Lunchtime in the classroom is always a spirited affair. After devotions, there is a scramble for the lunches and then a race to the microwave. Food is thrown in and nuked into oblivion. I won’t try to describe what goes on in that microwave. I wisely steer clear of the microwave and use the toaster where I usually have two slices of bread with jam (and sometimes tea too because as Maria Von Trapp sings: tea is a drink with jam and bread).
My students eat very quickly. Sometimes I feel like I am watching a group of boa constrictors unhinge their jaws and swallow huge animals whole. A student will have a giant Kaiser bun in their hands. In a flash the bun will be gone and a Kaiser bun shaped lump will slowly make its way down the student’s neck.
No need for utensils either – they are like speed bumps! How do the students eat their left over Sunday soup? The Tupperware container is brought close to the student’s face. A sucking ‘wet-vac’ sound ensues and in an instant the soup is vaporized. Pudding cups are no obstacle for my utensil-less students either. A couple jabs of a pen through the top of the pudding cup, a good squeeze at the bottom and a swipe of the tongue removes any traces of pudding.
Most of the lunches are not actually tasted. I’ve always wanted to carry out an experiment where I sneakily exchange the Kaiser bun for a hunk of Styrofoam. Would the student actually notice the switch? I doubt it.
I am at the other extreme however. I am a very slow eater. If ever I am eating with a group of people, it can be guaranteed that I will be the last one finished. My students are often astounded that I am still eating my toast at the end of the lunch recess, but then again, they would probably jam (get it?) the entire slice in their mouth and swallow. My slow eating can be blamed on the family dinner table when I was just a wee laddie.
There was always something exciting to talk about at the dinner table. My sister Becky filled us in on the latest adventure of one of her classmates. My other sister Ally made odd groaning noises and complained about the food. She would then take her knife and fork and dissect her food – anything with a hint of green had to be removed. Ranch dressing would then douse whatever was left. My brother Scott would tell us about why he was unjustly given another detention that day, and Derek would announce the type of bird he had spotted on the way home from school. I was the news correspondent of the group. I would usually watch the six o’clock news before dinner so I was always up to date about what was going on around Canada and the world. Dinner time was never rushed and we were never told to hurry up and eat (except for Ally).
Dinner time was a peaceful affair except for a certain calamity which struck from time to time. Spills. Mom and Dad are patient and loving people, but whenever we spilled something, everything went bezerk. Mom and Dad would spring into action. Mom would go for a cloth and Dad would starting giving a lecture. “That’s it! You’re all grounded... forever!” Mom would interrupt frantically by this point. “The CRACK!” came a half-demented yell. This was the worst-case scenario of a spill. The kool-aid would ooze its way down the table to where the table leaves joined together. The juice would then spill through the crack and onto the floor. We would watch with horror filled eyes as the kool-aid hit the crack and began dripping through to the floor. Dad would continue his tirade “Not only are you grounded, but... but you’re going to eat on the floor from now on!” Again Mom would interrupt as she began wiping. “This is going to be sticky for weeks!” she would bemoan. After the spill was cleaned up, everything would return back to normal and dinner would continue.
One evening we were eating and Dad was feeling pangs of thirst. There was only milk at the table, and Dad wanted juice. He slipped away from the table and began making a new pitcher of juice. We carried on with our dinner conversations. Ally had the floor and was finishing up her critique of the food. “...the beans are gross too. I don’t like the potatoes. The cauliflower is yucky.” Suddenly a weird gurgling sound punctuated the air and interrupted Ally’s grievances. We listened as we heard a spraying sound followed by a wolf howl from the kitchen. We turned around to see what was going on. Dad had made juice, but mistakenly took the jar of vinegar that was on the counter for water. He had created a new flavour – orange and vinegar juice and was the first and only person to try this concoction. The show wasn’t over though. In desperation to get the vinegar taste out of his mouth, Dad ripped open a roll of Fruitella and frantically fumbled with the wrapper. Fed up with the wrapper, he popped the Fruitella in his mouth – wrapper and all.
We were generally respectful children, but we didn’t stop laughing until the next morning.
Mom was a great cook, but dinner time was never really about the food on the table, but rather about who was sitting around the table. I guess this has never changed and is why I continue to plod my way through meals. Yes, I could probably eat my toast a lot faster (not in a matter of nanoseconds like my students mind you), but again – for me it’s not about the food on the table, but who’s there with you. I couldn’t ask for more interesting table companions than my students.