School Lunches Show Promise

     With another holiday looming up ahead, and getting us ready for the Christmas rush, everyone goes through the same ideas. What to cook? How much to cook? Who will come? Oh, and the leftovers, what will we do with them? Yes, those are already on the minds of the cook.

     I happen to be the cook. Oh, how such a fitting role it is for me. I have been cooking under my grandmother’s skirts since I was a mere child. She told me, “You stand there and watch and you won’t learn a thing.” “Get in here and I will teach you everything you need to know.” It must be true, as I spoke with my oldest daughter recently who stated she was sick of hamburger helper and the manwich was not a meal.

     She advised she would not be able to come in for Thanksgiving dinner, but she would be in sometime in December, just not for Christmas. I was promptly told I would cook stuffed French toast for breakfast and for lunch we would be out-of-town, but for dinner we would be cooking home-burgers and French fries as she would need these two mastered before she went home. The rest she would call for as needed.

     I thought about how this child was the least likely to own a stove in her home, unless it was for resale value only. But she had actually taken a shine to cooking. So I guess I will just keep filling her little kitchen with all of “momma’s” cooking until she can take no more. She did say she found she could bake a cake pretty well.

     A small group of us met next door at my neighbor, Joann’s a few nights back. Uncle Larry was there, which was quite a treat. Uncle Larry Billberry is always entertaining with his boastful voice, because he knows exactly what to say and the “when” to say it and after 37 years of service in the military, it has that effect on you.

The proper time is when it will cause a deafening silence. This time his comment was for John Croswell. John was hammering away at the toast before Uncle Larry made a comment about his “hammering” work. It was then John read the title of Uncle Larry’s shirt and the more he read, the bigger his eyes grew. Kind of like a kid, on Christmas morning. Yes, it was all I could do to keep myself from falling out of the chair. You know everyone has an Uncle Larry. He is the one that at just the right moment can deliver a question or comment so riveting, you almost wish you had listen to those old service generals and wore brown pants.

    However, Joann made a delightful dinner that took about three baskets of bread. I think she is joining Congress on healthier lunches for school. The final version was released just two weeks back, included limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. This would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable. Nutritionists have noticed advocating for healthier school lunches and a group of retired generals brought it to the board that poor nutrition was the leading medical disqualifiers for military service. And here I was thinking it has taken the military to tell Congress school lunches tastes like cardboard? They were better when I was a kid.

     My child takes a lunch every day and has for most of her school years. I could hardly argue with her. As a school teacher for five years, I was scarcely found in the lunchroom, unless I had school duty. My lunches were brought from home and consumed in the privacy of my own classroom. The students would stand outside of my door, begging for me to let them in so they could have just a morsel of what I had brought. I had to hide in the corner and eat to grade papers so I didn’t feel so bad for the children eating the food that was served.

     The new agreement ensures nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas as part of a balanced and healthy diet will remain. Tomato paste, potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber will keep healthy meals in school, but at the same time, these meals will be consumed by the students. If approved, the school lunch provisions will be part of a final House-Senate compromise on a $182 billion measure. I pray out of $182 billion somebody can prepare some meals the kids will eat, and meet the measures of malnutrition. If they need any help, they can contact Joann. She always says, “I hope I made enough.” “I just threw it together.”  And you sit down to a nine course meal that if she just threw that together, then yes, she will have the kids weighing in for sure.

                 Published November 17, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

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