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My five worst school lunches

This school lunch looks pretty good...
This school lunch looks pretty good...

Public school students are being awfully whiny about their school lunches right now. The reason is because the United States Department of Agriculture just restructured standards for school lunches for the first time in over a decade, and now students have to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and even low-fat and no-fat dairy.

This is supposed to make the kiddos less chunky, but some of them are crying about being hungry, and even refusing to eat things like black beans and hummus.

See also: -Death to the brown bags: school lunches vs. homemade, a fight to the finish -Five ways to make public-school food and drinks healthier

Back in my day, I was served some seriously f*cked up meals and I didn't bitch -- okay, I bitched a little -- but kids today are spoiled little turds who have never had to suffer through entrees like "cherry meat mound." So I'm doing these little ingrates a huge favor with my list of top five worst school lunches -- the ones I had to endure. Oh, and by the way, apparently ketchup is still a vegetable.

5. Pork cutlet I was never really sure what part of the actual pig the cutlet came from because it was vaguely chop shaped, and the shake-and-bake exterior tended to blur any edges it had. This miserable meal was usually slopped up with a round scoop of instant mashed potatoes, a side of margarine-drenched canned green beans with enough sodium to kill Jamie Oliver dead in the street, and everything was dripped and puddled with that terrifying, gelatinous white, pepper-flecked gravy that was always room temperature no matter when you got it.

It's probably cheese, right?
It's probably cheese, right?

4. Hot dish This entrée may be a pure Midwestern creation of cooked hamburger, Veg-All, brown gravy from a mix -- or cream of mushroom soup from a can if I was lucky -- a salty, greasy, soupy casserole that was topped with either instant mashed potatoes and semi-melted, rubbery American cheese slices or half-burnt-half-raw tater tots and that pasteurized processed cheese food product. There was usually a dinner roll included, for yet more starchy carbs, because my lazy Gen-X ass really needed to carb up so I could get high on my Mom's Valiums, listen to Champagne Supernova over and over, and paint my toenails blue.

 

This is what chili pie is supposed to look like.
This is what chili pie is supposed to look like.

3. Chili pie I want to clearly state up front that public school cafeteria chili pies are not at all like the paper dishes of Fritos, nacho cheese sauce and chili that I frequently got after school from Sonic. The lunchtime variety was a pile of round, stale yellow corn chips slathered with runny, nearly flavorless melted pasteurized processed cheese food product -- notice a trend here? -- and what was supposed to be chili, but actually was tomato sauce, kidney beans and unseasoned hamburger meat boiled until it resembled chunky canned Alpo. No amount of smuggled, precious Taco Bell hot sauce packets from the glove compartment in my car could even give this sh*tstack enough flavor to choke down without depression and regret.

Schluuuurk!
Schluuuurk!

2. The sad annual Thanksgiving feast To my old lunch ladies' credit, they really did try to replicate a traditional Thanksgiving meal, but they ended up preparing tray after tray of food so uninspired and institutional that the pilgrims wouldn't have touched them, even when they were starving and begging the natives for corn. Boiled turkey loaf, canned beige gravy, the ubiquitous instant mashers, stuffing made from almost-raw celery hunks and stale, commercial white bread, boiled carrot coins that smelled like stagnant sink water, and those round, can-ridged slices of cranberry sauce that probably made that "schluuurk" noise when the can contents were dumped on to a plate.

1. Cherry meat mound This school lunch did sound a lot like the title of a bad porno flick -- a fact that wasn't lost on a bunch of assh*le high school students -- but apparently it was a throwback from earlier years and a legacy meal in my high school. A very bad legacy. This meal consisted of oven-baked hash browns, one or two slices of leftover ham, and topped with warm cherry pie filling. This Depression-era lunch was made even worse by my typical 1990s-era moral obligation toward vegetarianism, because that meant I got the regular school lunch served without animal protein, so I got a pile of hash browns covered with cherries. Yum. But I do have this dish to thank for my high school cafeteria getting a salad bar, because my generation also proved that enough whining from enough kids about the school lunch offerings will usually make a difference.



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