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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend Cooking: An Excerpt From Never Hug a Nun

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

I grew up in the 1960s and attended Catholic school, so of course I couldn't resist when I was offered an opportunity from TLC Book Tours to review Kevin Killeen's novel Never Hug a Nun, about a young boy from an Irish-Catholic family set in 1966.

The scenes set in his Catholic elementary school made me chuckle with recognition, and this paragraph from the school cafeteria brought me right back to my old school days in the basement cafeteria:
"At the bottom of the second flight of steps, the lock-step line broke as the commotion of the cafeteria and the smell of institutional food overtook them. Those who had money got in line by the steam trays. They glided their plastic trays- still warm from the dishwasher- along the steel rails, looking through the stained glass at the hot food and the Mothers' Club volunteers.  The volunteers served up fish rectangles, factory hamburgers made off site, super salty chicken noodle soup or, on Wednesday only, pepperoni pizza slices. Buying lunch was expensive. A good lunch cost nearly forty-five cents, or sixty cents if you wanted to throw in cheese popcorn, a pretzel stick or an Eskimo pie. Patrick and the others who brought bag lunches got in the milk line. He paid Mrs. Heimlich, the heavy-set cafeteria lady, four pennies for a carton of milk. Mrs. Heimlich shook her head as the pennies she would later have to count and take to the bank piled up."
As soon as I read about the "plastic trays still warm from the dishwasher",  I could feel the warmth of the tray in my hand. I was in the third grade all over again, in my plaid school jumper with a yellow Peter Pan collared blouse. What's too funny is that my sons attended the same Catholic school I did, and except for the price of the lunch, that paragraph could fit their experience as well.

I'm enjoying this sweet and funny book, and the cover is just too darn cute. (And I'm pretty sure the jacket the young boy is wearing is the same one my mother-in-law gave my younger son when he was in pre-school.)
I swear my son had this same jacket in pre-school

This is the second book about growing up Catholic that I have read recently, the first one being Joan Cusack Handler's more serious memoir Confessions of Joan the Tall about growing up in a 1950s Irish Catholic family. My review of that book is here, and you can enter to win a copy of the book in the comments section.

I grew up in a heavily Catholic community and as I was reading both books, all I could think was how appropriate these books would be as Christmas books for so many people I know. My review of Kevin's book will be posted on December 10th.

I'd love to hear any school lunch memories you have in the comments section below.


  1. I grew up in a very small school district and we didn't have a cafeteria. If you can believe it, we *all* went home for lunch. I didn't get cafeteria food or bagged lunches until I went to college. LOL

  2. love that cover...so, so cute.

    I went to Catholic school in the 60's too, but I brown bagged it.

  3. This sounds like it's right up my alley and I love the cover - thanks for sharing!

  4. I love the scene that painted! I have memories of rectangle pizza and so-soft-they-were-barely-cooked chocolate chip cookies. Mmmm...

  5. Fun cover. I shared a school lunch memory on my blog during the October Memoir Challenge: http://www.joyweesemoll.com/2012/10/10/too-thin-october-memoir-challenge/

  6. I ate cafeteria lunches all through my schooling and remember those warm plastic trays. I enjoy reading Irish writers, among them Frank McCourt. Since my inlaws are Irish Catholic, and my husband went to Catholic school, this book sounds really interesting.

  7. While I didn't go to a Catholic school, I do remember my elementary school cafeteria. For some reason the "chicken" gravy had a distinctly florescent green shade.

  8. We had a lunch line when I was in elementary school but it never occurred to my parents to send me through the line. Instead I brown-bagged it every day until I was in middle school and I learned I could just eat french fries for lunch (really...what does this say about our schools?!). Fish rectangles. Mmmm. (kidding)

  9. Ahh you just brought back a whole bunch of elementary school cafeteria memories there.. can't say all of them are good, but definitely nostalgic. lol! ;)

  10. My neighbors went to a Catholic school and I would wait to meet up with them after I was released from school. Always out a good half hour earlier than them. But, the warm trays and square fish reminded me of my cafeteria way back when.
    I went to school in Pennsylvania, a little suburb south of Philly, but I think many of us - despite the geographic locations - had similar experiences in the lunch room. This is certainly a book I will look for!

  11. LOL, you made me smile at the thought of the school cafeteria. I do remember they used to have a veal parmigiana on a roll that I loved. Chopped veal patty, too much sauce and fake orange cheese. So bad it was good :)

  12. bagged lunches for me even during university, though those ones I made in the residence kitchen with the cooks watching over me to ensure I took enough.