School lunch: some bread with my butter, please?

Brown bread with too much butter

Back in the 90s…

School used to collect sandwiches every Thursday for children in need. We’d place our donations in the quadrangle on the wall near the office and I guess they’d be taken somewhere for distribution on that day. I loved doing this—and would beg my mom for sandwiches to take, and she always made extra: brown bread with hunks of butter (because margarine was spawn of Satan and soft butter hadn’t yet been invented, or was too expensive, so mom bought the blocks and attempted to spread that on our bread each morning) and a sliver of peanut butter or marmite. Hopefully the children who received our sandwich donations over the years were the really hungry ones.  

Along with our daily hunk-of-butter sandwich for lunch, we’d have a juice bottle with water in it (because juice was Satan’s other spawn) and wax wrap placed between the lid and the bottle spout so it didn’t leak (although your first mouthful was likely washed down with a soggy piece of entrapped paper); as a treat we’d have Cedric the Crow themed Safari raisins or dried pears and if we were very lucky a ‘fruit square’, which was dried fruit (fig, apricot and the red one), compressed into squares and dusted with sugar granules (the best part!).

(Oh, curse the children with ham sandwiches or strawberry jam on white bread (the third of Satan’s comestible spawn.)

This lunch formula lasted years and years...and years

Until: I stopped eating my sandwiches.

Butter overload.

And then consumed by life and other stuff, I’d forget to take my uneaten lunch out of my bag each day. 

One day in high school, I pulled my Geography book out of my bag to take notes in the lesson and there were fat white maggots squirming underneath the plastic. Uh…This was not good. WHAT HAD DIED IN MY SCHOOL BAG? In spite of my absolute revulsion, there was simply no way I was going to ask my teacher if I could be excused from class to scrape maggots off my school work, so I snuck the book back into my bag and took notes on paper. When Geography was over, I quickly found somewhere safe (as in, no people) to depose of the maggots—fully expecting a mouse carcass (or something) to drop out from the pages of some or other school book (hopefully not my English or History file; maths was no loss, though). There was no mouse…but there was an old sandwich; I can only guess that maybe there had been some tuna (hidden amidst the butter) on it, once upon a time. 

My Geography book was never the same. Yet, whilst I may not have been partial to maggots on bread, our bull terrier Wade would happily have eaten maggots for lunch.

Wade could sniff food from the next suburb and quickly learnt that when we came home from school, he was sure to find some kind of snack if he went digging in our bags—mine in particular. As soon as we walked through the door each day, he‘d have his face in our stuff and when mom spotted him dashing through the house on a particular occasion, with a mouthful of mouldy bread hanging from his delighted lips, cling wrap streaming behind him (apparently I wasn’t the only one on a butter strike) she immediately recused herself from school lunches and we were told to make our own.  

I don’t think we ever asked mom to stop using a hunk of butter—it’s as if the action was part of her essence; asking her to stop would be like asking her to change her eye colour. So we just ate it. Until we didn’t. 

P.S. If Trevor Noah can eat mopane worms…I know, I know! Thank you mom for the school lunches. Really, I am very grateful. 


Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

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