I think we all get a little sentimental when someone brings up tater tots, or offers us a fruit cup for desert. I consider myself somewhat of a conniseur of government-funded cafeteria food. Only the most sensitive palate would know the difference between a properly prepared salisbury steak, and a poorly prepared one. Eating school lunch everyday can really develop a young man’s taste buds. For the majority of my formative years, on an almost daily basis, I scarfed down one or more of the following institutional culinary delights:
1. Tater Tots
Shiny and crispy on the outside, dry as a popcorn fart on the inside. Fried, starchy perfection. Drown them in a tray section full of ketchup and the explosion of tangy and salty, crunchy and moist, will melt in your mouth. Quick side note, if one of these gets lodged in your esophagus, you’re not using enough ketchup. The starch in these little guys can sometimes act like a sponge, removing any hint of moisture from your gullet.
2. Tomato Soup (With Grilled Cheese)
The kind of tomato soup you make at home might be good and full of actual tomatoes, but nothing pairs better with a paper thin grilled cheese sandwich than a steaming bowl of reddish orange tomato based product. The sandwich should be made with only the whitest of bread, and please, only one piece of american cheese. Anything more would be an assault on the taste buds.
Pizza, it has been said, is like sex, in that it’s sometimes amazing, and sometimes just passable, but never really bad. If school cafeteria pizza were sex, it’d be the kind of sex you have when there’s no other sex available and you’ve only got a dollar twenty-five on you. But that’s no reason to disrespect cafeteria pizza, it was a staple of our youth. Dough that resembled something between a saltine and styrofoam, topped with a thin spread of tomato sauce (presumably some reduced tomato soup from a previous lunch), then a layer of rubbery mozzarella cheese that refused to melt completely.
4. Chicken Turnovers
While doing my research I discovered that this dish may have not been as widely popular as I thought, but I’m including it regardless, because it was one of my favorites. You start with a flaky, pastry crust, pack it with the stringiest chicken you can find (dark meat preferred), then throw it in the oven for however long you feel like it. Oh what a hearty treat. The buttery taste of the crust, and the salty fat taste of gravy soaked chicken strings combine to produce a composition of flavor that if it were a color, would be grey. Is your mouth watering OR WHAT?
5. Fruit Cup
Mmmm, you know what really tops off a meal of hardly recognizable, food-shaped, protein-based savory masses? A sweet fruit cup, that’s what. Now, it’s important to remember that fresh fruit is for rich kids, and nobody likes a rich kid. A real fruit cup is 8% fruit, 83% corn syrup, and 9% air. My favorite way to enjoy fruit cups is in large numbers. Say, in a fruit cup eating contest, where the winner succeeds simply by not shitting himself.
I hope you enjoyed my review of everyone’s favorite school lunch items. You can try making these at home for yourself, but these items are best served where they were born, in public school cafeterias. Unless you have children of your own or a girlfriend in high school, you’ll just have to try and remember what this stuff tasted like. Bon Appetit!