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School cafeteria food used to be something to remember

One day, I was substitute teaching at a local school and noticed that the cafeteria food at that particular school had taken a route which could be best described as ěinto the ditch.î I then thought about the good food (both in nutrition and in palatability) that I ate from 1957-1965 at the Granite Quarry School cafeteria.
The most wonderful smell in Graniteís cafeteria was the smell of homemade (technically,school-made) rolls made by the ladies of the cafeteria. The aromaís richness made it seem like the heat of baking was charging up the ěbread molecules,î sending them through the air to be inhaled, announcing the presence of fresh bread. Those rolls were huge, and not just because my hands were smaller then. In Ancient Rome, a soldier was given a daily ration of bread. Fortified with such rolls as we were given, the Granite Quarry schoolchildren, like those old Romans, could have conquered Gaul ( or more likely, Faith or Rockwell).
Great cooking vats could be glimpsed in the back of the cafeteria as we went through the serving line. Nowadays, a lot of school food is trucked in, somewhat resembling prepared ěKî rations, but the cooking of our food was just a distance of some feet from where we would later sit and eat.
After the food was spooned onto our plates by the cafeteria ladies (who were always friendly and seemed to truly care about us), the juice from the cooking would ebb out from the portions of boiled potatoes, string beans, turnip greens, cabbage, etc. Separate miniature globules could be seen floating in the water, with a hint of oily iridescence when struck by a shaft of sunlight through the cafeteria windows, proving that the food was truly cooked on site, and cooked in the Southern fashion.
I have only one bad memory associated with the Granite Quarry School cafeteria ó not with the food, but with an occurrence there. That memory consists of what I saw on the table one day as a result of an unfortunate little boy who was evidently afflicted with a stomach virus. As a result of his afflicted stomach, he lost his turnip greens (and by ělostî I donít mean that he misplaced them, or that they slid off of his plate). I had also eaten a helping of greens, and they tasted fine to me, so to paraphrase Cassius: ěThe fault, dear Brutus, was not with the cafeteria, but with his stomach.î Even so, after what I saw that day, it wasnít until some years later at Appalachian Stateís cafeteria that I regained my taste for turnip greens.
Our cafeteria beverages back then consisted solely of little half-pint containers of milk and containers of juice, minus the variety of mineral and vitamin-laden waters of today. The most exotic beverage to the best of my memory, was chocolate milk, also in the little half-pint cartons.
We had metal utensils in the cafeteria in my day, but in the schools in which I have recently substituted, the plastic ěsporkî is the utensil of choice. The spork has the look of being either a half-hearted fork or a half-hearted spoon; and besides eroding the parameters of what constitutes a proper table setting, it also further erodes the English language.
Nowadays, peaches are served already chopped up in containers. At Granite Quarry School, we were given peach halves, the slipperiness of which necessitated their being held with a fork and cut with a knife. I guess thatís why the peaches are chopped now; imagine cutting up a peach half with a spork.
In the old days of metal utensils, lessons of physics and simple machines could be learned at the lunch table, such as using the principles of a fulcrum and a lever to propel an eating utensil up, over and down to another table. One day, while experimenting with our launch system for such propulsion up, over and down to the cafeteria tables of our fellow classmates, we listened to astronaut Alan Shepardís brief, 15-minute sub-orbital space flight being broadcast live from a radio station over the cafeteriaís loudspeaker.
That day, the trajectories of our launched forks and spoons, along with the trajectory of Alan Shepardís ěFreedom 7î capsule had one thing in common: Neither achieved orbit.

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