March 15 Fun Monday--and the topic is:
School Lunch Memories
Recently I've been reading Anne Lamott's excellent book on writing: bird by bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Lamott also taught a basic writing class. In one class she had her students write for a half hour about their memories of school lunch. The idea was to take a pretty universal topic--school lunch-- and write down their memories of that one hour in the school day. She had her students complete the exercise to show them that the first challenge for a writer is to get something on paper--a rough draft that can be revised and polished into a good piece of writing.
Wow. I discovered I have a lot to say about school lunches. More than one post, in fact. I'm guessing you also have plenty of memories of that hour in the school day when you ate lunch. Chances are pretty good that school lunch meant a lot more than the PB & jelly sandwich or slice of pizza that you ate.
So your assignment for March 15 is to share your memories of school lunches. What kind of school did you attend--public, private, parochial, city or country? Did you bring lunch from home or buy in the school cafeteria? Or, did you go home for lunch? What did your lunch look like? Who prepared it? Who did you have lunch with? Was this a happy part of the school day? What did you do during lunch time other than eat your PB & J sandwich?
Here are the players for this week. After you've written your post, try to visit as many other Fun Monday participants as you can over the next couple of days.
1. debs -- daydreams in the shed
2. janis -- life according to jan and jer
3. joangee -- musings n waffle
4. sayre -- sayre smiles (host for March 22--yay sayre!)
5. ari -- beyond my slab
6. sandy -- myanderings
7. ingrid -- what link for you?
8. church lady -- living life in pa
9. loonyhiker -- successful teaching
10. gracie -- mama rehema
11. swampy -- anecdotes
12. wendy -- wendishness
13. gattina -- writer cramps
14. celeste -- ragracers
15. mariposa -- mariposa tales
16. min -- mama drama (? usually plays)
17. jill -- life is not bubble wrapped (? usually plays)
18. pamela -- the dust will wait (just added!)
In bird by bird Anne Lamott has this to say about school lunches: "Here's the thing I know about public school lunches: It's only looked like a bunch of kids eating lunch. It was really like opening our insides in front of everyone. . .the contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were Okay. Some bag lunches, like some people, were Okay, and some weren't. There was a code, a right and acceptable way. It was that simple." That's what I remember all through school. A struggle to not be different from other kids, even in what I ate for lunch. So my "School Lunch Memories" aren't the greatest. However, I'll try to keep the childhood angst to a minimum since it IS Fun Monday! :-)
Elementary School 1950s -- I started school in a small, one-room country schoolhouse for grades 1-8. My older sister and brothers were in the upper grades. We sometimes shared our lunch out on the school grounds, eating from the same lunch pail. Usually it would be biscuits (for our English friends biscuits are a breakfast bread not a sweet cookie) filled with fried eggs and salt pork or jelly. Even in the first grade I wanted my own lunch sack to put up on the cloakroom shelf with the other kids' lunches. Finally my no nonsense mother gave in to my pleas. However, she didn't understand that the sack was just as important as the lunch itself. It must be a plain brown bag NOT one advertising Watson's Department Store. It embarrassed me that my lunch was different. Even more important, I wanted a sandwich made with store bought bread slices and bologna, not egg biscuits.
In the mid-50s school changed drastically. A big consolodated school opened up near my home, closing all the small one-room schools. I was in the 3rd grade. That school came with a cafeteria and a whole new set of lunch problems for a proud kid. The lunches were wonderful cooked from scratch meals. And there were foods that I'd never had before--spaghetti and meat sauce, hamburgers and hot dogs. The only problem was that the lunches cost 25 cents--a lot of money in those days. However, kids whose families were on welfare could get free lunch. My family was eligible.
Every morning the teacher collected lunch money from students. When it was time to go to the lunchroom the teacher would announce that everyone should line up. Those who paid got in line first. Free lunch kids waited and lined up last. Every day I cringed to be singled out as a "free lunch" kid. After about a year of this, I rebelled (the start of a long career of civil disobedience!). My mother had to send a note to school asking that I get free lunch. I refused to turn it in, tearing the note up instead. My father sneaked me enough money to get some chips and a coke for lunch. When my mother found out what my father and I were doing we both got tongue lashings and threats. But that was better than being humiliated every day.
High School early 1960s -- lunch time was a lot happier when I got in high school. At 14 years old I started working after school and on the weekends, doing babysitting and house cleaning for several great families. I earned money for school expenses. No more free lunches for me. Instead, I joined my friends at a little diner/store next to our school. We had cokes and potato chips for lunch and fed the jukebox with our spare nickels so we could dance. None of us missed those cafeteria lunches. I was glad to not be singled out--to be Okay.
Training the Lunch Ladies 1980s -- I've had ties with school lunch for most of my life. At one point in my working career I was hired by the Kentucky Department of Education to conduct training for cafeteria cooks because of my previous work as an adult basic educator. The lunch ladies were mostly good home cooks, so I traveled across the state conducting workshops on quantity food service. The training was to help them plan and cook nutritious lunches that used the government commodity foods from the US Department of Agriculture. We had great fun in these workshops learning how to do everything from making 10 gallons of mayonnaise to setting up the first salad and potato bars for self service lunches. (Here's my best hint for the lunch ladies on baking and serving the perfect baked potato: 1. bake the potato uncovered so it dries out, 2. give the hot potato a gentle whack on the counter to fluff it up, 3. cut an X in the top and then 4. gently squeeze each end of the potato to open it up for the toppings--when they practiced this, I told the lunch ladies to imagine that they were pinching Richard Gere's butt!)
So there you have it. My school lunch memories--some Okay, some not Okay. Thanks everyone for playing today. I'll be around shortly to see what you remember from the lunchroom.
(school lunch image credit: http://www.staugustineschools.com/)