Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cafeteria Food

In response to the recent media and online discussion about government control of student diets, Laura Lee Donoho at The Wide Awake Cafe has a few thoughts about Kids and Cafeteria Food.

Her reminiscences, and those of the commenters, of course, sparked my memories of junior high school (where all life's deepest nightmares have their root).

Mom never gave us money for the school lunches: we weren't rich enough. We also weren't poor enough to get the free meals the system eventually provided. So my siblings and I brown-bagged. Literally. It was embarrassing. What's more embarrassing, we had sandwiches made from homemade bread, because the stuff from the store cost more. A thin slice of meat loaf or a dollop of tuna salad between two slices of honey-wheat bread... I could have happily sunk into the floor. Invisibility would have been insufficient.

Mom also made sure we had fresh fruit. Sometimes, she would peel the orange for us, or slice an apple and pack a tiny tupperware container of peanut butter to go with it.

Plus, there were homemade cookies. Those chocolate snowflake cookies, or molasses crinkles, or chocolate chip and pecan, or double-chocolate brownie drops, or bits-o'-brickle, or even the occasional slab of Texas sheet cake. Once, there was even a wedge of cherry pie.

I had never been so humiliated in my life.

There was everybody else -- all the cool kids -- snarfing down greasy, lukewarm pizza or hockey puck hamburgers, or "mystery meat", or better still, "shepherd's pie" made from leftover "mystery meat" stew topped with Tater Tots. It all looked so enticing, especially as it went into the mouths of Allison, Steve, Chris, Anne, and the rest of those kids who knew how to dress like a fashion magazine reader.

I used to long to work up the nerve, to trade my embarrassing wheat bread sandwich for a plate of macaroni and cheese, with the cheese in dry lumps on the top, as if it had been browned in some slow volcanic action. But I always figured they'd make fun of me in loud voices. And, I couldn't stand any attention. After all,
Picture of me at 13 I believed my face was so ugly could stop clocks.

I guess what this whole discussion about cafeteria food boils down to is forcing "normalcy" on every kid, by not allowing variations of behavior in the school environment. I can't actually see how some of the offical dietary measures can be good for kids, in the long run. Won't this continue to create cause for ostracism? Isn't it also likely to, ahem, feed the image problem that young people so often struggle over?

As long as you obey the latest official trend, you'll be fine. Step out of line, and it's Lord of the Flies.

That's some plan for a healthy society, innit?

Welcome to all who've come here from Laura's post at Wide Awake Cafe. Thanks for coming, Take your shoes off, make yourselves at home, and I hope you enjoy your visit. If you need anything, let me know.

1 comment:

Laura Lee Donoho said...

Excellent post. Your description of the delicious lunch your Mom made you made me hungry!