I moved from British Columbia, Cananda to Maui, Hawaii half way through my fourth grade year. I could go on and on about all of the culture shock that I experienced, but I am going to focus today on public school lunch. In the schools that I attended in Canada, there was no school lunch. We all brown bagged a sandwich and a piece of fruit and we ate it outside. It rained for most of the school year in BC so we are our lunches in the covered cement play area. Also, of all the mothers, of all the kids that I went to school with in the early eighties, my mother was, by far, the most health conscious. I ate whole wheat bread, peanut butter that had been ground fresh at the health food store with no sugar or salt, and there was no candy in my lunch bag. There was no sugar or candy at my house. I once ate an entire jar of chewable vitamin C because it was so desperate for candy.
So, imagine my delight when we moved to the USA! All of a sudden not only did we have a TV, not only did we live somewhere that was warm enough to go swimming every day, but I also got to eat an American public school lunch. A typical school lunch in Hawaii at the time consisted of a very sweet and sugary bread role, canned sugary pineapple, canned green beans which tasted of nothing but salt and sugar and a sweet crusted pizza slathered in sweet tomato sauce with more sweet canned pineapple and some sweet portuguese sausage which positively glowed with neon red food dye! I was in heaven. I never told my mom what they fed us for school lunch for fear that she would forbid me from eating it. She was happy because I qualified for free lunch here in the land of plenty, and I was happy because the lunch was pure sugar with salt sprinkled on top.
Also, being in USA started to change my mother’s attitude toward food. She was working three jobs and she no longer had time to make everything from scratch. Also, she had married my step-daddy who was a fun-loving guy who helped my mum to relax and enjoy the pleasures of life (when they weren’t working) by packing picnic lunches for the beach with real junk food in the mix. Sometimes we went to Pizza Hut. PIZZA HUT! Oh the glamour. I loved my new step-dad. At pizza hut I liked to order the “Hawaiian Style” pizza with pineapple and Canadian bacon. It was the junk food embodiment of my two homes.
I find myself craving tropical fruit this winter. Maybe because I am having an especially hard time with how dark it is this year. I have been eating Black Bean Soup with Pineapple Mint Salsa and Guava and Cream Cheese Tarts and salads with Mango on top. Today I made a Pineapple and Ham Pizza on gluten-free crust. I made the crust from a store-bought mix and it is a little sweet and dense. It is not a great pizza crust BUT it does kind of remind me of the pizza crust from my school cafeteria. As I eat this it is easy to imagine that I am in cafeteria at The King Kamehameha The Third Public Elementary school in Lahaina. The windows on one side look out onto the ocean and the Island of Lanai across the water. The windows on the other side look into the banyan trees in the courtyard. Its sunny and hot and I am about to eat a delicious plate of forbidden sugary salty food.
PINEAPPLE AND HAM PIZZA (on a gluten-free crust)
1 package Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza mix 1 and 1/2 cups warm water 2 Tablespoons of oil 2 eggs Follow the instructions on the package. The dough needs about 20 minutes to rise and then about 8 minutes to pre-bake. You can prep the topping while you are waiting.
- 6 thick slices of smoked bacon (or some other kind of bacon or ham that you like)
- 1 red onion minced
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
- A sprinkle of dry basil
- A few handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese (the cheap stuff is fine)
- Half of a fresh pineapple (I live in a Caribbean neighborhood so this is easy for me to get, but for a dish this low brow a strained can of crushed pineapple works just fine)
- Fry the ham until it begins to brown a bit. Remove from the pan and drain on a towel, keeping the grease hot.
- Add the minced onion to the grease with a bit of salt. Cook on medium low until the onions start to caramelize.
- When the onions begin to brown add the additional oil, garlic, tomato paste and dry basil. Stir to combine and cook for another couple of minutes.
- If you are using a fresh pineapple, use a large sharp knife to cut off and discard the top and the bottom. Place the pineapple standing upright on a cutting board and slice the prickly skin off in about 6 slices from the top to the bottom. You will slice off a bit of the flesh along with the skin and that’s okay. Take a pairing knife and trim off any prickles that are still on the corners of where you trimmed the skin. Then, with the large knife, slice the pineapple in quarters from top to bottom. you will notice, on the inside corner of each quarter, that there is a hard and fibrous core to the pineapple. Trim this off. It is not that sweet and almost impossible to chew. Slice the remaining pineapple into very small chunks. You will use about half of it in for this much pizza. Try making the rest into pineapple mint salsa!