It’s that time of year again, figstudents: back to school! To honor your triumphant return to the hallowed halls of middle and high schools all over the country, we asked Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie, a back-to-school question.
Hey Kate, when you were in school, what was in your lunch box?
The more relevant question would be: what wasn’t in my lunch box?
Let’s see. There were no Twinkies.
There were no Ding-Dongs, Ho-Ho’s or Suzy Q’s.
There were no Fritos, Cheetos or Pringles.
There was no Peter Pan peanut butter. There was no Skippy. There was no Jiff.
There was no Marshmallow Fluff, grape jelly or strawberry jam.
And perhaps worst of all (at least to my mind) there was no Wonder bread
My mother (bless her) was a health food nut before they learned to make healthy food taste good.
So, this is what was in my lunch bag: bread that seemed to be constructed of twigs, gravel and sawdust. Truly. It was whole grain bread of some sort. It was earnest, dry, difficult to chew and even more difficult to swallow. The bread was spread with unsalted, un-homogenized peanut butter. On top of the peanut butter, there was a modest amount of unsweetened apple butter.
My extras were: an apple, raw cashews, carrot sticks or dried apricots.
Maybe I sound angry. I wasn’t angry.
I was hungry.
I used to daydream about getting locked in the Winn-Dixie over night so that I could eat bag after bag of Cheetos, with a chaser of Lucky Charms.
And the Wonder Bread. Oh, the Wonder Bread.
There was a Wonder Bread bakery in Orlando. Sometimes, we drove by it late at night or early in the morning and the smell of white, soft bread filled the station wagon.
I sat in the backseat and thought: man, what it would it be like to have a sandwich on Wonder Bread?
I think one of the reasons I became a writer is so that I could answer that question. In a story, anything can happen. You can open your lunch bag and find a sandwich made with Wonder Bread and Skippy Peanut Butter, piled high with Marshmallow Fluff.