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A Buck and a Quarter

by Eva Pasco 

HS Cafeteria

One of my back-to-school traditions as a third grade classroom teacher involved reading aloud from David Greenburg's The Great School Lunch Rebellion (Bantam, 1997).  This fast-paced rhyming and rollicking saga features kids careening out of control in their school cafeteria,shades of John "Bluto" Blutarsky popping a zit which precipitates a food fight engulfing the entire cafeteria in the acclaimed Animal House. "Guess what I am now?"   


The Great School Lunch Rebellion not only offered a great vehicle to launch into school rules, but presented me with a golden opportunity to take a nostalgic detour through my own childhood experiences during the latter part of the fifties as they bridged into the sixties--The Great School Lunches at Lincoln Community.   Twenty-five cents a day or a buck and a quarter for the week bought you a hot meal replete with a half bread-and-butter sandwich on white and wheat or cornbread on numerous occasions, a dessert, and a half pint of milk in a glass bottle from Maplehurst Dairy embossed with a red maple leaf and "You never outgrow your need for milk."  Those glass bottles alone spilled their own chaos when accidentally dropped onto the linoleum floor.  


I recollect inching forward in a line which snaked along the institutional green walls past the the lavatories and boiler room before being deposited inside the cafeteria, an emerald isle of green banquet tables spatially arrayed with napkins and silverware. A team of matronly hair netted cooks in immaculate white uniforms served us behind the kitchen counter,their scoopers raised in the air, ready to dole one or two scoops of sustenance on light plastic plates poised on our trays.  Back then, food was prepared and cooked on the premises and the menu varied widely.  Main entrees included Sloppy Joe, American Chop Suey, Hungarian Goulash, fish sticks with parsley potatoes and veggie, cream of corn chowder with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich, turkey dinner, mock pizza, and corned beef & hash. The desserts entailed some of the finest made-from-scratch fare: brownies, chocolate cake, jello or pudding topped with whipped cream--chocolate and butterscotch. 


All this for a quarter a day or buck and a quarter a week in comparison to a not unheard of $2.75 a day for an elementary school lunch trucked to the premises in the twenty-first century. Typical menus include a round robin of once frozen pizza, tacos, and popcorn chicken with commercially packaged desserts.  It's a wonder more kids aren't staging their own school lunch rebellion..." It all started when Linda threw Phyllis's lunch out the school cafeteria window..."  


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Underlying Notes by Eva Pasco  An E. Quiche by Eva Pasco



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