna or chicken. But, I'm from Maine, right off of Rt. 1, and I can name multiple places where you can get real lobster rolls for much less than $11. Not that there aren't some that cost that much, but they can also be found in entirely edible varieties for $6 or $7.

Posted by Aislinn | April 2, 2007 3:49 PM

#31 I don't put Spam in my Kraft Mac & Cheese. If not eaten by itself, Kraft should be served over pork chops.

Mac & Cheese with Spam:

1 bag of cooked large elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 can diced and prefried Spam
mixed and seasoned with garlic salt and black pepper and cooked in a 375 degree oven until the top is crunchy.

Posted by elswinger | April 2, 2007 4:01 PM

to Miss Stereo @63 -- that stuff was undoubtedly left over from my days at a similar New Jersey high school, some two decades earlier.

Still, I have to say that the thought of Taylor Pork Roll and Habbersett's Scrapple stirs my soul just a teeny little bit. And my cholesterol count as well.

Posted by N in Seattle | April 2, 2007 4:05 PM

Chile. That's right, chile with an "e," real chile, green and red, the kind I grew up with in New Mexico, and the kind that I grew up knowing so universally as chile, that when I moved here and everyone thought there were ten thousand types of chile and asked me what kind it was, I was clueless. There was no other kind.

Posted by Gitai | April 2, 2007 4:10 PM

Mike @47 you're bringing back fond, fond food memories. Add a little bit of pork roll and you've completed a fine food trifecta.

Posted by PA Native | April 2, 2007 4:23 PM

not sure if this is regional dish or not (maybe Mike in Mo can confirm?), but once at a conference in St. Louis I was served Cheeseburger Soup -- ground beef balls in a broth largely composed of melted velveeta. Utter yuck. I'd rather eat raw worms.

Posted by gnossos | April 2, 2007 4:23 PM

"Petro's" is a fast-food chain in east Tennesse that was built on the Frito pie concept.

Posted by atown | April 2, 2007 4:27 PM

Oh my god...LOVED the Frito pie! And I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah - go figure.

Posted by Jaymes | April 2, 2007 4:38 PM

Oh my god...LOVED the Frito pie! And I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah - go figure.

Posted by Jaymes | April 2, 2007 4:38 PM

I believe you are referring to the Travelin' Taco. I won this shirt in some school lunch promotion my Sophomore year in high school (1993ish). Ironically, they never served those in our school.

Cheese zombies were a fave though. As were Weiner Winks (basically pigs in a blanket. Once I got into Junior High and High School I just ate Hamburgers, Burritos, and Bagels. Oh yeah, in High School they served Jalapeno Corn Dogs called Screamin' Weenies for a short time. I believe you can get it's cousin at your local AM/PM.

Posted by gillsans | April 2, 2007 4:39 PM

@27 I never ate fluffernutters in college because I was a vegetarian. And the fluff had gelatin. These days I'd at least try it. Actually, I'm going back for my 10 year reunion so I'll have the chance this May.

Also, the memories are flooding back to me on the food front. On special occaisions my sister would eat Doritios dipped in sour cream. Guess we weren't so hippy afterall.

I loved pigs in a blanket but we never got it at home, or in school. Man, now I want to run to the store and get some mini sausages and pillsbury cresent rolls.

Posted by Papayas | April 2, 2007 4:40 PM

bothell high school: PUDDING POPS! generally, the dessert item for an entree called PRONTO PUPS, which were hotdogs baked in soft, starchy dough. dipped in yellow mustard, natch.

the fucking best day to buy school lunch.

Posted by kerri harrop | April 2, 2007 4:41 PM

What about "toasty dogs"? They wrapped a hot dog in white bread with a slice of American cheese and baked it till it was burnt. Then you dipped it in ketchup (the official vegetable) and ate it.

Posted by two cents from Minnesota | April 2, 2007 4:41 PM

In the Midwest, we knew the Frito Pie in a bag as "Taco in a Bag". But, we only had it once a year when the carnival came to town...

Posted by Julie | April 2, 2007 5:08 PM

Of my school food in Rhode Island, I most remember rectangular slices of stone-cold cheese pizza.

Other than that, it was all about the baked potato bar on Thursdays--big, steaming hot Russets with your choice of toppings, including chili, onions, cheese, steamed broccoli, sour cream and butter. You could load it up as much as you wanted to and it was the most popular lunch by far. I'd eat that again in a second.

Posted by Heidi | April 2, 2007 5:16 PM

@11 & 65 I only had a McDonald's lobster roll once (in NH, I think)... I was curious, and, ah, it didn't turn out very well. I spent the rest of the night curled up next to the toilet in an entirely predictable bout of food poisoning.

Posted by Julie | April 2, 2007 5:17 PM

Ugh, hidden burger. (This was in Seattle Public Schools.) Someone mentioned it above -- it was a roll with some scary meat mixture inside. Basically inedible.

Posted by litlnemo | April 2, 2007 5:18 PM

Camping=canned corned beef hash

I never knew that the tiny white squares were potatoes. When I was little I loved the smell of canned dog food. I loved corned beef hash because it smelled like canned dog food. It was the best part about camping.

Posted by Papayas | April 2, 2007 5:32 PM

Erica! I love you!

Gawd, I miss Frito Pie... and Chicken Fried Steak. And it's rough getting a good enchilada up here... never enough cheese. Any time we're in Houston, it's straight from IAH to my favorite texmex restaurant for killer shrimp enchiladas. And none of these tiny baby shrimps... Big fuckin' gulf shrimp!!! mmmmmmmmmm...

And everyone up here thinks I'm nuts for eating mac n cheese with cut-up hotdogs and peas. (TUNA, fnarf?!?!? Word up, stresskitten...)

Posted by L | April 2, 2007 5:45 PM

My favorite is canned brown bread. I still buy it now and then. Strange idea but good

Posted by lw | April 2, 2007 5:47 PM

Frito Pie is Peggy Hill's specialty on "King of the Hill." She makes it weekly. The joke, I believe, when calling it a specialty is to imply actual cooking - and, of course, Frito Pie doesn't really require much talent in the kitchen. Erica's friends obviously don't watch the show.

Turkey Tetrazini is one of those 60s and 70s era fad foods like Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee and fondue. Stouffer's does make a frozen entree of turkey tet, but you don't see it in this part of the country. It was a way of making leftover turkey palatable.

Needless to say, neither dish is very good for you. Not a problem if you don't mind a huge calorie count, a very high fat percentage, and a bad carb bonanza.

I won't even go into poutine (and yet you see so many thin French Canadians).

Posted by Bauhaus | April 2, 2007 5:48 PM

In Boy Scouts on the first night of summer camp we'd always have mini pizzas made from a flattened Pillsbury biscuit topped with canned pizza sauce, some ground up white cheese and a single piece of pepperoni. There were only about twenty guys in the troop, but we'd eat a couple hundred of these at a sitting.

Posted by Smarty | April 2, 2007 5:52 PM

Everyone should try fluffernutter....I had no idea it was a New England thing.

They do have lobster rolls at McDonald's, but only at certain times of the's a mayo-y mix of lobster bits. My mom likes it.

One other thing I can't seem to find anywhere else in the country is a milkshake, but with ice cream. In Massachusetts, a milkshake is a milky mess, but a frappe is thick.

And McDonald's in Hawaii serves hotdogs and spam.

Can't remember what was served in school, as I always brought a lunch...even then, I thought the stuff was gross (mystery meat comes to mind).

Posted by Dianna | April 2, 2007 6:02 PM

@87 I'm so confused. I thought that frappe was a Starbucks thing. Aren't frappes everywhere? Or like frappe is the generic term for Starbucks' drink, something like that.

Posted by Papayas | April 2, 2007 6:15 PM

I have fond memories of the cheese zombie. All that processed starch, nasty cheese, and it wouldn't be complete without the little puddles of grease all over the top. An elementary school favorite...

We also had (in Vancouver, WA, late 1980s) chili boats, basically a rectangular corn chip 'boat' full of chile topped with cheddar cheese. Kind of a rip off of the frito pie, I suppose. And, like in Eastern WA, it was served with a cinnamon roll. It was a favorite and often made appearances on 'bring your parent to school lunch day.' (probably because it was pretty tasty and that way parents wouldn't know what was really served most of the time...)

Posted by megan | April 2, 2007 7:03 PM

Did anyone else have the wide variety of fried tater products? Of the top of my head, I recall tater tots, tater triangles, tater rectangles, and tater coins, not to mention the usual french fries. Was this some kind of creative geometry lesson, or were "Taters" part of the Food Pyramid in the late 80s? (This was in Kansas, not exactly the potato capital. And I can't remember a single wheat-based lunch item, either.)

Posted by meggo | April 2, 2007 7:51 PM

waffles (eggo), toasted. put a slice or two of american cheese on top, place in microwave for 10 seconds, then put honey on them.
with coffee or some milk... damn delicious

Posted by sofia | April 2, 2007 8:06 PM

My parents grew up in Hawaii, I grew up on the Mainland, but you could never take the Hawaii out of my parents. This meant that I ate many interesting things and ate awful things that were put into very tasty dishes. Dad loved to make pork-n-beans and mayonnaise sandwiches. Continuing with the pork thing, spam was in many things. Chinese noodle dishes with spam, fried spam sandwiches, fried spam as a side with ketchup and spam in your saimen noodle soup. Poke (Hawaiian style raw fish). Sushi. Oh, and rice for dinner with every meal, even on spaghetti night, rice was prepared as a side. That one never made sense. I also had all around, typical American food. I did grody fusion snacks. American cheese and saimen. PBJ with saimen and Doritos. I ate that shit up. Would not dare waste the time to do that one again. At school, turkey ala king, submarine sandwiches, gross burgers. The food was terrible, but we did have a great lunchroom jukebox in middle school

Posted by Deacon Seattle | April 2, 2007 9:40 PM

My high school tended to recycle leftovers in soup form. Sometimes this was normal ( i.e., chicken and pasta went into chicken noodle soup), sometimes it was a little weird but ok (taco soup; somewhere between chili and spicy tomato soup), and sometimes it was just fucking weird. To wit, BLT soup. Yes, that is correct: chunks of tomato, lettuce, and bacon floating in a slightly milky broth. Ew.

A lot of kids in my elementary school would bring in these little tuna fish salad kits. You got a can of tuna, packets of mayo and relish, some crackers, and a stick to mix it all up with. The squelchy sounds it would make when you mixed it all up were so vile that it took me years to be able to eat tuna salad.

On the other hand, I grew up in St. Louis, where we got toasted ravioli all the time, which is something that needs to spread to the rest of the country. Occasionally you find it outside the area, but for some reason it's always with cheese ravioli, which is just gross.

Posted by Megan | April 2, 2007 9:51 PM

I grew up in Chicago and we got pretty standard Chicago Public Schools fare.

But! I went to college in Minnesota where the offerings included various types of hotdish, a type of MN casserole. After tatertot hotdish and cheeseburger pie hotdish, I started eating off campus.

Posted by brie | April 2, 2007 10:33 PM

pork roll, ah yes, a jersey delite..and from the diner, after the dance, pork roll and a fried a kaiser roll. still sounds good. then there were the tastecake cupcakes I lived on in 7th grade. I tried them again last year.. some things are best remembered.

Posted by acuteally | April 2, 2007 10:42 PM

My neighbor in the Evergreen dorms indoctrinated me into the Frito Pie mystique at about 3am one morning. He'd been briefly homeless in DC, so he showed me the trick to getting cheap Frito pie: You both go into a 7-11, one distracts the clerk up front while the other grabs a bag of fritos, then stealthily fills it up with chili from the hot dog bar, topped with cheese from said bar. 4 out of 5 times, the clerk would just charge you for the fritos, thus ensuring you could spend your money on more important things, like cigarettes and beer. Thanks, Lacey 7-11!

My roommates at TESC taught me the mac-and-cheese w/ tuna trick, but we mixed in a can of cream of mushroom, and if we were feeling fancy, slivered almonds. Though now I'm totally going to go buy some tuna and make it with peas because of you all tomorrow.

Does anyone remember the gigantic rectangular slices of pizza you'd get in high school? It was one of two food items served every day at my high school (go Tahoma!) (the other being the ubiquitous tater tots). My friends and I would buy the pizza with unidentifiable tiny cubes of meat on top, and then grab a half-dozen paper napkins to sop up the grease on it and/or pick off all the cubes. After a couple years of that, I switched to a root beer and pack of Lil' Debbie swiss rolls for lunch for the remainder of high school. I still love the Lil' Debbie rolls, but lost the knack I once had of peeling off the entire outer shell of "chocolate" in one piece.

Posted by Jessica | April 2, 2007 11:25 PM

I'm from Spokane and wow, reading the post about chili and maple bars brought back some memories. That was a weird combo, but everyone loved it. Also popular: the "Weiner Wink." Don't ask.

Posted by Jennifer | April 3, 2007 2:01 AM

Papayas: in New England, and nowhere else, the thing that you and I call a "milkshake" is called a "frappe". What they call a "milkshake" is quite literal: it's milk, shook up. Flavoring and foam, but no ice cream and no thickness and no thank you.

What Starbucks sells is a "frappaccino" which is a coffee-flavored milkshake (or frappe, if you're in New England). Frappaccino doesn't have to obey laws of region or logic, because it's just marketing.

Posted by Fnarf | April 3, 2007 10:13 AM

Try growing up in Kasilof Alaska with parents from Texas. My mom made all those things you mention, but with moose and caribou meat. Yes friends, frito pie with moose meat. Tacos with caribou meat, Chicken Fried Steak with moose or caribou steaks.

Posted by Matthew | April 3, 2007 10:24 AM

Fnarf (98): What you're thinking of is an eggcream - which is actually not a New England thing but a New York thing. Before my family moved to New England, we lived on Roosevelt Island in NYC (the place you take the red tram to from 59th St.) Once we moved out of the city it was impossible to find an egg cream, which was a huge disappointment, because both my mom and I were hooked on them. It's vanilla or chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer. No eggs or cream. Go figure.

Posted by Juliette | April 3, 2007 10:57 AM

Not junior high, but elementary school in central Mo: fresh yeast rolls (still warm!) with honey butter.

On Wednesdays the whole school smelled like baking bread; I couldn't wait to get to the cafeteria!

Posted by elm | April 3, 2007 11:27 AM

Fluffernutters could go one notch higher if your mom got you the peanut butter that came pre-mixed (in stripes) with jelly.

Frappes seemed only right with Brigham's ice cream. Friendly's and the Fribble came on the scene later on.

Jesus, Longball: Chicken a la King. That was a dusty memory cell in my brain.

The meat you used for Cream Chipped Beef came in a glass jar, in thin, circle-shaped slices, and was the saltiest stuff you ever tasted. The bechemel and toast would spread out the saltiness.

Lobster rolls were great. The softest, wondery-breadest type hotdog roll was as an important an ingredient as anything else. Don't forget Lobster Pie (basically crumbled Ritz with milk and butter, then baked), and Lobster Pops (a lobster-shaped lollipop whose flavor is hard to nail down to any specific fruit).

Steamers - New England. Soft-shell clams (no, not Cherrystones, though they're delish raw on the half-shell) with just the straight-up broth to rinse out any sand/mud. From there you dip them in butter. I could eat ten pounds of 'em right now.

We also always seemed to be eating liver and bacon with onions and Pizza Loaf (meatloaf with tomato paste and cheeze baked on top towards the end).

And....Veg-all, anyone?

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 3, 2007 12:40 PM

my mom always used to make "shit on a shingle", with chipped beef and cream of mushroom soup over two pieces of toast. sometimes this would be substituted with tuna, instead of chipped beef. it was delicious! my first roommate in college used to make it all the time too.

and we also had the chili days in elementary school with a cinnamon roll on the side. My favorite will always be the square pizza slices for some reason. i'd eat a whole plate of that in a heartbeat right now!

Posted by shelby | April 3, 2007 1:14 PM

Spokane in the house! Thanks for the memories, guys.

Chili/maple bar and turkey gravy with ice cream scoop of taters were total faves in grade school.

I still dream about the best tater tots (called "Gems" at University HS)in the universe. They came in a huge tub for a $1 and my best friend and I would have one with a diet coke for lunch.

Best. Lunch. Ever

Posted by Gidget | April 3, 2007 1:17 PM

At St. Benedict School in Wallingford, the best dish was the open faced turkey sandwhiches. The turkey was so tastey. I loved how it had a brownish-gray tint. I also loved the canned peaches, green jello mold and the fancy popcorn balls that Janelle, a classmate, used to make every time we had a class party. For 8 years we gnawed on those damn popcorn balls. I think in 5th grad eshe got the crazy idea to color them green.

Posted by gameboy | April 3, 2007 5:10 PM

My junior high school would serve this horrible greasy pizza on Fridays. I loved that shit even though it made Little Caesar's (are they still in business) look like the best Italian pizza you could buy. When I was in the Army I got to eat lots of C-rats and MREs, and I got to eat fried rabbit and black eyed peas when I was at basic training at Fort Knox.

When I was in Germany I developed a taste for Kolaweizens, Coca Cola syrup mixed with Hefeweizen beer. There was this place in Regensburg called Miljoo down on Thundorferstrasse that made the best Kolaweizens in town, man those were good.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | April 3, 2007 10:29 PM

At my high school we had had "Hamdingers" once a week. It was just a plain old ham sandwich with American cheese, but dressed up with a classy name.

Posted by Eliza | April 3, 2007 11:24 PM

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