I spent the first through third grade in a public school in North Louisiana. To say that the food was good is doing a severe disservice to the ladies that made it. Yeast rolls to die for, chicken spaghetti (there are tons of first and second generation Sicilians in this part of North LA) so good that it has been publishes in who knows how many cookbooks. Fried pies (mainly peach and cherry) that were delicious. Vegetable by the ton, locally grown (mostly) and cooked in what would be called by those outside of the South "soul food style". Really good food, and the best part was that if I didn't like it, I could simply walk home (no security check, no check out, just walk home) and eat if I wanted to. Try to imagine a 6 year old wandering off campus these days and imagine how fast they would alert the local press.
Fourth grade brought integration to my town. My parents (not exactly forward thinking people racially
) sent me off to private school. I brought my own lunch for a few years. My mom was really good at packing lunches. She put good stuff, lots of hot food in thermoses, fried pies (mmmm, I love those things) and all kinds of desserts.
In the eighth grade something amazing (and in retrospect, amazingly bad) happened. A full scale, working McDonalds was installed in our school (this would have been about 1974). One of the students parents owned all of the local franchises and worked out the deal. I believe, that at the time, this was the only one in the US. They were only open for lunch, but they did a brisk trade. Imagine 500 kids with a charge account at McDonalds. The whole school smelled like a fast food joint. After the novelty wore off (and after they got the first month's bill for my brotheres and I) there was not too much McDonalds for me. Back to bag lunches. At the time I remember feeling deprived, but now I feel very greatful that my Mom took the time to make them. I have to admit it used to be a pleasure to sit with the McDonalds eaters while dining on cold fried chicken
,(food of the gods, as it is known in the Mayhaw Man household), peas, and red velvet cake.
I understand the McDonalds went away in the early eighties. I would like to say it is because the students weren't eating it, but I think it had to do with liability insurance and the McDonalds megolith.
Both of my children have the opportunity to eat a cafeteria lunch at their schools. We send one instead. The lunch menus at both schools pretty much are pizza, nuggets, burgers, etc
. (except for Friday, this is, after all, Catholic South LA. Schools have the tradition of fish on Friday here and that generally means gumbo, ettoufee, creole, fish cakes, catish, etc. By definition this stuff has to be made fresh, as it is not available canned, and is usually pretty good to great).