I have been vocal for some time now that I would not want to be a child today.
As much as that would shave 50 years off my age and let me live most of my life all over again, I am happy to have grown up when I did. I truly believe that it was a much better time in a variety of ways than today. These kids are facing a much tougher and much more unforgiving world than we ever did.
But if I could take one thing from the present and take it back with me to the past, it would be the cafeteria lunches in schools. It is so much better now than it ever was back in my day. The comparison is not even close.
I see that very clearly now that I’m working at a middle school for sixth- through eighth graders.
When I was in junior high school – the term, “middle school,” was not even a glimmer in any educator’s eye in the late 1960s – the lunch menu was, shall we say, extremely limited. In fact, there was no variety at all.
One meal fits all.
It was like when they first started mass-producing cars.
“You can have that automobile in any color you want – as long as it’s black,” or so the saying went.
Or back-in-the-day TV, when each market in the country had three – just three – main channels (CBS, ABC and NBC; FOX did not exist then), along with a couple of UHF stations.
“You can watch anything you want – as long as it’s on one of these four or five stations.”
But that was then, and this is now. And now, there is no shortage of meal choices. There are seemingly as many selections as there are stars in the sky. Well, maybe not exactly as many, but it sure seems that way, especially when compared to what existed in the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
There are seven different food lines students can get into to buy their lunches at my school: Sizzle, Taste, Bake, Crisp, Amigos, On The Go and Extra, Extra.
The menus in the Sizzle line for the first three days of a recent week were:
- Baked chicken parmesan, penne pasta with spaghetti sauce and steamed broccoli florets.
- Cheesy chili fries, Mexicali corn and whole-grain dinner rolls.
- Sweet ’n sour chicken or tofu, brown fried rice and fresh steamed carrots.
In the Amigos line for the same three days, it was:
- Turkey soft taco, cheese quesadilla with jalapenos, Mexican style refried beans and steamed broccoli florets (two days).
- Turkey macho nacho, Mexican style refried beans and Mexicali corn.
And in the Bake line were these items:
- Classic pepperoni pizza and steamed broccoli florets.
- Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple and Mexicali corn.
- Garlic cheese bread and fresh steamed carrots.
I can guarantee you that my junior high cafeteria had none of these dishes on any day, ever. Boys of that age love to eat. They just do. It was the way, way back when, and it’s that way now. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. If my buddies and I had had those kinds of choices with that kind of food, we might have never left the cafeteria, and we would have weighed a lot more.
However, though tempting, it’s not enough, for I would still take my day over the present one overall. But can I have just a taste of their Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple?