I am a man of refined taste. I drink Miller High Life, I eat my canned cheeses on Ritz crackers, and if I had a cat or kitten, I would most assuredly read Cat Fancy (but just for the articles, honestly!). Because I’m a fancy-ass man with as much class as any John Malkovich character you might see, even the ones with swords, I can tell you that there is nothing richer than acting rich. Just walk up to some serf and pretend you’re wiping your nose with Andrew Jackson’s visage. They will no doubt give you a Dickensian look of despondency indicating the perfect time to say, “Stick that in your tulip glass and see how it noses.” At this point, the previous sad expression will transform into one of bewilderment and you have won the superiority game.
And it feels good to be a winner. Just ask me. I would not hesitate for a moment in telling you that I have been called a coquette by the French and a cretino by the Italians. I don’t know if you’ve ever been called italicized things by foreigners before, but it’s pretty much great. If you want to be lifeboat material like Billy Zane and Dolores Claiborne, you gotta make your life worth saving. Get some culture. Let me put it this way: I can chew my caviar and rub my cravat at the same time. I’m like some Donald Trumpeter of the high-end times.
But the savoir vivre I achieved did not come without tribulation, friends, for I was not born a child of elegance. I had to fight, you see. I had to food fight. Not necessarily fighting with food, though that’s always looked like a lot of fun. This was more of an internal struggle. Like my internals were struggling.
Like my belly was full of public school food.
Now I’m not saying that private schools had it way, way better than public schools, but we’ve all heard stories of Hawaiian Punch in the water fountains and go-karts and kidapults on the playgrounds. Or, at the very least, unrectangular pizza slices. I can only write on my own experiences, however, and they are difficult to swallow to this day. I still have Vietnam flashbacks of fish krispies. Vegetable medley night terrors. Weak knees from the mac-n-cheese. Have you ever cried over beef stew? Neither have I, but I saw a lunch lady do it once. I decided on that day that I was never EVER going to end up a lunch lady. And I made good on my self-promise (so far). I also decided on that day that I was never going to eat old lady tears in my beef stew ever again. Thank you for that, Ms. Rhonda.
But it wasn’t all bad up in the cafeterias. There were a few All-Star players in the lunch game. I’m thinking of some Hall of Famers like Cinnamon Roll, Orange Sherbert, and Beefy Cheese Nachos. Hell, even Ol’ Krinkley Fries had his good days. There was only one, however, that children checked for on their fridge’s lunch calendars in blithesome anticipation. Only one for which the ‘bring your lunch’ kids unselfishly awarded their PB&Js and Dunk-a-Roos to their classmates for a taste of savory poultry flesh bathed in luscious barbecue dressing. I’m referring, of course, to Chicken Nugget Day.
Let’s check out the line-up:
–5 tender nuggets
–mashed potatoes w/ brown gravy
–1 bread roll
–maybe a piece of chocolate cake or some ice cream (chocolate or vanilla) for dessert
–1 heaping helping of love
The dish too delish to diss. The combination made kids’ heads spin. It was like the ’92 Dream Team of cheap, unfrozen meals (think about it like this: chocolate milk = Patrick Ewing…see?). Chicken Nugget Day (henceforth known as CND) rendered the cafeteria a house of madness. You could compare it to the New York Stock Exchange, but swap out business suits for OshKosh B’Gosh and stocks for salty meat pieces. Kids became nugget pimps, trading tray items in shifty under-the-table dealings. But, trust me, it was no easy task convincing others to barter their fried hen skin (or any of the other complementary menu items) and it may have been even more difficult to curb incoming advances from pushy bully types. Why don’t you eat your own butt if you’re still hungry, T.J.?
What was it about those chomps of chicken that made children rebuff offers of Teddy Grahams or Fruit by the Foot to retain their midday refection? I mean, my God man, that’s three feet of fun! How could one keep all his own nugs and collect the nugs of others without nug consequences? It’s a nugly world out there and you can’t just outnug the system. What a truly bleak nug of war we pulled at all those years.
There was, however, one morsel of pure goodness that penetrated the darkness of our nugget-craving souls:
THE PERFECT BITE (also known as The Ultimate Bite in the Northeastern States and parts of Canada)
How to make The Perfect Bite—1.) Pull off a piece of bread roll, this will be used as the base. 2.) Apply 1 chicken nugget to roll base. 3.) Top bite with scoop of mashed potatoes. 4.) Place whole bite in mouth and chew.
I once knew a kid who didn’t partake in The Perfect Bite and now I’m pretty sure he’s dead or in Vermont or something like this. TPB was a beautiful, hopeful thing that brought truants to class and smiles to their faces. It was the excess before recess. A school time activity where even the dumb kids could feel special. Thanks to ye, CND!
So, as you can read, even some of the fanciest pants out there were once filled by starch packed comestibles. Though I’m glad I’m finished with that old lunch food, part of me still yearns for another cafeteria nugget (dipped in a coupe of grey poupon, of course). Now I hear that school lunches are much healthier than their counterparts of eld. I can’t imagine that healthier means tastier though, so I suppose this doesn’t constitute an opportunity for me to bitch about the good ole days as I so often do in these situations. Well, bye!