Which high school cafeteria foods do you remember most?

Fall is always back-to-school season, at least in our memories.

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Line of students picking up plates of food handed off by cafeteria worker
Photo: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP (Getty Images)

Back-t0-school season is a mindset, not just a set of dates on the calendar. No matter how old you are or how many decades it’s been since you last crossed the threshold of an educational building with a backpack slung over your shoulder, you probably have a visceral memory of the brown bag lunch you brought to school, or the meals you ate off a tray in the cafeteria. The smells, the flavors, the envy-inducing individually wrapped snack cakes... it’s all a rich tapestry of fond nostalgia and mild disgust. Below, we discuss the foods we immediately associate with high school, as we try to forget the feeling of searching for a table to sit at. Any room at yours?


Bosco Sticks

I was chronically over-involved in high school, zipping from class to student council meetings to swim practice to play practice to the school parking lot, where I drove my 2001 Nissan Maxima around in circles while honking the novelty La Cucaracha horn I had installed for my 17th birthday. Needless to say, I had trouble sitting still, so I appreciated all-in-one foods that I could eat with one hand. (My other hand was usually busy painting a pep squad member’s stomach with our school colors. Go Bulldogs!) And the ultimate all-in-one food is, naturally, the Bosco Stick.

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These things may be geographically limited to the Midwest and the South, so I’ll do my best to explain the nature of the Bosco Stick. Think of a gigantic hollow breadstick covered in parmesan cheese and filled with—what else?—more cheese. If I recall correctly, the average Bosco Stick was about a foot in length, and they were served in packs of two along with an optional marinara dipper. They were hot, gooey, puffy, and carb-laden enough to make me pass out in Mrs. Dickey’s 1:30 p.m. American History course. They were also portable, which meant you could eat one and stick the other in the pocket of your heavily bedazzled low-rise jeans for later. God bless the Bosco. —Lillian Stone, staff writer


Nacho Salad—or was it Taco Salad?

My high school days are long gone, over 20 years ago, so unfortunately my memories are a little fuzzy on this one. But I recall my absolute favorite lunch was something called Nacho Salad. Or was it Taco Salad? Either way, both of those names are a lie, because it was basically just nachos. Let’s just call it Nacho Salad.

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It started with a handful of tortilla chips, topped with a bunch of nacho cheese sauce, taco meat, tomatoes, sour cream, black olives, and a bunch of lettuce (hence the “salad” part). Oh yeah, there was salsa, too. What kind of high schooler wouldn’t love that? I always looked forward to Tuesdays because of it. Nacho Salad is the only dish I remember from my high school cafeteria, and clearly, it’s become a formative part of my life. I’m not sure how, but it has. —Dennis Lee, staff writer


Peanut butter sandwiches

I feel like an imposter even participating in this conversation. My 4,000-student high school was split into two campuses, and each one sorted students into six different lunch periods. This meant that the likelihood of finding any friends who shared your lunch period was perilously diminished. What was I going to do, sit with mere acquaintances as they spoke in a patter of inside jokes and rumors about people I’d never heard of? Dear god, no. I spent every single lunch period of my high school career in the library instead. There was no food allowed in there, but I’d smuggle in a peanut butter sandwich cut into bite-sized pieces, sneaking each one out of my bag when the library attendants weren’t looking. Surreptitious peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread will forever be the flavor of my adolescence. —Marnie Shure, editor in chief