Friday, February 24, 2012

More on Lunchboxes.

The problem of how to carry your lunch to work or school just keeps on getting easier and better, doesn’t it? There is a more efficient, more adaptable, more environmentally friendly, more colourful set of choices than there has ever been in the past. ‘Greenies’ can have stainless steel boxes instead of plastic, or washable sandwich bags; Mums in hot climates can pack a freezer brick or frozen drink in with the kids sandwiches for a more pleasant, cooling, and safe lunchtime experience – and box itself can be decorated with the superhero or cartoon character de jour (which makes the marketing people happy too). Your lunch container may have a matching drink bottle, or neat little bits of cutlery which fit into the lid, or a tiny container for salad dressing, or separate compartments for various items – which is handy for keeping the beetroot from staining your hard-boiled egg, or the egg yolk sticking to your chocolate biscuits.

It seems that ever since man (or his wife) first wrapped his hunk of roasted mammoth in a big leaf before sending him off to hunt the next beast, we have been on the search for the perfect solution to the portable meal problem. We have featured several different sorts of lunch containers in the past; a home-made one, one for automobile trips, and the sort used for the first airline meals. Literature gives us many clues as to how the problem has been solved in the past. I give you two mentions from the nineteenth century.

At eleven o'clock, Abasis rode up with his tin lunch-box, to supply each of us
with bread, cold fowl, or a hard egg, and a precious orange. ...
Eastern Life, Harriet Martineau, 1848

Elliott had a lunch-box on his back, and Dot her reticule strapped on hers, while Hal was obliged to be content with an atlas to do duty as a knapsack.
Harper's Mag. Feb. 1862

The mid-nineteenth century seems to have been the boom-time for lunchbox inventors, and in America a number of patents were issued in the 1860’s for a variety improvements in meal containers, and the ‘all-in-one’ utensils idea was clearly already popular by this time.  

Patent No. 34,243 for an ‘Improved Lunch Box’ was granted on January 28, 1862 to Ransom Cook, of Saratoga Springs, NY. His application summarised his idea: “This invention consists of an arrangement of dishes, cups, &c., arranged within a case for the use of travellers, laborers from home, and others.”

It is no use having an efficient AND beautiful lunchbox without having something nice to put in it however, is there? I give you an idea from the New York Times, of October 23, 1944 from a selection of ‘Recipes for Home-Made Breads that Lend Interest to Any Type of Meal.’ It seems like a nice take on a staple – and could easily be adapted to be gluten-free too, by simply substituting a GF version for the small amount of flour.

Fluffy Corn Bread Loaf.
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder.
Mix together well corn meal, flour, salt, and sugar. Add shortening and boiling water, stirring until shortening is melted and the mixture is blended. Separate the eggs. Stir in the yolks that have been beaten well. Beat the whites until stiff and add the baking powder to them. Fold into corn meal mixture. Pour into well-greased loaf pan. Bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) twenty to twenty-five minutes. Makes one small loaf.

Quotation for the Day.

If God had intended a round of golf to take more than three hours, He would not have invented Sunday lunch.
Jimmy Hill.


em said...

Gene Stratton Porter has one of my favorite lunch box descriptions in her book ”A Girl Of The Limberlost”, chapter V.
And there is more about Elnora’s lunches in the book.

"Good morning," he cried heartily. "Elnora, you look a picture! My, but you're sweet! If any of the city boys get sassy you tell your Uncle Wesley, and he'll horsewhip them. Here's your Christmas present from me." He handed Elnora the leather lunch box, with her name carved across the strap in artistic lettering.
"Oh Uncle Wesley!" was all Elnora could say.
"Your Aunt Maggie filled it for me for a starter," he said. "Now, if you are ready, I'm going to drive past your way and you can ride almost to Onabasha with me, and save the new shoes that much."
Elnora was staring at the box. "Oh I hope it isn't impolite to open it before you," she said. "I just feel as if I must see inside."
"Don't you stand on formality with the neighbours," laughed Sinton. "Look in your box if you want to!"
Elnora slipped the strap and turned back the lid.
This disclosed the knife, fork, napkin, and spoon, the milk flask, and the interior packed with dainty sandwiches wrapped in tissue paper, and the little compartments for meat, salad, and the custard cup.
"Oh mother!" cried Elnora. "Oh mother, isn't it fine? What made you think of it, Uncle Wesley? How will I ever thank you? No one will have a finer lunch box than I. Oh I do thank you! That's the nicest gift I ever had. How I love Christmas in September!"

The Old Foodie said...

thanks em, sorry for the disgracefully late response. It is a lovely description, thanks so much for telling the story.