Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

What did you eat for lunch in elementary school?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 31, 2008

I’ve read, heard and seen many stories/movies about kids of immigrants bringing ethnic foods to school, only to be made fun of.  This is interesting to me, because when I was in school in the 80s and 90s, I rarely saw anyone bring ethnic food, not even newly arrived kids.  At my elementary school, which was part of the Catholic school board (and therefore, non-fee paying), everyone brought sandwiches.  I think I saw rice ONCE, and that was in Grade 4.  The closest thing we had to ethnic-based lunches were in the sandwich fillings.  Some of the Hong Kong kids, both immigrant and locally raised, had, for example, char-siu (barbecue pork) sandwiches rather than, say, ham and cheese.  Even then, it wasn’t every day.  That’s why I never understood those stories/experiences.  No one I know ever was made fun of because of their lunches, probably because their lunches didn’t seem so exotic.

Is this something unique to the elementary school I went to?  Or is it, again, more of a class thing than an ethnic thing?

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3 Responses to “What did you eat for lunch in elementary school?”

  1. It depends on the kid. A “cool” kid could bring bugs for lunch and the others would follow. I went to public school in California. Many kids would trade or taste foods from other ethnic groups. A not-so-popular kid could bring a PB&J and be teased because that’s where they fell on the grade school food chain (so to speak).

  2. Scapegoat said

    I used to bring rice to school, and no one made fun of me, at least not to my face. One classmate even expressed envy towards my lunches while she was “stuck with a stupid sandwich!” I stopped briefly during puberty, just because it was that transition period. However, by the time I got to high school, the Chinese population had grown and bringing Chinese food was quite common-place.

    Now my coworkers are asking for recipes!

  3. Scapegoat,

    You’re from Canada, right? What part? I rarely noticed Chinese lunches (save for char siu or barbecue duck sandwiches) at the schools I went to, even after en masse immigration from Hong Kong. I was in elementary school in the mid-to-late 80s, junior high in the early 90s and high school from the mid 90s to the late 90s.

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