I didn't make it to school in time for lunch yesterday. So, to make up for it I ate lunch AND dinner with my kiddies today.
Lunch was a little overwhelming. Even though I know the lunch ladies quite well, communication was lacking and I never really understood what my options were.
Here's what the website listed for today's fare:
Fresh Fruit Variety
Milk, Chocolate Skim
What were my options in the cafeteria?
Well, there were definitely tamales, so I chose those (my very first tamale experience). Next I chose mashed potatoes (with gravy) instead of white rice. The sign on the lunch counter directed me to chose one meat, one bread and two vegetables, but I was offered a second bread - corn bread - and gladly accepted. Next, there were a few small styrofoam bowls of plasticky looking salad, covered in plastic wrap, but I couldn't bring myself to opt for the salad since I knew I had a refrigerator drawer full of farmers market veggies waiting for me at home. Instead I took a banana - the other fruit choices were green and red apples in plastic containers - and a carton of mixed berry juice that only contained 10 percent vitamin C. Luckily it was 100 percent juice and no high fructose corn syrup. The milks were covered up when I passed by, but I can only assume that that was because I had arrived a little early for the 8th grade lunch. I was charged an even $3 and given a spork and napkin in a little plastic package with which to enjoy my lunch.
And the result? The tamales were mushy and much too salty. I only ate half of one. The mashed potatoes were your standard instant mash: rather bland with a synthetically smooth texture. I'm pretty sure that the gravy was vegetable-based, and it tasted just like the gravy that you buy in a packet at the supermarket. The banana, was, well, a banana. And the juice was unremarkable. Who knew you could even buy juice these days that is not fortified with 100 percent DV of vitamin C?
I never saw steamed spinach or pinto beans, as advertised on the website, but I did notice a rack full of Doritos at the cash register. It was unclear if they cost extra, or if they were included in the meal. Hopefully tomorrow I will be a little bolder and ask what my healthier options are. I felt confused and too embarrassed to ask for clarification about my choices, so it's easy to see what some of the obstacles are to making healthy choices for students who are surrounded by critical peers and in a rush to get back to their tables and socialize.
For dinner, we served hot dogs with green beans, fruit cocktail and white hot dog buns. For the first time, the meal was accompanied by condiments - two large boxes of ketchup and mustard packets. As previously mentioned, the middle-schoolers must take all or nothing, so each of their plates contained a serving of each food. I am not subject to this rule, however, so when I cut into line to grab myself a hot dog, I declined the almost brown, overcooked and over-salted canned green beans and the incredibly sweet fruit cocktail. I used two packets of ketchup to enhance the taste of my rubbery dog and stale bun.
I certainly felt tired today, and lunch and dinner didn't help. After arriving home this evening, I promptly stir-fried a large wok full of fresh vegetables - summer squash, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach, red peppers - and felt a little lighter afterward.
Tomorrow I can look forward to a chicken burger and oven roasted french fries for my noontime meal. Oh boy!