Top 10 things I’ve learned While being a Lunch Lady

1. Dawn dishing washing liquid can clean anything

2. It’s easier to get up before 5am than after

3. When in doubt always make extra

4. Don’t be afraid to use kids for physical labor

5. Always carry change on you to buy the occasional kid’s lunch

6. When they make you mad just send them to the end of the line

7. At the end of the day everything always gets done

8. Motto: “you ain’t disrespectin me cause I wear a hairnet”

9. Always clip done your hairnet

10. Condiments aren’t a battle to be chosen

“did you see the menu for the first day! biscuits and gravy for breakfast and mac and cheese for lunch! Ya know how many pans that’s going to take!!?”

the first day of school was on wednesday, meaning i’m back at work.  lunch ladies enter the kitchens one week before the first day of school.  we have to clean the kitchen, track down all supplies that got moved around during summer school, order groceries, and my kitchen has a new manager which means each lady gives her the low-down on the dynamics of the kitchen.

in true public school fashion access to paper work and computers was not available till the afternoon before the first morning.  for our kitchen that meant chaos because we had no paper work on the infamous “breakfast in the classroom” that we were going to have to prepare first thing in the morning.  no student count, no class list, no updated teacher homeroom list.  600 servings of biscuits and gravy would be ready with nowhere to go.  i decided the best mind-set to be in was that the first day was going to be an all out disaster and if that didn’t happen then well it would be a good day.

breakfast wasn’t an all out disaster but it was pretty chaotic. and then came lunch……….263 6th graders this year who all looked terrified and thought that the cafe was an all you can eat buffet.  at the end of the line i had a stack of confiscated pizza next to my register.  7th and 8th graders are required to eat in silence till they can prove that they are the young adults they think they are.  the silence is actually a little spooky.  yet at the same time oh so lovely!

the new kitchen manager has only had one emotional breakdown so far…..”i’ve been in kitchens 11 years and i’ve never been so stressed out…..its all that breakfast in the classroom mess”  i told her it be all ok. i cried the first week i did breakfast in the classroom feeling the exact same way. she said she wasn’t quitting just yet.

lynley the lunch lady

it was probably too much whiskey but i believe the shear romantic appeal of it was just to strong, yet when i was plotting my move back to springfield a job that i applied for was to be a lunch lady.  more specifically the technical term is nutrition services representative, boooyhah!  did you know that this field is actually having a hiring crisis thanks to mrs obama and jamie olivier who are demanding kids actually know what the hell an apple is.

i dreamed of partaking in this food revolution in the classroom, bonding with the grandmas in the kitchen and living one of my passions…feeding people.  springfield has suddenly gone gun-ho.  by the end of this school year all elementary and middle school students will be offered a free breakfast delivered to them in the classroom and elementary schools get 2 snacks of fruits or veggies a day.  i proudly claimed my 2 hairnets and was ready for the challenge.  yes i knew i would probably be repulsed by what is deemed food in the government subsidized world “if you pick low-fat Doritos, they count as your vegetable! (made of corn)”, but what i was not expecting to feel is absolutely defeated.

i am a girl who declares “bring it on!” i will climb shelves, rather than ask for help for getting a high item, i specifically bought a pink helmet so when i pass boys on my fixed gear bike they know its a girl who just sped by, and one of my proudest moments in a professional kitchen was being called an “arrogant bitch.” so what is so defeating about being a lunch lady?

the logistic impossibility of assembling 645 breakfasts in 30 minutes, delivering 100 catering chests in 5 minutes to 3 floors without the use of an elevator, hauling catering racks through parking lots in rain, wind, etc. and having them overturn on the uneven terrain, returning 15 minutes later to pick up all leftover food and then dumping 60% of your work into the trash, whole classrooms won’t have a single kid eat a breakfast, and then  starting the process all over again for the next day.  i’m the youngest in the kitchen, the majority of the women are at least 30-40 years older.  everyday one of them looks at me and says “this is going to kill me”  and what i hate to admit back to them is that some days i feel the exact same way.  although this is the most physical and emotionally challenging thing i have ever done, i am trying damn hard to figure out how to make it my bitch.