School Lunch

cook house (2)

Outdoor cook house, 1893. LOC.

Mrs. Lucy Washington, the head cook at the black, segregated elementary and high school I attended, cooked food that I loved. Her school lunches were better than anybody’s cooking that I knew in the whole world.

My mother, never jealous or put off by my praise and devotion to Mrs. Washington’s school lunch, was eager to hear the epicurean delight of the day. Together we celebrated her daily triumphs.

The cafeteria had the excited buzz of the New York Stock Exchange. We students joyful entered into trades of tuna salad, Johnny Marzetti, but our favorite institutional currency was Ms. Lucy’s breads–hot corn biscuits, blueberry muffins, and cherry upside cake. Our trades had real value: two biscuits for an entree was a common measure.

As we celebrated and traded, we established a community around her food. We shared a bond, enriched by our differences, a circle of common values.

The African proverb about the whole village helping to raise the child does not do justice to Mrs. Lucy’s single-handed work. Daily, through her extraordinary fare, she taught us lessons about pride, love, and sharing. Through her food we learned about caring, preparation, respect, thanksgiving and gifts.

My mind always goes back to Mrs. Lucy’s lunch. There are days when the single thought of a bite of her breads is enough to sustain me through the crush of a world that has left me starved for so much.


The Real Problem With Lunch – The New York Times (To read the all replies, click through! /wr)


~~The pleasure you got from those meals is evident and beautiful. My mother still raves about the homemade bread that her public, small-town, Tennessee lunch ladies made. I agree that in addition to nutrition, Mrs. Lucy and others like her taught children love, respect, and pride in a job well done. Bring back school kitchens!


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