Tell Us About Your Experience Packing "Cultural" School Lunches As A Kid
If you went to school in the US, you probably know the typical school lunch: An iconic white-bread sandwich with deli meats, some classic nugs or mozz sticks, a slice of pizza, an Uncrustables, and even the ol' Lunchables — all, of course, accompanied by some snack (maybe Doritos, Goldfish, Chips Ahoy!, Gushers, or DunkAroos) and a drink (like a Capri Sun or Yoo-hoo).
However, for those of us with immigrant parents, school lunches could include a range of our cultural cuisines, much to the "curiosity" of our classmates at times.
So I want to know: If you packed a cross-cultural lunch that may have been very different from other lunches at school, what happened? How did others react?
What is your cultural background? How old were you, and how did it impact you and your identity? Did you tell your family? Lastly, what do you think of that same food — and eating it with friends or colleagues — now?
In elementary school, I had those circular, stackable bento-like lunchboxes — courtesy of my Korean mom — which, in and of themselves, attracted attention. By high school, I bought lunch for the most part. But on the occasion that I brought in Korean food, I generally attempted to brush off any comments. Objectively, Korean food, like kimchi, smells differently than a slice of pizza or ham sandwich, so I'd simply acknowledge that it had a smell, and fortunately, that generally ended things. (However, I would like to add that kimbap doesn't really smell much.)
That being said, I also know people who were bullied for their lunches, to the point that they began to reject their own culture — from urging their parents to pack them a sandwich or something "regular" or giving them lunch money to flat-out throwing out their lunch to avoid eating at school.
I also know people who attended schools where multicultural lunches were the norm. They might, say, trade their Filipino hopia cakes for someone else's Pelon pelo ricos — and lunch was an opportunity to discover new favorites.
Now, as we begin more conversations around these topics, more of us have begun to reflect on how these experiences impacted us and even what we pack our own children for lunch.
Whatever your story, I want to know about it. Share in the comments below!