Hot-Lunch


I don’t remember who decided to go on strike, but most of us jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly…

Who, in their right mind, enjoyed the Hot-Lunch at school?

It was always corn-dogs, green beans, apple sauce, or less-than-thoroughly-cooked pizza, that was more tomato sauce than crust. It didn’t matter what it was, the stagnant smell hung like a toxic cloud menacing the children to move along the lunch line.

Each morning, as the school day began, our teacher would take roll and ask the students, “Hot lunch or did you bring lunch?”

“What’s the hot lunch today?” We’d ask every time, knowing all the words to the song in our heads, but unable to get them out. It can be hot, but that doesn’t make it lunch. We prayed for a cafeteria miracle!

There were usually two options: something gross, not surprisingly followed by something grosser still; but almost always pizza, which was the best, albeit semi raw, option. Nothing like uncooked tomato paste, to get those gastric juices going.

We’d eagerly walk up to the clear glass partition between us and the slop that would otherwise surely suck us in like some 1980s horror movie, each time hoping for a different outcome. But, it was always those same aluminum containers, overflowing with protein and fiber and nutrients—in other words, yucky, smelly, green stuff.

Well, one day, to my surprise and dismay, there was no pizza, even though they had said it was the hot-lunch!

I wasn’t going to pay $2.50 for corn-dogs and corn bread, or Salisbury steak. I don’t care what they wrote on the bulletin board, that was NOT steak. It was like a stake through the stomach. I wasn’t going to throw away money or food. So, I grabbed a chocolate milk, and a pack of cookies, paid the lunch lady and was on my way.

After a couple of days of this, I suppose they started noticing they had a surplus of corn-dogs. The lunch lady said I HAD to get the hot-lunch if I had signed up for it. I tried to explain that they didn’t have what they had promised during the morning roll call, but she insisted. I sullenly, no, not sullenly, I infuriatingly, went back and got a hot-lunch tray; the corn-dog seemed to bark at me in contempt. Ok, I was a little sullen.

I threw it all away! Their moist and chewy texture made them nauseating. Somebody needed to put those dogs to sleep.

So, we or I, decided to go on strike. One day, we all said we had brought lunch from home so none of us would buy the hot lunch. 20 kids, give or take, at $2.50 each, that’s 50 bucks. Yep, there were only about 20 of us in the classroom, in the whole 8th grade for that matter! For this small private school, fifty dollars was a significant enough sum to cause a stir.

They did the math and figured out some kids weren’t buying the hot lunch, even though they had signed up for it!

GASP!

Also, rumor had it that somebody who actually did bring their lunch from home, had snitched about the “strike”. TattleTales! It was the Hot-Lunchers versus the Sack-Lunchers. I certainly thought they were a sack of something after that.

We all got called to the Chapel. Church services were held there, as well as weekly Chapel when we would sing songs of praise and hear different Christian testimonies. It was GREAT, because you didn’t have to eat anything! We held mental math competitions, which I loved ’cause I was, ::cough cough:: am a geek. We also performed drama piece recitations, and reenacted many a nativity scene there.

Today wasn’t about fun, though; it was serious.

The Principal said we were being defiant and conspiring together for evil, maybe she didn’t say evil. She was going to get to the bottom of it, she insisted pounding her fist on the pew before us, specifically, before me I thought. After several minutes of the “What would Jesus Do” spiel, she dished out some silly punishment. No Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s, since it was a Christian school; more along the lines of “no recess for a week“, or an essay about Christian morals, and what not.

But, the biggest punishment…we had to start eating the hot-lunch again.

I will say that they messed up on the food orders less frequently. AND, eventually, they even started ordering Papa John’s instead of pretend cooking in their Easy Bake Ovens!

VICTORY!

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