One of the worst things about growing up with health-conscious parents was bringing a lovingly packed, health-conscious lunch to the elementary school cafeteria. I would try to sneak my meal, undetected, by the cruel and omnipresent eyes of the other children who happily unwrapped white-bread sandwiches, packaged cookies, and, to my greatest envy at the time, Lunchables. I, on the other hand, would furtively wolf down my mom’s homemade tofu-roast, praying to remain unnoticed, until the inevitable alarm sounded, pulling all nearby eyes in my direction: “Ewwwww! Laurel’s eating dog food! HAHAHAHAHHAHA!”
I’m not sure how it was in Italian elementary schools, and if they are also familiar with the complicated world of Cafeteria Commerce that took place during our lunchtimes.
“Psssst… I’ll trade you half of my ham-sandwich for three of your oreos!”
“No way! Two, tops.”
In this way, food would happily exchange hands, and prized items travelled around the room… that is, between the happy, NORMAL children. For me, this was an off-limits activity. My brother discovered the dangers when he traded some organic, lactose-free carob cookies with the class bully, who spit them out after the first bite, yelling “These aren’t OREOS!” and proceeded to beat my brother to a pulp.
These cheese wafers, however, signaled a turning point in my childhood, however. I loved when my mom baked these warm, crispy crackers on weekends, I could smell them from the other end of the house would run to the kitchen to watch them brown in the oven. I remember proudly bringing an entire freshly baked batch to my play rehearsal, to share with the whole group. Now, these were not exactly health-food, but they were home-made, and untraditional, which was enough to sound the alarm. Without a word, I set the tray on the communal table, and stood back to watch what happened.
“Gross!!! These cookies are… SALTY! and they taste like… CHEESE!”
Fed up, I stomped over and shook a cracker in his face, “Duh. That’s kinda, like, the POINT.”
That’s when it clicked for me: I wasn’t missing out on anything, they were. I was eating delicious home-made cheese wafers, which they were snubbing because they were homemade and tasted like cheese. The transformation wasn’t overnight, but from then on, I stopped being so embarrassed in the cafeteria, and began to defend my carefully prepared lunches. A week after the rehearsal incident, the same boy that insulted my crackers noticed them in my lunch box.
“Hey, are those the cheesy things from last week?”
“Those were actually pretty good. I’ll trade you an oreo for one.”
“No way man! I love these things!”
“Three oreos and a juice box.”
“Oh fine,” I gave in, holding back a chuckle. Even at 10 years old, the irony of it all didn’t escape me.
Cheese and Chipotle Wafers:
I updated the original recipe by adding a touch of spicy chipotle, which you can substitute with cayenne or chile pepper if you like.
- 1 stick (115 g) of butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 c (30 g) whole wheat flour
- 3/4 c (100 g) white flour
- 7 oz (200 g) cheddar or Gruyère cheese
- 1/2 of a chipotle pepper in abodo, diced, seeds discarded (or substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chile pepper)
- 1 tbsp milk
Combine the butter with the cheese and flours in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds; scrape the sides, add a milk and process to form a smooth dough, about a minute or so. Turn out onto plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap up tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into circles or squares using a cookie cutter or knife. Collect scraps, roll again, cut more cookies, and repeat until no dough remains. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Makes about 25 wafers, depending on size.
Fantastic recipe, thank you! The cafeteria nightmare scenario brought up memories of my homemade lunches while everyone else bought theirs. At the time, the cringe effect was huge, but my taste buds and health thank me now!
I felt your pain, I was right there with you in elementary school. That’s why I let my child eat gummies as a special treat, because I didn’t get to. THANKS MOM!
I enjoyed reading this post very much Laurel. I grew up in Italy and when I was in elementary school, bringing homemade snacks was not unusual–and neither were dinosaurs roaming in the schoolyard :).
My own 8-year old son, born and raised in the US, though, would definitely relate to your experience: he also wistfully looks at other children’s prepackaged foods, including the inescapable Lunchables.
He often comments my choices of healthy, home made snacks for his school lunch with” I wish I had a mom who does not know SO much about healthy foods, just like other kids’ moms!”
But he loves cheddar and chipotle, I’ll bake these crackers for him.