When I first moved to Canada, I was shocked about three things: 1) mail gets delivered on foot 2) the price of cheese (Seriously, what is UP with that?) and 3) the schools didn't have cafeterias.
WHAT? You mean I have to make a lunch each day? But that takes too much time! Where will I find the time to watch the poolboy and eat bon bons whilst wearing nothing but diamonds and a few strategically placed feathers?
Growing up, Sundays were a day of promise and hope. I would open the newspaper eagerly to find the school lunch schedule for the week. Spaghetti-os on Monday? Awesome! Chicken nuggets on Wednesday? Whoo-hoo! Fishsticks Friday? Uh-oh, I feel a sick day coming on.
Looking back, the school lunches weren't particularily good or even (gasp!) nutritious, but I remember the rush of excitement when the bell rang and we all ran to get in line. Food, glorious food! We got to pick our own little trays and choose white or chocolate milk. The power we held!
Of course now that I'm old and withered, I can't remember a single meaningful conversation I had with my friends over our plates of pears floating in Jell-o, or if I even liked the mystery casserole (tasty!), but I do remember one day in particular.
I was in the fifth grade when my mom got the brilliant idea that I should get a head gear. She and my evil dentist decided that my front teeth were a wee bit bucked and this was due to my tongue pressing on front teeth. (WTF?) So the dentist installed a tortuous device in the roof of my mouth that had three little barbs that prevented me from letting my tongue touch my front teeth. What it actually did was stab my tongue ove and over because I couldn't very well keep my tongue curled up all the time, could I? I remember sitting at a long table in the caf surrounded by my friends trying to eat soggy french fries while my poor swollen tongue got stabbed repeatedly. Big fat tears rolled down my face and some nameless teacher patted my back ineffectually. It was probably the worst day in my little life and probably the only thing I remember the most about elementary school besides my insane desire to ace every one of my spelling tests, because I was a nerd like that.
Each day, as I slave over making my kids a nutritrious lunch (Cheetos! Lunchables! Yogurt Tubes!), I think wistfully of the cafeteria, an institution that gave my mom the extra time each day for her to put an extra ice cube in her gin and spray an extra layer of Aqua-net on her feathered bangs. The lucky bitch.
Check out School Menu and its parental counterpart Family Everyday, two sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents. I found I was insanely jealous going to these sites! Oh, to live in the land of cafeterias!