the exquisite, indescribable loveliness of chicken fried steak

The past two days I’ve been privileged to dine at la Cafe Lunchroom. It’s the annual “Invite Your Parents to Lunch” where we sprawl on the floor, chat with our kids and our girlfriends and the PTA doles out chocolate chip cookies. There’s a lot of beauty to embrace at these events, but I think this is my favorite sight:


To me, nothing else so aptly displays democracy in America as serving lunch in public schools. Rich or poor, honor student or struggling to pick up English–every child takes their turn scooping up mystery meat, wiping tables and sweeping floors.

The boys tell me there is no debate about lunch duty in the classroom. Scanning a checklist, the teacher simply sends out the next group. And the kids have fun with it– they decorate their paper hats, mingle with kids they might not meet otherwise and collect a free meal at the end of their shift.

It all changes when the kids go to jr. high. Lunch workers have to be compensated for the shame of serving and cleaning up after their classmates. And by high school lunch workers are forced to develop their own subculture.

But in the sublime world of elementary kids, equality and cheerful willingness reign supreme.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal– with a rice krispie treat on each tray.

February 11, 2009
February 11, 2009



  1. Heather

    February 11, 2009

    Now that’s my kind of democracy!

  2. Claudia

    February 11, 2009

    I love that they get to serve each other. What darling little faces.

    Miss Kate found some mysterious valentines in her violin case. Hmmm?

    You were right about the Bagley’s. They are divorced. I still want Ben’s perspective on you know who.

    So fun to chat with you today. I’ve missed you!

  3. Melissa

    February 12, 2009

    My oldest loves serving lunch! He was actually on table wiping duty this week. Chicken noodle soup is a messy business.

    Gotta love the hats!

  4. Heidi

    February 12, 2009

    I also love what they do in Japan…after lunch, they take a half hour to clean their school also, with the more difficult chores given to the older students.

  5. martha corinna

    February 12, 2009

    That is perfect. That title is such a hook!

  6. m_and_m

    February 12, 2009

    I actually used to love lunchroom duty…even slop job!

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