I was reading an interesting series of short articles on public school food in D.C. The switch from shipping in pre-packaged individual meals to be warmed before serving to the kids to ‘fresh cooked’ meals in a brand new school kitchen actually means shipping in pre-packaged larger quantities of frozen food that are then reheated in a steamer by people who have never cooked in an actual commercial kitchen before, and everything is served with disposable tableware. They don’t even have a stove or a dishwasher in the new kitchen. The worst is the junk the kids are actually served. It sounds awful in taste and is just marginal in nutrition.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own cafeteria experiences. First off: Safetypup was on the milk cartons! His cartoon taught us safety tips while using good grammar. Matches are tools, not toys with which to play. Unfortunately I can’t find any pictures of Safetypup in his cartoon form, just scary costumed people dressed as Safetypup.
I used to keep my lunch money coins in the zippers of my Kangaroo shoes. It was really hard to stand on one foot in the lunch line as it moved forward and unzip my shoes to get the money out. Seems bizarre that I swipe a credit card at the work cafeteria now.
Mom would post the weekly school lunch menu from the newspaper on the fridge, and each morning she’d ask if we wanted to buy the menu choice or take a packed lunch. One of the most humiliating experiences of my elementary school lunch career was when the sixth grade girls (the meanest one was Jamie McCarthy!) made fun of my fifth-grade lunch: a hotdog in a Thermos of hot water, which I assembled with the bun at the table. Mom was creative in keeping the food hot, but the teasing stuck with me for, oh, 24 years now.
Our Little Hoosier meetings were held in the cafeteria. We made Indiana-shaped cookies once a year. I also remember thinking how dumb some of my classmates were during these meetings.
In boarding school we shared a cafeteria with college students. The most famous dishes were Limelight chicken, or Chernobyl chicken as suggested by the strange glowing color, and Tater Tot Hot Dish, or TTHD. The lady who ran the checkout was kind of socially awkward (I guess she fit in with us) and had some classic lines which made it to the Masochistic Board, a piece of MDF we propped in the lounge on our dorm floor, which we decorated with things that drove us nuts and then beat on it with a cat o’ nine tails-like device my mom had at home for distressing wooden frames. It had chains attached to a wooden handle and made a hell of a racket! It was so bad that the girls on the floor downstairs started crying because they thought someone was being beaten and we had to stop attacking our Masochistic Board. I’m not quite sure how it got that name, except maybe because we were punishing ourselves by going to a really hard school, but I do remember the director of student life taking a couple swings at it before it was retired.
Our work cafeterias are decent, but some days are better than others when it comes to veggie options. Still better than school food! I hated Hamette on Bun, which was a common Friday lunch.
There’s a program to fund veg options in school lunches!
I was going to end with a little rant about the pro-HFCS commercials, but instead I recommend a viewing of King Corn instead, which streams free from Netflix.
This post made me hungry.