In elementary school, mine was not the party-pack lunch—the lunch you see in TV commercials that explodes with all sorts of crazy lunch fun. Kids in those commercials fall all over themselves in great pitches of joy over the party-in-a-lunch-box mom packed. Those little logs of cheese, that cup of O-shaped spaghetti, the bologna on white bread wonderfulness—so much lunching good times that, once unpacked, unleash storms and storms of fun. Just not for me.
My lunch came in a brown paper bag, that universal sign of nutritional utility. Usually, it was tuna on whole wheat, which my mother would wrap in wax paper. By the time lunch came around, the wax paper was a soggy film and had to be carefully peeled off the tuna. At school, I was the only one not eating something that came out of plastic. And oh, how unfair it was.
But worse than not being able to pull out my own Oscar Meyer nitrite bomb from a Glad baggie was the daily disappointment of dessert. When you’re 7, how can an apple compete with the sugarland arsenal of Hostess? Twinkies, cupcakes, ho hos—in the 1970s, those were the dessert dreams of children.
Every now and then there would be one kid who thought that yes, he would like to trade his chocolate-glazed fantasy for a Washington state Jonagold. After the exchange, I would hold my little plastic packet of illicit joy, my personal ticket to the American lunch party, and feel giddy with the fun I was about to have.
The cake never fully lived up to my expectation of it. But that didn’t diminish desire. Because, even though reality was a little too soggy, a bit too pasty, I was thoroughly happy just to be part of the whole Hostess promise of it all.