Let Us Now Praise the Lunch Ladies
August 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
I admit, I have ridiculed lunch ladies in my day. I have even proposed to dress as a lunch lady for Halloween. The stereotypical arms, you see, the hanging, swinging flesh there, would be made of suntan panty hose, stuffed lumpy with sterile cotton. My son calls these “Bingo Wings.” You know, when an older lady raises her arms to say Bingo! this is the part that jiggles. As in, “Mom, you have Bingo wings.” That will make you do push ups with some regularity, I’ve found.
This summer I went to camp for about a month—the first two weeks as a teacher, the second two weeks as a student. What held these two experiences together for me, besides the fact that they both had to do with writing, was the lunch ladies. I could show up for a meal, swipe my card, and I was served something to eat. Then my plate was taken away. This blew my mind. I like to cook , but let’s face it, day in, day out, I am the lunch lady. My husband and boys cook occasionally, but I am the go to, the person who answers the question ”what’s for dinner?” most often. If it were just me, I’d eat a lot more crackers and cereal. At the beginning of each camp, I marveled at the magic of the institutional meal. It just happened. And then it was gone! Later, I bemoaned the lack of flavor, the high concentration of carbs, the faux versions of the world’s cuisines, but I still ate it. There was comfort there. There was, as any toddler knows, more to the fact of being fed than to the flavor of the food itself.
My son, a teenaged runner, eats a lot. He’s learning to cook, but if I am around, he wants me to cook for him. I asked my neighbor about this. She has three sons, but one eats little food unless she makes it. She finally asked him, “Does it make you feel loved when I cook for you?” He didn’t talk much about such things, she said, but he answered the question, “yeah.”
So, here’s to the lunch ladies, hairnets or no. Here’s to their consistency, their supposed nutritional balance. Here’s to their willingness to stand behind steamy tables, spoon in hand, asking do I want another scoop, or on the periphery of the room, waiting for me to take the last bite. Here’s to having food served to you, then taken away, without even asking.