The Luncheon Box

The luncheon box most commonly used is of pasteboard or tin. Both these materials have advantages and disadvantages. Bread and cake are prevented from drying out when placed in a tightly covered tin box. On the other hand, food odors are retained and one pronounced odor may permeate all of the foods. But since dry bread is unpalatable, the tin box is considered more satisfactory. It should be kept clean and free from odors, should be emptied of its contents every day, washed (scalded often), and allowed to remain open all night. The collapsible box is the most convenient.

For most lunches, a teaspoon, jelly glass, and in some cases a drinking cup are all the "dishes" needed. The jelly glass may serve for many purposes. Cup custard may be steamed or baked in it, or it makes an admirable mold for an individual steam pudding. Small fruits and fruit sauces may also be carried in jelly glasses.

Menu Making for the Luncheon Box
A luncheon box may be made a source of pleasure to the school child or everyday worker. To bring this about, the foods must be varied on successive days. It is not necessary that each luncheon consist of various foods. Indeed, many kinds of food or foods in great quantity are not desirable for a child who sits quietly at study much of the day or for a person of sedentary occupation. It is both possible and necessary, however, if the luncheon box is not to become monotonous, to have different foods for each day of the week. As in any meal, all of the foodstuffs should be represented in the food of a luncheon box.

Foods For The Luncheon Box
Bread is the basis of almost all box luncheons. Since sandwiches furnish the most convenient way of carrying foods that are to be eaten with bread, they invariably form a part of every luncheon. Because they are used so frequently they should be varied. Different kinds of bread, such as graham, Boston brown, and nut bread, may be used. Variety may be had by serving bread sometimes in the form of muffins or rolls. The slices of bread may be cut thin or thick to suit the appetite of the eater. It is often desirable to leave the crusts on the bread. Butter should be creamed before spreading it on the bread. If the sandwiches are to be cut extremely thin, spread the bread before cutting it into slices. If sandwiches are prepared some time before they are served, they can be kept moist by wrapping in a dry towel, covered with a towel wrung out of hot water.

The fillings for sandwiches offer many variations. They may be divided into two classes, seasoned and sweet. Seasoned fillings may include meat, eggs, cheese, vegetables. If meat is used, it may be cut in slices, or chopped and mixed with a sauce. If sliced meat is used, it is well to tear it into pieces. (This applies also to lettuce.) If it is desired to lessen the quantity of meat in a diet, the meat should be chopped, for it has been found that only half as much meat is required when it is chopped and mixed with a dressing. Either Salad Dressing or White Sauce may be combined with meat. A French Dressing made of vegetable oil, lemon juice, and seasonings is better, so far as ease of digestion is concerned, than Cream or "Boiled" Salad Dressing. If oil is not palatable, learn to like it. Any of the seasoned fillings may be mixed with Salad Dressing. Sliced tomatoes spread with Mayonnaise or Cream Salad Dressing, chopped peanuts mixed with salad dressing, sardines or cold chicken with lemon juice and paprika make tasty sandwich fillings.

Sweet fillings for sandwiches include: preserved or dried fruits, bananas, nuts. Sandwiches made with a sweet filling are most popular among children. Some of them make good substitutes for cake, and are much more easily digested. The dried fruits such as dates, figs, and prunes, cooked and combined with bread and butter, make excellent foods. The growing child is apt to become anemic. Since prunes contain iron, they should be frequently used in children's diet. Cooked prunes, seeded and flavored with lemon juice--make palatable sandwiches, especially when brown bread is used or a few chopped nuts are added. Breads containing sugar or molasses are most pleasing when used with a sweet filling. Banana sandwiches are much improved by the addition of lemon juice or Salad Dressing. Nuts are often combined with both sweet and seasoned materials; their use gives opportunity for variety. Chopped raisins and nuts may be moistened with grape juice and used as sandwich filling. Chopped dates, apples, and nuts mixed with salad dressing make a pleasing filling. Crushed maple or brown sugar mixed with cream or butter and used with whole wheat bread is a favorite sandwich among children.

Celery, olives, and radishes serve as relishes for the luncheon box. Celery and olives (especially those stuffed with pimentos or nuts) are pleasing as a sandwich filling. Most relishes, however, are more suitable for the luncheon box of a mature person than for that of a child.

Cake is a common constituent of the luncheon box. Not all cakes, however, are suitable for luncheons. For children, only the plainer cakes, i.e. those containing little fat, should be used. Plain cake and cookies, sponge cake, lady fingers, and gingerbread (if not too highly spiced) are also desirable for the school luncheon. Cookies or cakes baked in muffin pans are more suitable for packing than cut pieces of cake.

Most fresh fruits can be easily packed in the luncheon box. As has been mentioned, grapes, the small fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, sliced pineapple, or fruit sauces may be carried in jelly glasses.

Cup custards and simple puddings may be used as desserts. If a child is permitted to have sweets, a little candy may be placed in the luncheon box; it is better for a child to have candy at the end of a luncheon than after school.

Packing the Luncheon
Neatness is an essential in an inviting luncheon box. All foods should be wrapped separately in paraffin paper, and placed neatly in the box. Since some foods crush readily, it is not always possible to place the foods to be eaten first on top, but it is desirable to arrange the foods so that not all of them will have to be removed before beginning to eat the luncheon. The paper napkin should always be placed on top. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that foods should not come in direct contact with newspapers or any printed matter.

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  Cooking Notes 2006