This time of year I get nostalgic – visiting the department stores and grocery stores, seeing all of the “back to school” specials on clothes, backpacks, supplies, etc., and it makes me remember the school cafeteria. In my case, fondly. I come from the deep south in the 60’s, and processed food was just beginning to reach our area by the time I entered high school – in our district, that meant 9th grade. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I have fond memories of the lunch ladies and the goodies they prepared in elementary school. I wonder just how lucky I am if anybody else remembers school lunches with affection. I was a very picky eater (believe it or not) up until 9th grade, then a growth spurt changed all that and I ate everything that wasn’t nailed down for a couple of years (joining the tennis team didn’t hurt the appetite).
In elementary and middle school (6-8th grade for you “junior highschoolers”), we had lunch ladies that cooked from the heart. The regulations weren’t so strict that they couldn’t bring in overages from their gardens and farms and put them to good use, and fresh produce, not canned, was standard delivery. Our food was mostly fresh in the spring and fall months, and BBQ’d chicken was the highlight of my week. South Carolina BBQ (on Lula’s for Lunch and More! Catering ‘s Menu today, by the way, was taught to me by the lunch ladies. Not that they took me into the kitchen or anything, but I guess I was born with a contemplative and studious palate, and I was dissecting foodstuffs and their effect on my tastebuds even at the tender age of 6. I knew we were having BBQ’d chicken before the clock struck 10AM. I could smell it in the classroom – the warm, pungent mustard and vinegar mixed with honey and spices. I don’t know how they did it but they actually managed to get a crust on that mass produced chicken – I always hoped when they handed me my tray that it would be the tray with the blackest chicken skin! I still love char to this day – who doesn’t? It is a devilish trick that carcinogens taste sooo good. Don’t you think? I also fondly remember the little 4oz cardboard “cups” of ice cream, and though I always chose white milk, I always ate CHOCOLATE ice cream!
I’d love to know what YOUR favorite food memory from the school cafeteria is- chime in! In the meantime, Lula wishes for you lovely food experiences that create fabulous memories.