School Lunch

September 11, 2008

Not too long ago I heard that some schools are trying to save money by not buying cafeteria trays. How exactly is this supposed to save money? I’m not sure because I thought all cafeteria trays in 1953, the same year they purchased most of their food. And which trays are they getting rid of? What if schools start getting rid of the trays that had the compartments? Remember those? You’d have your magical mystery meat in one compartment, a scoop of irradiated vegetables, a square of red jell-o with salad dressing poured on it to give it some flavor, and some kind of fruit from a can. There was one year I’m pretty sure my school got a special deal on prunes because we got prunes every day. Sometimes the prunes were compressed into squares and covered with gravy and served as meatloaf. That was a bad year because there’s nothing worse than having to go to P.E. and do laps around the track an hour after you’ve had prunes.

But I digress. I can sort of understand getting rid of the flat trays that are just for carrying plates. We all at some point experienced the humiliation of someone tripping us and sending a plate full of reconstituted library paste mixed with lard, feed corn, and magical mystery meat flying across the room. What exactly was that stuff, anyway? I once asked a cafeteria lady and after she stopped scratching her goiter and took the cigarette out of her mouth she just grunted, "the other brown meat". We all had our suspicions about where the cafeteria food came from. There were signs up in the bathroom that said, "Flush twice, it’s a long way to the kitchen", and while they didn’t look like they were official that doesn’t mean they weren’t put there by the school. And then there was the time Mr. Tibbles, our class guinea pig, ran away. At least the teacher told us he ran away, but where does a two-pound guinea pig run away too? Back to Guinea? Even if he could have gotten there it still doesn’t explain why we found cedar shavings in the spaghetti later that week.

But I digress. Maybe it really was beef in the school food, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Grade A. How could we all be expected to make high grades when the food we were getting rated, at best, a C-? But I digress. At least school food was better than camp food, although camp food had the advantage that we only had to eat it for a week. When you’re out roughing it in the wilderness it does make sense that you would have to hunt down and kill your own meals, but not when the meal is bacon and eggs that have been sitting so long they’ve formed an entirely new organism. And then there was the chipped beef on toast, which we always had on Wednesdays. For a while it wasn’t so bad. At least we didn’t have to chase it down and stab it with a fork. Then someone mentioned that the hospital just down the road always performed circumcisions on Tuesdays. Still, it could have been worse. It could have been chipped prunes on toast.

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