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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memories of Coleytown Cafeteria Food

May 29, 2012:  Before I talk about the Killer Bees, as I've been promising to do (and the Brady Bunch), let me spend a few heartfelt minutes recounting the marvelous memories of the food they used to serve in the cafeteria of my old elementary school.

In yet another example of what seems to be a never-ending litany of things that were once, in the past, so much better, and now (because of greed and stupidity, and peripherals thereof) have come to suck shit, I can tell you we had awesome cafeteria food at Coleytown Elementary School in Westport, Connecticut, in the mid-1970s.

For starters, we ate on real plates -- unbreakable pink plastic plates that were washed every day by Herb the Janitor. How insane it is now that, with all our environmental overtures about recycling and all that bullshit, we only use the most disposable things we can in cafeterias and each day the custodians cart off a ton of plastic and styrofoam to the dumpster for god-knows-what stupid reason. (I don't even care what the reason is, even if you say the plastic plates put kids' health at risk, because I still maintain it's stupid and I stand by that, and I would much rather gamble on some kids getting a few cases of chemical poisoning than change my mind about it.)

Perhaps the most memorable lunch was Thursday's meatball grinder. "One or two meatballs," the cafeteria lady always asked each student before filling their grinder roll with the best sweet, saucy stuff you could imagine for the 60-cent price of a little red ticket. (I could never imagine why anyone would answer "One," but I guess some fools did.)

Spaghetti and meat sauce was also great, with a tasty salad and a mountain of pasta as good as you'd get in any family restaurant. (All the food seemed to be hearty and homemade, unlike the pre-prepped crap they pawn off today through the food service companies that inadvertently abuse our schools.)

Another awesome day was Wednesdays, when we often had turkey and mashed potatoes. The mashed were served with an ice cream scoop, and still today, it's hard to imagine anything tasting better. The turkey, which was lovely chunks of meat mixed into a sweet, gooey gravy, was delectable, and the spongy, olive-drab canned green beans were out of this world too (even though I usually didn't eat them).

Hamburgers and hot dogs were great days too, although in fifth grade I developed a reputation because I would literally smother these items with the condiments -- literally enough ketchup, mustard and relish to garnish six, heaped on my dog or hamburger. The cafeteria ladies would get mad at me, but I adamantly stood by my rights, like the little shit I was. (On a parallel note, I'm reminded of my best friend Debbie G. -- I think it was her -- and I making the creative discovery/proclamation some time around first grade that, as boys had hot dogs, what girls had must certainly be called hamburgers.)

Want more amazing? When we got to fifth grade we discovered that, since we were the last class eating, we could ask for seconds, and even thirds. The generous cafeteria ladies would heap enormous additional portions on our plates -- tons of turkey, spaghetti, extra french fries, and multiple ice cream scoops of mashed or, even better, delicious white rice prepared so perfectly sticky and tasty, I never ever since have tasted such a magnificent comforting delicacy.

And yet there was even more to experience than just amazing food. There was drama, entertainment, and mystery. I'll never forget the fearful risk one ran of being served by the woman who had no thumb. Usually she handled the desserts at the end of the line, but if it happened to come about that she was serving, it ended up warranting many minutes of discussion afterward. ("I saw it!" we'd exclaim, recounting the horror of how the skin had grown over the remaining knuckle.)

Most memorable, however, was the most surly lunch lady of them all, who, without fail -- day after day, for five straight years of my elementary experience -- would walk out into the large noisy lunchroom, literally holding up a big spoon like a character from Oliver Twist, and every single day, in a vaguely English voice that also sounded just like Fred Flintstone's mother-in-law, she would declare, "One lunch ticket missin'!"

She'd stand there waving the spoon like a pennant for a breath-holding moment while we all fell silent ... and waited, scared to speak ... until some stupid kid finally stood up and ran over to return the little ticket he'd forgotten to drop in the large, stout tin can with the paper pasted around outside. (It was probably the same kid each day, too.)

Day after day -- every day -- she said this, spoon in hand, every day ... And I've never forgotten the one and only time ever, in fifth grade, when she came out and shocked us all by announcing, "Two lunch tickets missin'!" (It's a moment burned in my memory as deeply as someone perhaps remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot.)

It was a delicious time, literally, and the memory is made all that much better by knowing that my new novel Space Case, which really isn't as new as it used to be, is now available in hard copy at Amazon. Get yours today and take a big bite!


  1. while you were wasting condiments over there at Coleytown, i wss not far away at Burr Farms, eating the same fare . . . i remember the little milk cartons and the slightly papery taste of their contents, and somewhere lost in a vault is the recipe for that ubiquitous tomato sauce, can we find it? And make it again? I want to squish big hunks of Portuguese rolls in that sauce and feel like I'm about to go out for recess again.

  2. Most memorable Coleytown Cafeteria Food story.