Tag Archive: food

I Love Tongs Guest Post: School Lunches, a Decade or Two Later

My wonderful friend Heather Shellen invited me to guest post for her food blog, I Love Tongs, about the school lunches that I ate while reschooling on each campus. Here’s Heather’s very kind introduction, and an excerpt of the post. Read the complete post here.

A couple of years ago, my dear friend Melia made the amazing and brave decision to go back to school. As in start over from kindergarten. I’m sure your initial reaction is “Well that sounds easy!” but you and I both know that you would be out of the game at 3rd-grade Geometry and you are absolutely not smarter than a 5th grader. But her ambition and dedication to this project are not the only reasons I love Melia. This is a woman who never turns down a costume party or an SF Mission taco crawl. She can also school anyone in a game of early 90s trivia. I asked her to share some of her experiences with school lunch here, and she graciously obliged.

With all the national attention that healthy school lunches are getting these days, you might wonder how the lunches at your own schools have changed since you were a student. I wondered the same thing, and a couple of years ago I happened to have a chance to find out.

I committed the fall of 2008 to a “do-over” of my schooling, like Billy Madison but for real. I got permission to spend a week in each of my old school classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area: kindergarten, first grade, and so on, all the way through college. The project was called Reschool Yourself, and its goal was for me to make peace with 17 years of school that I had found did not prepare me for life. (You can read more about the project here.)

Along the way, I dedicated myself to “method lunching,” eating cafeteria food with my fellow students. If there were options that had been on the menu when I was enrolled the first time around, I ordered those and assessed how they stacked up. Here are some highlights from my school lunch adventures.

1. Elementary School: Hot Dogs
El Verano Elementary School, Sonoma, CA

When I was a kid, the only day that I’d buy lunch instead of brown bagging it was Friday, because it was Pizza Day. Miraculously, 23 years later, Friday was still Pizza Day, so I planned to buy “hot lunch” from the school cafeteria on that day of the week.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw hot dogs instead. “We barbecue the first and last weeks of school,” said the lunch lady. “It’s a special occasion.”

At least they were chicken dogs. Here’s what I wrote about my lunch that day (read the full post):

The principal, who was graciously helping serve lunch that day, gave me an extra helping of peppered macaroni salad, a slice of watermelon, and a chocolate chip cookie. At the end of the counter there were bowls of fresh fruit, mini bags of carrots, and boxes of raisins, all for the taking; I was happy to see a broader, healthier selection than we’d had in the 80s…

I (was) surprised that the food tasted so good, the buttery cookie in particular. The hot dog wasn’t half bad, especially with relish and ketchup, and the pepper in the macaroni salad gave it an original flavor. The flailing arms of the (kindergarteners) had slid my watermelon wedge onto the table, and I left it untouched, following one of the cardinal rules in education: No matter how hungry you are, never eat anything that has touched kids’ fingers or their tabletops.

The best part of the meal was the chocolate milk, that thick, rich chocolatey goodness packed into a tiny carton. Turns out that the secret to the thickness is….corn starch. Yum. I drank half, enjoying it thoroughly, and pitched the rest.

Read the rest of the post on I Love Tongs.

My Other Blog: Eat, Drink and Be Married

If you’re so inclined, check out my other blog, www.eatdrinkandbemarried.com. It’s not only a wedding blog, although I do write about the planning for my wedding next month. It’s about the finer things in life: eating, drinking, and love. It’s also about the work-from-anywhere lifestyle that Darren and I are building for ourselves.

Darren writes for the blog occasionally, to give a dude’s perspective on matters of lifestyle and love. When he told me he was writing a post called “How I Knew I Was Ready,” I was touched; I thought he’d share how he knew I was The One. Instead, he wrote a few practical paragraphs about how our income and small business were finally stable enough for us to start wedding planning. How romantic! I gave him crap about this until he posted a more heartfelt addendum.

Let us know what you think of Eat, Drink and Be Married!

Unraveling the Anger Ball

It might be the Southern summer heat, or the way it’s kept me cooped up inside, but I’ve been a bit of an anger ball lately. “Anger ball” is a wonderful term from a wonderful movie, “Playing by Heart,” and it perfectly describes the way I’ve been feeling for the past week or so. My general irritability reaches a boiling point quickly, at which point my blood pressure hits the roof.

I’m generally content with the path I’m on in life. But recently I’ve had minimal patience for life’s little hassles, which can instantly trigger some very black moods. Today it happened when I was writing an email to a client of Darren’s and mine and asked for his editing help. This turned out like it did when I used to ask my mom to edit my high school essays, and they came back marked up with red ink. Much scowling ensued.

Me to Darren: Will you take a look at this email before I send it?

Darren: Yeah! (Reading the email) I think that you could emphasize X here instead of Y….

Me: (Giving him the evil eye) Well, why don’t you send it yourself, then? I’m late for yoga. (Storms off)

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Reschooling Tool #23: Vision Collage

As much as I’ve intended to blog regularly, life has gotten in the way since last November. One of the main obstacles is that I’ve been doing writing and other communications for a living, and I don’t have a lot of energy left for my own writing. Plus, when too much time passes between posts there seems to be too much to say, so I don’t say anything at all. C’est la vie. Here I am now.

The months since December have been so wild for me that I can best explain them in terms of my vision collage. This is an exercise that I like to do around New Year’s, to visualize what I want for my life in the coming 12 months, and to set my intentions accordingly. And guess what? It seems to work.

Here’s what I put in my collage, and how it’s showed up in my life since January.

1. Play. The photo in the upper left corner shows children puddle jumping, with the words “Youth is in your genes. Reactivate it.”

I’m lucky that Darren and I work from home and can be goofy with each other throughout the day. He loves five-year-old potty humor almost as much as I do, which helps.

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My Ten Principles of Eating Well

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!

- “Oliver”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. OK, so that’s not news. I think about food a lot. What I’ve specifically been thinking about is a common way that Americans see their food, and it makes me sad.

As we’ve gotten wealthier and consequently fatter over time, Americans have come to see food as the enemy. We’re always discovering the evils that food contains, whether it’s fat, sugar, carbs, or calories (counting calories never goes out of style). Women in particular tend to talk about dieting, or how they “shouldn’t be eating” the chocolate cake that they’re about to dig into. It really takes the pleasure out of eating when you or those around you associate it with shame and lack of self-control.

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Looking Back and Moving Forward: One Year Later

Yesterday marked the official close of my year of reschooling. Though it was a busy Saturday, my thoughts kept coming back to the progress I’ve made this year in finding balance and contentment, and the gratitude I have for all the people who helped make this project possible. You know who you are, and I hope you know how thankful I will always be to you.

Two big lessons that come to mind:

1) Achievement hasn’t made me happy in the past, and it won’t make me happy in the future.

2) Nearly 100 percent of the time, life isn’t as serious as I think it is.

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Reschooling Tool #21: Turn Breakdowns Into Breakthroughs

At the moment, I’m feeling truly annoyed at myself. I haven’t posted to the blog for over three weeks, so now that I’m sitting down to do so, I have a lot to say. It’s going to take a long time. It would have been better to break this long update into smaller ones along the way. I’m tempted to close my computer and avoid blogging at all. I’m experiencing a moment of breakdown.

I don’t mean “breakdown” in the hyperventilating, curled up in a fetal position sense. I mean that I’ve hit a snag, an obstacle that’s preventing me from being who I want to be. The opportunity here is to turn this moment into a breakthrough by reacting differently than I normally do, in a way that makes me happier. This takes willpower and practice.

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The Story of Reschool Yourself, Chapter 2

This is Chapter 2 of a story about Reschool Yourself that I wrote for a GoodReads.com contest, which asked for a story written in a  24-hour period purely in status update form. Each line could be only up to 140 characters, though I’ve edited slightly here for readability. Chapter 1 gave a background on the idea for the project and how it developed.


Chapter 2: Back to School

The first day of school, I wondered if I might be crazy to start over. But I knew it was something I had to do to move on with my life. I put pencils and a notebook into my backpack, and at 7:30 a.m. went walking to my elementary school to become a student there once more. I passed the swings and jungle gym, and checked in at the front office. Everything at the school seemed to have shrunk.

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Feelin’ the Christmas Cheer

I hope that you are all making merry during this long weekend. I’m feeling particularly content at the moment after one of those days that helps me put my priorities in order. This fall I’ve been operating in overdrive, not allowing myself much decompression time because I’ve worked mostly from home. Today I had a real vacation day where I did my favorite activities: exercising, envisioning future possibilities, indulging in incredible food, and feeling inspired to pursue my passion. Best of all, I shared these things with some of my favorite people on earth. It was a day that reminded me how I want my life to be, and how it’s up to me to make sure it ends up that way. Here’s the rundown of events:

8:45 am: 5-mile jog after a full night of sleep. My sister’s fiance, Brian, and I kicked off the morning with a run through the sunny Sonoma backroads, past vineyards and rolling green hills. It felt good to move after indulging in so many rich holiday delights.

11:00 am: Cohousing Tour in Cotati. Many of you know that one of my most important goals is to live in a community setting one day, with multiple families living in separate homes built on a shared property. Cohousing developments are one possibility, like condo complexes owned by the residents and designed to have large common spaces. Gill, Bri, Darren, and I toured a cohousing community in Cotati that had a toolshop, vegetable garden, dance/music studio, and a couple of costume closets. They had me at “costume closet.” I am crossing my fingers that our own little enclave, perhaps in the south, is in the cards in the next few years.

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Remember This? #33 College Dining Hall

The Benson Memorial Center dining commons, the place where I had ever so many a meal. This woman was there when I was in school and actually remembered me. I ate my favorite SCU breakfast, scrambled eggs and tater tots (pictured above), two days in a row. I doused them with ketchup, and their greasy goodness tasted wonderful….and then sat heavily in my stomach all day. It was worth it. Since I rarely eat fried foods, I simply had to eat all of those tater tots when given the chance.

To see the pictures below as a slideshow, click on one to enlarge it and then hover with your mouse on the right edge until the arrow appears.

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When ordering, I noticed a common type of exchange between one of the cafeteria workers and a student. The worker was a Latina woman with a heavy accent who asked the girl, who was Caucasian, what she would like to order. The girl asked for “Just eggs.” The woman began piling tater tots on the plate, and the girl repeated, “No, just eggs.” The worker nodded and started adding eggs to the plate, and the girl said loudly, “No tater tots, just eggs.” Her tone wasn’t disrespectful, but she was becoming understandably frustrated at not being understood. Observing this reminded me of this type of uncomfortable tension between private school students and the older immigrants who serve them. I remember that when I was a student, noticing my relative privilege made me feel both grateful and guilty. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

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