Thanksgiving, Third Grade Lunch Style

Here we are, a few days before Thanksgiving, a holiday we have apparently forgotten exists in our death march toward Christmas. I remember when we used to make fun of the people and stores that put their Christmas stuff up before Thanksgiving. Now we barely shudder when it’s up during back to school.

But I haven’t forgotten you, Thanksgiving. I love your carbs. I love your football. I love your pies. I love your hips. What? Oh wait, that’s something else.

At its heart, Thanksgiving is about a feast taken to a higher art form. The dining room table is the canvas—the succulent bird an anchor at center, cranberry like rubies on the right, mashed potatoes like lush mountains on the left. Perfection of the art has eluded and even maddened many artists. Birds have been burnt. Cranberry sauce has been barfed. Pizzas have been ordered in sworn secrecy.

To pregame Thanksgiving, I decided to make my own feast. Third grade lunch style. I’d re-create an actual elementary school cafeteria lunch, only without hairnets and punk-ass third graders. That’s the age when they get really mean. Really mean.

Up through the 1950s, most American children went home for lunch, with only the lowest of income students provided meals at the schools. School lunches were made in house. Communities sponsored the programs. But by the 1980s, populations and school lunches had outgrown budgets. For the first time, schools turned to outside vendors to provide meals and additional income. Pizza and soft drink companies led the way.

That’s where my generation steps in. We’re Reagan administration babies. We’re immune to rampant, unchecked commercialism and cost-savings greed. In fact, we have a misplaced and unique nostalgia for all of it, even school lunches. We have fond memories of gristly chicken chunks and round plops of taco meat shaped like scoops of ice cream. These were lab-created and politicized foods from a time when Congress tried to list ketchup as a vegetable.

Of those foods, there is one that sticks out most in my mind. Fiestada.

A Fiestada is a Mexican pizza specifically created for school lunch programs. Some of us may remember it fondly; some of us may remember it as cardboard with a pile of vomit on top. It is actually a trademarked entity created by the Schwan Food Company.

For those of us who have been craving a Fiestada since third grade, there has always been the option of buying them directly from the distributor—in cases of ninety six. And believe me, if you look this up on the Internet, there are people out there doing it. The rest of us have our sanity—or don’t have the extra ice chest to store ninety-six shitty Mexican pizzas. One or the other.

But to call it simply a mexican pizza would be wrong. The Fiestada contains multitudes. It contains mysteries—the strange hexagonal shape, the gloomy orange color, even the word itself: a bizarre conglomeration of the words “fiesta” and “tostada.”

My friend Beckner decided to go all DIY and invent his own secret Fiestada recipe, which in a world-exclusive, I’m going to share on the blog. He helped to plan last November’s McRib-Together.

Somehow or another, we decided we were going to re-create a legit school lunch with Fiestada as the main course. But because feasts are an art form, me and Beckner became obsessive about taking this thing to the next level. We’d use sporks. Where the heck do you buy sporks? Hell, we’d rob a Taco Bell for ‘em. We’d eat it on Styrofoam trays. There would be canned peaches! And not only would we have tater tots, but we’d have undercooked, mushy tater tots. Like, we’d put that shit hastily in the oven before it was fully pre-heated. The keyword is haste. We weren’t just preparing a school cafeteria lunch; we were preparing it with the unique flavor of public school lunch lady indignation.

Afterwards, we’d wash it all down with chocolate milk and Good Humor Bars! Oh yeah, and then somehow we got the idea to make Ecto-Cooler on top of it all.

Hi-C Ecto-Cooler was a product tie-in with the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters back in 1987. Remember that thing I said about misplaced nostalgia and rampant commercialism? Yeah, we’re obsessed with even this, the ghosts of discontinued juice boxes.

It was going be a lot. The wife works late on Thursdays, a ten hour day. We usually have Thursdays marked as “fun dinner night” on the calendar, which means I’m in charge, and by fun, it means we go out to eat. Or I make frozen mozzarella sticks and dump bag salad in a bowl. Fun dinner! Mozzarella sticks are really FUN and completely cancel out the utter sadness of bag salad.

But I had to prepare her for this. I decided it would be best to deliver the news with the impassiveness of a doctor, nothing negative, nothing positive—just cold, clinical, normalcy.

“Beckner’s coming over tomorrow night and we’re making Fiestada.”

“What is that?”

“You know, the mexican pizza that exists only in school cafeterias.”

“We didn’t have that at my school,” she said, skeptically.

“We’ve having tater tots with it,” I said.

Her face was blank as a sheet.

“And we’re eating it with SPORKS!” I added, desperately.

“What the hell is a Fiestada, again?”

Now it’s time to unveil the secret recipe:

First, buy the plainest, cheapest, sketchiest ingredients. Shop at Food Lion, if you must. You’ll need pizza crust, salsa, cheddar cheese, and ground beef.

Here’s my full disclosure: many of you already know I’m a vegetarian. So we substituted with the Morningstar Farms soy version of “ground beef.” You’re totally free to call party foul on me. A true Fiestada experience involves chewing on fatty, gritty, oily meat. This Thanksgiving, I’d like to acknowledge that many cows have died for Fiestadas. Consider it my version of pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey.

First, there’s the crust. You want something thin that doesn’t have much flavor on its own. The Fiestada’s flavors are all about the gloppy toppings—not the crust. Next, spread the salsa across the crust like pizza sauce. Thin, generic salsa works best. The key is to buy not just the cheapest salsa in the store, but the cheapest salsa IN LIFE. Then cook up the dead cow or soy product. Season it with taco seasoning. Generously cover an entire pizza crust. Then dump a whole bag of yellow cheese on that. Seriously, the whole bag. It’ll be liberating! Finally, according to Beckner, the secret is to dice up Roma tomatoes and pile them on top.

Throw it in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is beginning to brown. Meanwhile, you got to start hastily thinking about the tater tots. Rip open the bag, dump ‘em on the pan, and don’t even bother to spread them out evenly!

Most important step – SALT THE LIVING HELL OUT OF THEM.

While our Fiestada and tater tots were cooking, it was time to whip up a batch of Ecto-Cooler.

Even after The Real Ghostbusters cartoon went off the air in 1991, Ecto-Cooler was so enduringly popular that Hi-C continued to make it through 2001. Eventually, it was renamed Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen and Slimer was replaced on the packaging by a similar-looking blob of green lips. In the mid-2000s, it was re-branded again as Crazy Citrus Cooler, up until it was finally put to bed altogether and discontinued in 2007.

A few weeks ago, a recipe for Ecto-Cooler began circulating online on the geek websites, and rumors had that it was for real, tasting exactly like the original.

The recipe is for a gallon:

1 Packet Kool Aid/Flavor Aid Orange
1 Packet Kool Aid/Flavor Aid Tangerine
3/4 Cup Orange Juice (No Pulp)
3/4 Cup Tangerine Juice
1/3 scoop Countrytime Lemonade (Reg or Pink)
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
Green food coloring for color
Add water

We substituted Tang for Tangerine Kool-Aid because, well, good luck finding that shit. And for that matter, good luck finding a gallon-sized pitcher. We had to use a half-gallon pitcher and therefore do math. This is where it began to get murky.

Somewhere in that concoction is Ecto-Cooler. It’s absolutely in there. But my math was off. There was an overpowering lemonade slant on it. (UPDATE: After letting it sit in the fridge overnight, it tastes significantly better and like the Ecto-Cooler I remember! Serve CHILLED.)

Note the visible particles of sugar just floating and sparkling in the mixture. I wouldn’t give this to children. It would make them crabwalk horizontally across walls. You’d be better off letting them drink battery acid.

You’ll see the one glass in the photo is not as full as the others—that’s the point at which my wife screamed, “I REALLY DON’T NEED THAT MUCH!”

Finally, it was time to slice the Fiestada, plate the peaches, and hastily serve up a spatula full of limp tater tots:

Thanksgiving, Third Grade Lunch Style. It really did feel like we were eating real school cafeteria food, too. The flaccid Fiestada, the gelled tater tots, the peaches. It was salty and heavy, and began to mix in our stomachs on top of the glass of BRIGHT GREEN sugar water we had just chugged. It was a nostalgic feeling of discomfort, one sporkful at a time. Damn you, idiot spell check, sporkful is a word. It is.

And Christ, there was still dessert:

For authenticity, I insisted we must eat the ice cream bars and chocolate milk immediately after our meal. After all, in the cafeteria, you only get thirty minutes to consume everything. So we did. Ice cream and milk on top of it all. Our nostalgic discomfort shifted to utter disgust. No wonder we begged our parents to buy us Lunchables.

Still, re-creating a school lunch is something I’ve always wanted to try. Food as art. I liked my colors, the neon green and cheddary orange. I liked my textures, the thickness of the milk, the chewiness of the tater tots. Art must inspire strong feelings, and if those feelings are milky and phlegmy, so be it.

This Thanksgiving, may you experience art, whether you’re cooking a masterpiece trying to live up to great artists and grandmothers before you, or whether you’re just admiring a damn pretty pumpkin pie. It’s a feast. It’s a holiday. It’s a drag. It’s a lot of work. It’s just another day. It’s a party. And it’s a damn shame if your football team loses.

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113 responses to “Thanksgiving, Third Grade Lunch Style

  1. Definitely remember the fiestada, though think my school called it mexican pizza so as to not confuse us or maybe they were knock-offs or maybe schwan hadn’t yet realized they made the best thing since the Whac-a-Mole.

    Love that you guys did a cafeteria themed dinner in the name of blogging. Though yours looks too good to be an actual cafeteria “meal”.

    • I looked up the trademark – Schwans filed to trademark the Fiestada, “a frozen Mexican entree consisting primarily of chicken, beef, salsa, cheese, refried beans, peppers on a cornmeal crust” on July 24th, 1981. Dang, they didn’t fuck around.

      • I used to be a “Schwan’s Man”, for about 4 years. No, they do not fuck around. Especially if they feel that the 16 hour day you put in isn’t quite long enough, and they need you to work 7 days to make up for it.

  2. I was “fortunate” to attend my son’s Thanksgiving feast for parents at the school cafeteria yesterday. Sliced turkey, dry stuffing served with an ice cream scooper, mashed potatoes, green beans, chocolate milk, and pumpkin pie ice cream, just like the pilgrims ate. Of course most of this was covered in gravy to hide the true visual, but it was all just as delicious as I remembered it. I would have preferred it if they served Fiestadas.

  3. Oh, how I dreaded Fiestada day! (But like Kristen, we got it as “Mexican Pizza” too. I think.) The spaghetti or chicken & rice were much better. But nothing will ever taste as good as grade school tater tots… Thanks for the flashback!

  4. HILARIOUS POST. You just captured the essence of childhood for about 32 million Americans. I will now strive to integrate “sporkful” into the English language. Look for it in the next edition of Merriam-Webster. My favorite line: “I wouldn’t give this to children. It would make them crabwalk horizontally across walls.”

  5. Everyone puts out the cranberry sauce. I don’t like it. I think a lotta people don’t really like it too. Then why serve it? I guess it is a mandatory cultural tradition. But I doubt if very many people like it. If they do like it, why do they serve it only once a year? I’d rather have lumpy cinnamon apple sauce.

    • I LOVE cranberry sauce, I’ll take yours. You know how in a diner they give it to you in a tiny fluted cup like it’s a condiment, mayonnaise or something that you just need a dab of? The hell with that. I eat it in spoonfuls. I make it from scratch and I eat a whole cupful.

    • LOVE cranberry sauce! I make my own: just boil up the berries and put in a little sugar. Lots of us do eat it year-round, by the way. I guess it just flies under your radar.

    • Some of us do like cranberry sauce my. I like it when there mixed fruits or shredded veggies mixed into it. I think it is funny when people just put it out straight from the can, maintaining the shape of the can, I’m like you went through the trouble of making a glorious feast and here is this canned jelled cranberry sauce. What a way to ruin an artistic table.

  6. Mmmm tater tots.

  7. Pizza: Dig your blog so much, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Check out the post for more: http://thompsonkelly.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/and-the-nominees-are/
    And honestly, hadn’t thought of Fiestadas for years. Where do you come up with this stuff?!?

  8. The local supermarket has some super cheap “imitation cheese” that uses whey and vegetable oil. You should try that out next time.

  9. OK, but your version seems FAR yummier (and less processed) than my school version.

    And you just can’t find a good “school cafeteria” scented Glade Plug-in to recreate that characteristic lunchroom scent. Bummer…

    ;)

  10. “It is actually a trademarked entity created by the Schwan Food Company.”

    WHAT. NO. I order food them from all the time! And I remember the stuff I had to eat in elementary school… never heard of the fiestada, but have you heard of “brick burgers” or “pee-izza”?

    Yup. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed.

  11. This may be my favorite recipe post ever – we loved the Ecto -Cooler!!! (& congrats by the way)

  12. This looks exactly like what we used to be served in school…maybe you can try making gluey mac n’ cheese next, with rubbery red jello, and flaccid celery sticks.

  13. I remember Ecto-Cooler. I used to think it was so…cool :)

  14. Some things are worth getting old about. I loved reading your 3rd grade lunch experiences, but don’t relate. But love the word SPORK. We went home for lunch, where my mother made us the same lunch every day: almost as terrific as the fiestada. Sour Cream and bananas. That’s it. lunch, mama style.

    Ronnie

  15. Oh man, this totally brought back horrible 3rd-grade lunchroom memories. I thought I had finally blocked out the Fiestada for good! Glad you had fun, but that being said I’m glad I don’t have to eat that crap anymore. I will be so much more thankful when eating tomorrow’s feast after reading this – So thanks!

  16. I’ve never been so grateful to my mom for brownbagging it for me in my life. o_O

  17. I guess I’m lucky that I’m old enough to have been done with school long before Reagan declared ketchup a vegetable. Vendors actually weren’t allowed to sell us Coke and Pepsi and chips on school grounds. Horrors! Thank goodness for the good ol’ Commie days, and may they return!

  18. I think there is a brand of nostalgia extremely specific to 80s kids. I mean, who else would get giddy and then weep over a discontinued, forgotten juice box?

    I’m not the only one, right? Awesome post :D

  19. I just laughed so hard I awakened sleeping cats! My kids must be around your age cause they have told stories of similar culinary disasters served as food. Salt Bombs are what we still call tater tots.

    Thanks so much for the smiles!

  20. Love it! Talk about flashbacks!

  21. Oh how I hated Mexican pizza days! To this day still kinda grosses me out. Love your blog idea though, I enjoyed reading it :)

  22. All hail the Spork! There was so much awesomeness in this one post! I remember being severely dehydrated in grade school due to tater tot salt consumption. Great blog!

    http://kvetchmom.wordpress.com

  23. I love Ecto Coooler. This was great!

  24. Awesome titkle – and text! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  25. So so so so funny. Thank you for this post. I cannot wait to bring up the “fiestada” at Thanksgiving tomorrow and add it to our “school lunch” discussion series. Previous topics include “The engineering intricacies of making a fluffernutter” and “What the heck is really in a peanut butter cornflake cookie?” Congrats on freshly pressed. Have a great Thanksgiving and keep the school lunch recreations coming!

  26. I used to stare with longing and lust at the kids that got to eat the Fiestadas! Damn mom for making me brown bag-it during elementary school!! ;-)

    Congrats on being FP’d!!

  27. This post gave me such a laugh. Hilarious endeavor, and I love the way you captured it both with pictures and prose. I can’t say I remember a fiestada, but I sure was all about Ecto Coolers at some point in time. Really great post… a couple of weeks ago I recreated some sugar cookies that didn’t taste like they were baked all the way, a la MY school cafeteria. Those were insanely good too, and brought back fond memories.

  28. I laughed! but how did you not die eating all that stuff?!! I don’t know that it qualifies as food :)

  29. This is so hilarious. Sounds like you had a great time recreating the lunch.

  30. This is a parody, right? I’m never sure with you Reagan babies.

  31. Oh my gosh this blog made me laugh out loud for real. I loved it, and the pictorial presentation too!! Awesome! Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

  32. My grandson brought home a ‘hand print turkey’ similar to the one shown above with a cute little poem. Kids grow so fast, one day he’ll look back in amazement that his hand was ever so small. The wonders of childhood pass much too quickly. It is as though with a blink of an eye, the kids are grown and grandchildren have arrived to take their place. Whoever came up with the simple idea of preserving a child’s hand print in such a creative manner deserves a pat on the back. I’m sure many a household will look back and ‘remember when’.

  33. I grew up during the Reagan years too, but I must be older than you, b/c we never had Fiestadas. We had the basics- hamburgers, fish blocks, and pizza. Then again, when I was in 3rd grade, Carter was President, so that explains it. Actually, our food was pretty awesome. Pizza days, which were always Tuesdays, were a big hit. The line in the cafeteria was beyond long. With this being Thanksgiving, that was when I first began to eat turkey and dressing- thanks to lunch at school! None of that pre-packaged stuff, it was the real thing, down to the yummy yeast rolls.

    Nice post!

  34. Hi, that was really funny, though I had a hard time understanding names of those American foods! :) I’m from India.

  35. yummy and funny story!!
    but I never eat all thanksgiving food, because I don’t living in America.
    greetings from Indonesia :D

  36. Ditto, “Anonymous” — I remember making my parents vote for Carter (I liked peanuts a LOT), but I never enjoyed the Fiestada. I’m sad.

    And my grandmother with be even sadder today when I poke around at her perfectly constructed mashed potatoes because NOW I want limp tater tots.

    Excellent post! I’ll be following!

  37. This was hilarious!, I’ll be following this blog!

  38. I ended up actually eating packed lunches for most of my school career, mainly starting in 3rd grade, but I still remember some of the worst excesses of the stuff. Sometimes, they got REALLY shifty. Anyone ever had “Dunkers and Dips”? 3 stale breadsticks and a small tin of peanut butter or plastic cheese. I’m not sure what the school districts were thinking.

    And school pizzas have always been dire, so I never understood why kids went into a berserk frenzy over them.

  39. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Ecto-Cooler?? I’m going to have to have a sit-down with my mom about why she never bought this for me when I was in grade 3. Bah!

    Great post!

    Cheers,
    Matt
    boggletondrive.com

  40. Haha! Very funny. It actually made me hungry.

  41. Note to self– Feed my kids at home. lol

  42. We are total suckers for nostalgia…I laughed a few times reading your post! Ah, school lunches…ugh! I worked in the Bronx schools for 2 years and never ate the lunch once. Then one fatal day, I grabbed a beef taco in desperation. I contracted e coli and was out for 4 months! Good call on the Morning Star.

  43. weird, my friends and I were just trying to remember the name of fiestada pizza! this makes me really happy :)

  44. Awesome post. it was funny and entertaining. i love the part when you were talking to ur wife and you said her face was as blank as a sheet. teehee. keep up the good work

  45. Great post, happy thanks giving day!

  46. What I learned from your post:
    1. what tater tots are – I had no idea! In Australian they are called Potato Gems. And what little gems they are….

    2. What Kool-Aid looks like. This is the stuf that Jim Jones used top poison his followers, right? Well there you go, several decades later, I find out what it looks like.

    Thanks! very educational!

  47. This is awesome and entertaining.

  48. Wow. This makes me really glad I am

    a) too young for that
    b) Australian

    because that sounds like really unpleasant food, honestly.

    That said, I enjoyed reading your article, a lot, and the sense of nostalgia and gentle humour. Sounds like it was a fun project.

  49. This is a very delicious post! Thanksgiving! yey!

  50. I am sorry but this is VERY unhealthy. Poor children. They shouldn’t be consuming this type of food.

  51. Funny post but gosh that is disgusting! Haha

  52. Mrs. Lorraine Eckard(belated African American school cafeteria director at my high school—-btw—–very BIG DEAL seeing that it was not that long after integration of schools in the USA, though Jim Crow was still alive and strong in the South in department stores, law enforcement agencies, banks, and newspaper firms–)and my grandmother, Mama Mill, were responsible for the fabulous lunch programs at my junior high school. All races received “soul food” with a pinch of love as the pepper. I never ever got a stomachache from this food! Prior to that time, however, I do recall seeing this thing you call Fiestata….didn’t touch it..could hardly even look at it….
    On another note, our girl scout Sages(word I use to describe the older church ladies who cared about us youngsters and offered sound advice) made a fabulous Russian tea using the powdered Tang orange flavor, cloves, ginger ale, ice cubes, lemon and orange slices, and maybe a bit of nelken. I have not been able to recreate that tea…not even once…drinking it back in the day made me feel luxuriously treasured and protected.
    Wow! I am also reminded of the cheese in the grayish box and the powdered milk that would be delivered to my Mom as part of the welfare program(for underpriviledged families)..The milk was so bad, I would eat my cornflakes with water…..
    Now, I cherish each nutritious morsel of food that enters my mouth.

  53. Hahaha!!! I love the humor of this post! I laughed the whole way through. “I decided it would be best to deliver the news with the impassiveness of a doctor, nothing negative, nothing positive—just cold, clinical, normalcy.” :)
    Your gumption to recreate the “nostalgia” of that school lunchroom propelled me through its reading. The fact that you went all out to get it as close as possible says a lot about what you value as good memories, regardless of taste or appearance. :)

    God bless your wife, having to be subject to drinking Ecto-cooler! I hope she’s recovered.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  54. Hahaha!!! I love the humor of this post! I laughed the whole way through. “I decided it would be best to deliver the news with the impassiveness of a doctor, nothing negative, nothing positive—just cold, clinical, normalcy.” :)
    Your gumption to recreate the “nostalgia” of that school lunchroom propelled me through its reading. The fact that you went all out to get it as close as possible says a lot about what you value as good memories, regardless of taste or appearance. :)

    God bless your wife, having to be subject to drinking Ecto-cooler! I hope she’s recovered.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  55. I’ve always wished I lived in the era when kids went home for lunch. I HATED school lunches, hated having to find a table, hated that we weren’t even allowed to go eat outside. I would have loved to walk home with a couple of friends every day for lunch, sit in the kitchen and laugh over pb&j, and then gone back to school again. Would’ve been fun.

  56. Always wondered what 3rd graders ate during Reagan’s reign… Won’t be long now before you walk into a Safeway and get greeted by a waiter!

  57. Yay! That was fun to read :) I was a miss piggy when I was little, so um…I looked forward to eating school lunches. I was also teased a lot, and when we couldn’t afford to buy school lunch, my mom would send me to school with something like leftover lamb tongue sandwiches wrapped in pita bread or something. Which is good, but all the American kids would laugh at me for it. Mexican pizza days let me be like them! Also, instead of paper bags, she’d put my lunches in a plastic shopping bag. Embarrassing.

    But, I LOVED ectocooler!!! Thanks for the memories! And congrats on the press.

  58. This post was mighty enjoyable even though I am not american and have no clue what a fiestada was before this. Your version looks tasty and is definitely way too unprocessed. Maybe you need to put it all together a few days beforehand, throw it into the freezer then cook it. And definitely use imitation cheese. Your poor wife. All for the greater good of the readers I suppose.

  59. OMG! I have never laughed so hard at a blog post before. I have tears streaming down my face as I type this. Your wife is one hell of a good sport. I am going to forward this to my husband and son, who complained that we had to eat Thanksgiving Dinner at Boston’s sports bar because NONE of us bothered to check if Outback was really open on Thanksgiving Day (it’s not!). So next year, when they go to rub it in about the (not)-Outback fiasco, I can remind them: “It could be worse.” But the Universal, unanswered question is, did anyone puke?

  60. We had a specific holiday meal served at our schools. For Thanksgiving, it was usually the Thursday before. It was creamed turkey (turkey lunchmeat and gravy) over an ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes. There was plain white bread with no butter along with it, then of course your choice of white or chocolate milk, and a small cup of something they claimed was apple crisp. It wasn’t.

  61. Oh God, fiestada’s were the lunch time currency all through grade school and high school. You could buy any favor you wanted if you offered up your fiestada in exchange. Who would resist that? I can’t say I ever employed the tactic (I loved my fiestada’s too much), but I knew plenty of guys who practically paid for the discs of cheesy, spicy awesome.

    Thank you for making my stomach growl with the memory.

  62. Cafeteria tAater tots were the greatest. One of life3’s guilty pleasures.

  63. I’m afraid I’m not the right generation to have had the fiestada, but I do actually miss my school lunches. There are times I find myself craving the lunches from school, and I wish I knew how to make all of them!

  64. Seriously funny, but this actually sounds tasty, based on the ingredients alone. Haha, my roommate saw the Fiestada over my shoulder while I was reading. “Ew, what is that? Barf?” I personally almost fell out of my chair when I got to the photo of the homemade Ecto-Cooler. Great post!

  65. pre-gaming thanksgiving. what an awesome concept.

  66. I am absolutely repulsed…and starving…

  67. I am totally going to steal this idea and have a 3rd grade lunch party!

    Didn’t grow up on Fiestada, but I did have the all might french bread pizza and…wait for it….wait for it…sloppy joe day.

    Nice touch with the chocolate milk and ice cream. We were all about the strawberry eclair or the almond crunch bar. Or let’s not forget the combination chocolate/vanilla ice cream cup with the wooden “spoon”…more like a spatula.

  68. I have an urge to make that scary green substance into an alcoholic drink. Just to see what would happen.

  69. I went to work in a school cafeteria because my kids complained so much about the crummy food. After working there for 3 months I never made them eat school food again. There was 10 pounds of sugar in the pizza sauce and that was poured over pasta. Gross. I am sure they would have prefered the Fiestadas. Thanks for all the wonderful memories of my children’s school days. I have never laughed so hard as I did reading this post. I made my grandchildren get up at midnight just so I could read it to them! :

  70. “SALT THE LIVING HELL OUT OF THEM.” Ab-so-lute-ly! Loved this post. Could you do Sloppy Joes next? With those pale, flaccid crinkle fries? I think they came with canned peaches too (didn’t ALL our lunches?), or maybe it was canned pears, they showed up once in a while. And oh, that chocolate milk! Mixing powder with milk doesn’t even bring me close. Can you order those little chocolatey cartons of heaven online too, perchance?
    Thanks for the memories!

  71. greenduckiesgirl

    This made me laugh! I don’t think we had the fiestadas because I am sure I would remember picking the tomatoes off of the thing. The thing we always had was goulash or chili mac. Disgusting, limp noodles served with greasy meat and watery tomato sauce. Served at least once a week. We got free lunch tickets though so I couldn’t complain too much. The one thing I miss is the wafer thin peanut butter sandwiches on white bread. They were so dry that I tried dipping them in mustard and it really improved the taste!

  72. Thanks for recreating a public school lunch. Brought back good memories, but incredibly bad ones of the food though. Great post!

  73. Just amazing. Ecto-Cooler…wow!

  74. Thank you for doing this so that I didn’t have to. Because I want to, trust me.

    Thumbs up! :)

  75. Dude… I loved this entree! At my school, they called this a “Mexican Pizza”. Imagine my surprise when Taco Bell rolled out their Mexican Pizza, and it wasn’t this masterpiece. I just may have to try & recreate one! Or, throw a party & get the ones from Schwan’s!

    Fiestada. It has a name. Wow.

    The Lunchables pizzas aren’t much better quality or health-wise, but I do remember wanting them.

    One thing I miss from the school cafeteria & turkey dinners is that glow-in-the-dark colored gravy. Not quite yellow, not quite green… but the same color as your glow-in-the-dark toys when the lights were on. I never did manage to sneak any somewhere dark to see if it did in fact glow.

  76. I’ve never tried any of the stuff you talked about! I’m not from the US and some of the food sounds soo good!

  77. LOL, it’s such a great post that reminds me of the ol’ days.. Nice! :)

  78. LOL!! Love this walk down memory lane. Great job!

  79. wow. i luv mshed potatoes. but siriously, WHAT do the people who have christmas decorations up before christmas?!?!

  80. My local store was playing Christmas music on Halloween night!

    Can you believe that I’ve NEVER eaten a school lunch?! And yes, I attended school… all 12 years’ worth. I was always jealous of my friends’ lunch selections: the “pizza”, the “salisbury steak”, the “turkey”, the tater-tots…. having never actually eaten any of it, I idealized the tasty smorgasbord on their plates.

    My grandmother packed my lunch in a brown sack each morning, and it usually consisted of the same peanut-butter sandwich, grapes, carrot sticks, cookies, and a thermos of milk.
    She would occasionally give me a turkey or tuna sandwich, but peanut-butter was more shelf-stable sitting in my locker. :P

    Last year, I was so sick and tired of everybody’s Turkey Dinner plans, that whenever I was asked, “What are you cooking for Thanksgiving?” I replied with,
    “Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches… with cookies for dessert.” And I was serious! :D

  81. Wonderful post, thank you for sharing! My favorite cafeteria lunch was a “wiener wink”–a hot dog baked in biscuit dough, typically served with tater tots. Third grader heaven! I’m sure they still have something similar, but I’m guessing they changed the name! LOL.

  82. Looks great!

  83. dearlordinheaven! I laughed till I snorted so loud the neighbors dog woke up! Of course my dogs and hubbie, all snoring at my side, are still sound asleep…damn, that neighbors dog is a light sleeper…
    I went to a private catholic school and although we never had the pleasure of the fiestada or any other remotely ethnic meal for that matter, there were neighbor kids that went to public school and the rumors of the fiestada ran rampant. Is it wrong, sad or maybe both that I would LOVE to make this for my kids dinner one night? Simply for the sheer entertainment value the look on their faces would evoke. As for the Ecto-Cooler..THANK YOU for that sugar induced seizure down memory lane!

  84. Pizzaman you’re a pro, thanks for the humor and congrats on fresh pressed!
    Glad you didn’t vomit from that mishmosh of extremely low quality food.

  85. That’s a cute drawing of a turkey there…or peacock…or a rooster? :)

  86. Thanks for the clarification. I never knew the Fiestada had a name. I thought it was part of the “Manager’s Choice” category where whatever was about to go bad was thrown together and served before they had to throw it out. OR WAIT, maybe the pending expiry is the special final element to serving the Fiestada.

    P.S. Your wife deserves a medal.

  87. Very entertaining blog. I would never let my kids buy lunch at school, they always brown-bagged it. They used to complain about it occasionally but now that they are adults and total “health nuts” they are glad they weren’t allowed to eat rubber food.

  88. I avoided feista pizza and those nasty canned peaches like the plauge! Funny post! Took me back to old times!

  89. When I was pregnant, I had a SERIOUS craving for Fiestadas! I’m glad I didn’t know you could buy them by the case, because I was so desperate I might have done it.

  90. Fiesteda! I think i saw some of that.. Happy Thanksgiving!

  91. maybe i shouldn’t have read this while eating lunch…… i never really ate school lunches. i lived across my elementary school so i always went home for lunch. perhaps that was a good thing after reading your post!

  92. Aaaaand now I’m hungry. :) Thanks a lot.

  93. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award! (Part 1) | Anything But Academia

  94. Does anyone remember the fried Vegetable sticks, they looked like cheese sticks.

  95. I scanned all of the comments and couldn’t find any other reference to ” Happy Jose “, the name I remember for those mexican pizzas. Was this something my school district (in northern ohio) named them? My classmates? or did Schwan work really hard to make sure that name was expunged from our collective memory?

  96. They were called Happy Jose at my school too. I went to school in Wellington

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