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Cooking with Joy

Teachers Stash


By Joy Rotondi

How many times have you left home without breakfast or lunch and longingly eyed the kids’ snacks during the day?  You never have to go hungry again if you follow these tips for creating a mini-pantry in a desk drawer or filing cabinet. INCLUDED: Lists of non-perishables to keep on hand.

A lot of our meal choices at school depend on the resources in the faculty lounge. (Lounge. What a joke! When was the last time you lounged in the room that is as overworked as you are?) Be sure you have a stash of edibles in your classroom. There are days when you fail to eat a proper breakfast or you leave the lunch box on the kitchen counter. If you work in a school with a cafeteria, there will be days when you just cant face another chicken patty. Occasionally, you are staying right through for the talent show.

About the Author

Joy Rotondi

Joy Rotondi recently returned to the classroom and teaches sixth-grade language arts near Boston, Massachusetts. She was raised in an Italian-American family happily obsessed with good food. Her prowess in the kitchen was first noted when she whipped lime Jello to a mousse at age 7. By age 12 she'd advanced to the salmon mousse in aspic featured on the cover of Gourmet.

On Thanksgiving Day 1996, with the help of friend and culinary cohort Cindy Blandino, she launched Foodies.com , a playful site dedicated to serious American cooking.

Foodies.com has been featured on CNN, Better Homes and Gardens , and in The Wall Street Journal, among other places. Her bread and butter for the last 11 years has been designing and maintaining Web sites for the culinary world, including restaurants, culinarians, and food marketers. Rotondi lives on Boston's North Shore with her 12-year-old, a Shetland sheepdog, and four hens.

Visit her Web site Foodies.com.

Not to worry. You can be as prepared for food shortages as any good squirrel by turning a classroom desk or file cabinet drawer into a mini-storehouse of non-perishable items. For breakfast, stash away granola or cereal. Milk is a permanent fixture of most American schools. You can always get some. Bring your own spoon and china bowl -- or raid the surplus spilling out of the faculty rooms cupboards. Or piled high in the drying rack. Or stacked dangerously over the faculty fridge. They wont be missed.

When it comes to lunch, many of the pre-packaged, long-shelf-life lunch stand-bys are super-high in sodium. Ive tried a bunch -- like the soup on hand, the beef stew in the microwavable container. They always leave your tongue feeling burned. Who wants to nurse a water bottle all afternoon in front of the kids? And talk about waste -- these particular containers are Icons of Waste, and were paying for them at the check out counter and as slights against the environment.

Frozen dinners are fine in a pinch, but how often do you want to ingest questionable food prepared eight months ago on an assembly line, trucked 1,000 miles to a warehouse, and then trucked again and again until it ends up in the splatter-encrusted microwave at your school? Yuck.

Youll need something on hand for when the bulletin boards are refreshed, but youre not. Here is my proven list of non-refrigerated best bets.

  • crackers are indispensable for those emergency days
  • black bread (German -- you may find it at the deli counter -- keeps for ages)
  • deviled ham, canned sardines, mini-cans or pouches of tuna
  • peanut butter, almond butter, Nutella
  • nuts, wasabi peas, and the like
  • canned Mandarin oranges
  • small jars or individual servings of applesauce
  • peanut brittle or peanut block candy (deeply satisfying and not too sweet)
  • dried fruit (Have you tried dried pears? Montmorency cherries? Pair with the item below!)
  • chocolate (dont let on about this one)
There are mornings when things come up, and suddenly there is no time to fix a sandwich. The cat disappears, the phone rings, the car keys are missing. Dont panic. If youve taken my advice and created a mini-pantry of your own at the back of that classroom file drawer, you have plenty on which to refuel come lunchtime.

If not, try this. Before leaving the house, take 30 seconds to shove a head of lettuce and a radish or the deli bags of ham and cheese into a bag. Save the prep for your lunch break. I have no doubt that inside that towering faculty fridge you will find all the mustard, mayonnaise, and salad dressing that you could possibly require. There will be sufficient stale chips and croutons to round out your meal. Just be sure to check the BEST BY date. Do your colleagues a favor and chuck anything that pre-dates your pre-schoolers.

WARNING -- there will be nothing for dessert in the faculty lounge. This is a Universal Law. The only way to nab something sweet is to lie in wait after the PTA meetings. Unfortunately, you told Johnny he lost his recess. Pray youve heeded the final recommendation on my stash list. And that youve kept it our little secret!