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What’s For Lunch?

So, I probably should have been doing work/reading/exercising/doing something moderately productive, so of course I was on the Internet, but look at what I found. Written in 1916 by a teacher named Nellie Wing Farnsworth in Valley City, North Dakota, it is an instruction book on everyone’s favorite subject in school…lunch.

It’s a quick fifty-two page read, but it’s terribly fascinating. Miss Farnsworth (being a teacher in those days, you can bet she wasn’t married) is delightfully candid in explaining the value of nutrition, as well as a suggested supply list for turning the rural school into a veritable early-twentieth-century Wolfgang Puck, all for the low price of $11.50. She includes information on etiquette and setting the table, but even more unusually, instructions on how to pass food, and tips on encouraging appropriate lunchtime table conversation. The appendix is an incredibly detailed list of foods and their individual nutritional values, as well as providing twenty easy recipes for surefire child-friendly lunch options that are easy to make either at home or in school. Farnsworth’s views are remarkably progressive; she proposes that boys help cook and clean because city boys do that (sure…) and because it will turn them into upstanding gentlemen who know how to sit straight at a table and have the motivation to wash dishes. I am so glad my mother didn’t make me read this as a child. Overall, Farnsworth seems like a wily one; her writing style is remarkably crisp and fresh, and her idea to backhandedly get mothers to supply the school with eating utensils by putting them on hold at the store and inviting them to a meal at school and then donating the supplies that they bought at the store? Genius.

Nellie Wing Farnsworth, you are a winner and a visionary.

Let’s do lunch.