School Lunches – words and pictures

When I was little I went to a nice school in a leafy suburb in Adelaide. It was the 1970s so we wore roman sandals and my uniform was pink with a zip down the front. What a crazy uniform. I think they have changed it to something far more conservative now. Roman sandals? The toe-jam was insane in Summer. And that zip? Gawd. There was always the risk that some boy would grab the round ring at the top of the zipper and whip it down, right there in the playground. Honestly, whoever designed that uniform was not thinking. 

I had a 1970s Mum – she wore very nice a-line skirts with big floral prints and cute t-shirts and roman sandals. She did 1970s things like, she worked at the university for a while, and she did batik and she had dinner parties. She was pretty cool. She also helped out at our school from time to time  – she came and ran a batik session for the grade ones (all that hot wax and small children – wow – the 70s were out of hand!), and she helped with “Healthy Lunches” scheme.

Healthy Lunches were the bain of my existence. Healthy Lunches were the 1970s conchy Mum’s answer to tuck shop lunch orders. I know whole families of kids who got tuck shop orders with glee at least once a week and I would look on with enormous amounts of envy at their sausage rolls and cartons of milk. But a gaggle of 70s Mum’s came up with the funky alternative – Healthy Lunches. Hey kids! It’s fun because you can buy it at school! You could bring along a dollar (or maybe it was only 50 cents) and you could get a brown wholemeal role with thick butter and vegemite, a chunk of cheese and a plastic mug of Nippy’s orange juice. Nippy’s 1970s orange juice was really just pulp with a little bit of juice in the bottom. You know, I can still remember the taste of that plastic mug full of that foul pulpy, sugar free juice. Put me off pulp for life.

But now I am a mum and I appreciate what my Mum was trying to do. I appreciate her conchy 70s ways and I am proud to be following in her footsteps. Get those sweets OUT of the school canteen! Haven’t they seen anything Jamie Oliver has had on TV in the last five years? Geesh. That being said, I’m getting a bit … relaxed… about some things.

When I was a very new mum, food was my big thing. All organic, all home made, no McDonalds, not ever, no frozen food in a box from the supermarket, no sugar and so on. I bought enormous amounts of cookbooks chocablock full of nutritional meals especially designed for the wee kiddies. We ate well all the time. In the last couple of years I have become a lot more slack about it. We still eat well, and I still enjoy making yummy nutritious stuff, but there are days at a time when we might not make a salad, and there are times when we dash out for fish and chips, or whack a handful of potato smiles in the oven to go with the chops. I figure we are still going to be ok, because that’s all still an exception to the rule. I look back on my earlier (slightly uptight – or massively uptight if you ask some of my friends) ways and realise that food was the only thing I felt I could control. I didn’t have a clue if I was doing anything else right in the parenting department, and spent a lot of the time being completely freaked out about it; but at least the freshly stewed and pureed organic apple baby food that I was putting into my baby’s mouth was exactly the right thing to be doing. I was defining myself as a good mother by the food I made.

These days I’m a slightly shabby mum, with maybe a slightly better sense of humour and a box of frozen “fairy shapes” in the freezer.

The hugely healthy roll in the photo is one that I have in the cupboard for Amelia’s lunchbox tomorrow. Old habits die hard.


Thanks to Pip for hosting Words and Pictures! Why not join in too? We’ll make Anne Lamott proud!

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39 Responses

  1. Kirsty says:

    I love your conchy mum & I’ve never met her. I had that same conchy 70s mum. She made us eat “Bornhoffen” bread!I wonder if you froze your beautiful conchy mum baby food in ice cube trays like me?

    This is my favourite Loobylu post to date.

  2. stephanie says:

    I was so much like that with my son’s food when he was a baby. I never really considered the reason behind it…except that I wanted him to be as healthy as he could be. Now I see that it was probably because I couldn’t make him do anything else. (like sleep)Loved this post. Bet your mom will love it, too.

  3. sophie says:

    I had the same kind of mum! we actually had trail mix in our lunch box! we only ever had promite multi grain sandwiches. Oh the good ol’ days!

  4. Prue says:

    Ah, I grew up in Sydney in the 1970s and we had a pink school uniform too – I can’t believe there was another school where the kids were as unfortunate as us! Put me off pink for life. Thankfully we didn’t have the roman sandals and the zip, but we had 6 maroon buttons in two rows down the front, for no reason other than decoration. Ugly ugly.My son doesn’t realise what the canteen is for yet. I’m going to keep it that way for as long as possible!

  5. chris says:

    you think you had it bad! we had to wear bloomers under our sports tunics – needless to say most of us always had an excuse not to do P.E cos we wouldn’t be caught dead in them!

  6. Oh. I cried. That was beautiful Claire. I can see that there is a very long line of lovely Mums in your family. With/without toe jam. I loved reading that. Ace. Ace. Ace. I bet Anne would love it too. BTW, hasn’t she got funny hair?!

  7. Mama Thrift says:

    Oh god. She’s at school already? I started reading when she was a tiny tot, before Lily was born. Time flies eh?

  8. Ali says:

    You are so so right about the control thing. I do it with the books they read too. I’ve just realized that they are going to lampoon me mercilessly when they grow up.

  9. Megan says:

    My mom used to send me to school (also in the 70s) with a thermos full of Chef Boyardee beefaroni. Mmm…that’s good eatin! I really wanted a jam (not toe) and cheese sandwich.

  10. fillyjonk says:

    I’m not sure (being American) exactly what “conchy” means, but a lot of that sounds a bit like my own mom in the 1970s.The difference being, I really loved the wholegrain breads and would actually not eat grocery store bread, which often caused consternation when I ate at friends’ houses, or if my mom got busy with one of her many projects and had to buy bread.

  11. Muddlepud says:

    You painted such a lovely picture. I could just see it all. And the roll, healthy as it may be, looks delish.

  12. ani says:

    ha ha! we didn’t wear the uniforms, but i was on the other side of the world in the ’70s, doing batik in my grade school too.i’m now the a-line skirt wearing mama, trying to be healthy and sometimes failing (tonight, chips are on the menu). it’s so nice to hear and share these stories; makes the world seem so small.

  13. Claire says:

    Fillyjonk – conchy is just a shortened version of conscientious. 🙂 sorry!

  14. LeeAnn says:

    I’m a grandma now. A couple of times over actually and this post has me howling. I could have written it. Thanks for this memory and thanks because I think we mothers are really very much alike, even when we’re separated by oceans and continents and generations. I proudly bring my grandchildren treats that I’d have forbid my own children. I guess grandmothers are a lot alike too because I remember those arguements with my mother when she told me I was way too uptight 🙂

  15. Louisa says:

    I loved this post(and love your blog).I grew up in Adelaide in the 1970’s too.My uniform was a Blue one (with the ring pull zip) but we also had the Roman Sandles.Also maybe you can help me .Do you remember Tricky Dicky Icecreams?I definitely remember them as an Adelaide phenomenon.My sisters think I am imagining them.

  16. Becky says:

    Everything in moderation, including moderation!

  17. Anna says:

    Oh boy, those Nippy’s orange juices were something else. I just crossed them off my lunch order and got a strawberry milk instead (in my 6 year old handwriting, which I’m sure was a convincing forgery of my dad’s).I went to a nice school in a leafy suburb in Adelaide as well. Our uniform was yellow. It went completely see-through when wet, and you can be sure it didn’t take the boys long to figure that out. Combined with the zip at the front, it was basically an orgy. All the time.

  18. Abby says:

    I am so glad there’s another mom who has relaxed her food standards as the kids have grown past toddler-age. My sister laughed at me the other day as my daughter scarfed an adult-sized ice cream cone and said, “Wow, I remember the days when you wouldn’t allow a non-organic, sugar laced thing to come near her! My, how the tables have turned!” But now I feel so much better. 😉 And I totally want to revive your Mum’s 70s look.

  19. lexi says:

    Nippy’s! So funny. I love this post. So cute.

  20. cloudbusting says:

    love this post! Its so true about swearing to never let McDonalds near your children and then one day realising they just scoffed a happy meal in record time. Your Mum sounds cool!! she was ahead of her time me thinks.

  21. Stomper Girl says:

    I wanted to be the slightly uptight organic Mum too, but I gave birth to fussy eaters. I’m sure if I’d looked I could have found organic tomato ketchup and wholegrain organic 2-minute noodles but the fusspots had broken me by then. But I’m still a conchy Mum with wholegrain bread and no soft drinks.I’d forgotten all about roman sandals til I read this!

  22. fiona says:

    Claire,this was amusing, relatable, interesting and honest. I truly enjoyed reading… in a different way to your blogging. Great job – your writing aspirations are paying off – even if you may not be feeling it – we are!thank you!fiona

  23. Sara says:

    oh what a lovely post. and lovely blog! you’re an inspiration, keep up the good work.p.s, how is that recession era fringe working for you? i always do that, cut it and then regret it once it’s too late. a never ending cycle…

  24. Vanessa says:

    And here I thought “conchy” was something like “crunchy,” as in “crunchy granola hippies.” Thanks for the clarification!The schools I went to were quite conchy, and we batiked things and learned yoga and spent most of our history classes learning about people who dedicated their lives to peace and justice. But my house was always the “junk food and violent video game” house where the other kids with conchy moms would go to undermine their parents’ efforts. Just getting my mom to buy lactose-free skim milk for me when I visit instead of whole regular milk is a struggle all of its own.

  25. Lisa says:

    This was a lovely post and beautifully written. I cried as it made me miss my mom. It made me remember how she would send sandwichs on homemade bread that I wouldn’t eat because I wanted Wonder white bread. Yuck! I won’t buy it for my kids. lol

  26. Donyale says:

    Funny. We did the JC sandals thing too (note name difference due to different state) and we had blue dresses with White Peter Pan Collars and 2 red buttons. Just because.We hankered for Glugs, Razz’s and Sausage Rolls in a Roll. And Finger Buns.

    Ahhhhh, tongue lolling, brain drooling.

  27. sunardi says:

    Oh, it blasted me to the 1970s. How cute.

  28. librarygirl says:

    Claire you must read Sonya Hartnett’s new book “Butterfly” – set in the late 70s early 80s, 13 year old girls, sleepovers, zippy uniforms, stoned older brother living in the bungalow, crockpots etc etc. I am just loving it and feel you would too.

    • Claire says:

      I have been wondering about “Butterfly” – I heard Sonya Hartnett interviewed on the radio and thought it sounded interesting. Now with your recommendation I am going to go and put my name down to reserve it at the library! Thanks!

  29. Alisa says:

    How funny, my seventies Mum has produced the same results in me. I think it’s far easier to choose to eat healthily when you know what your missing. And what’s life without a gratuitous cupcake with pink icing and sprinkles?

  30. Christie says:

    i was a bit on a food control freak with babe #1, but i must say the standards have slipped BIG time since then, although i do try to put my best foot forward when it comes to packing my son’s school lunch…i can’t believe your uniform was pink-yikes!

    your mum sounds cool 🙂

  31. mrs p says:

    I remember my big skirted, rolly smokin, 70’s Mum making my brother and I rock cakes that were so hard they were actually inedible. I think she thought that the longer they took to eat, the better they were for us. I used to love getting frozen grapes from our school canteen, still a fav to this day and now my own daughter munches on them. This thread is making me crave a pie and strawberry big M, yummy!

  32. Louisa says:

    Hi Library Girl.Sorry to be using Claire’s blog as a bit of a bookclub,but I loved Butterfly too.I know the girls school that Sonya writes about.They could be vicious those girls!I think there is a bit of Plum in all of us “bookish types”.Without giving anything away,What did you think of the ending?

  33. Claire says:

    Ohh hello Loobylu bookclub types! PLEASE don’t give away the ending. I have just used my birthday money to get a copy and started it yesterday. Thanks for the recommendation, so far, so good 🙂

  34. Louisa says:

    Promise not to give the ending away!Look forward to hearing what you think of it.Maybe a bit of a review might be in order!(Like you did with The Divided Heart)

  35. di says:

    Great post. So much to remember and reflect upon!I fear I am still in the exceedingly uber uptight mode on the food department (amongst others) although when going through the puree stage I did make use of tinned non-organic fruit far more often than not- rinsed free of sweet syrup though. I totally agree about food being something that you can latch onto to feel like you’re doing the Right Thing. I hadn’t realised how much emotional reassurance I derived from being the chief food preparer until I was struck down with gastro and was unable to even look any food (other than a dry cracker) in the eye for a week. Being unable to serve up wholesome, fresh, balanced meals to my boys I vitrually became an emotional basket case (much to my surprise, given I thought I resented being the cook of the house!).

  36. librarygirl says:

    Hi Claire and Louisa – just to say – I loved the way Butterfly finished up. What a great read.

  37. soobydooby says:

    Thank the lord for the conchy definition – I’m in London and I was picturing something to do with large shells. I’m not even going to try and imagine what ‘beefaroni’ is (but it sounds vile!)I’m amazed at the detail you remember from your school days: I remember so little that I’m starting to wonder if my parents kept me drugged: I remember drifting off to sleep when I was about 6 and now I’m 38… hmmm…

  38. Mandy says:

    Another pink school dress here! They went out after I left as they couldn’t get any more of the fabric! Shame! All those other girls missed out & the boys didn’t get the shirts made of the stuff anymore! hahhahaha

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