With visions of hairnets and tater-tots in my mind, I was secretly excited about becoming the substitute lunch lady at St. Mary’s School. The regular lunch lady at St. Mary’s had resigned and several parents and myself members stepped up to fill the gap for the remainder of the year.
This hot lunch program was a relatively new development at the school over the course of the past year and the previous cook, Ms. Roxanne had served up salmon casserole, green salad and other dishes I was never able to get my kids excited about eating.
Sitting around a big table together with the February calendar, three other parents and I divided up the days left in the month.
“I”ll take Monday. Hamburgers. Hmmm. Can someone show me how to cook hamburgers? I don’t cook meat” one parent asked.
I suggested a YouTube Video, with humor in my voice.
“I’ll take Taquito Daym … but what are taquitos?” another parent wondered.
Going into this, we all had learning curves to overcome. Food card tests were all in our future, as well as hairnets, possibly? I was still excited at the prospect of hairnets. For whatever reason, I wouldn’t mind if an image of me with a hairnet serving hearty food is engrained into the minds of these students.
On the first day of parents cooking, the fire department made an unexpected visit when the burgers grilling set off a couple of fire alarms. That was the bad news. The good news was that with two fire alarms, there was very little chance of any food-borne illnesses surviving in the very well done meat product.
When I picked my kids up afterschool, all I heard about was the watermelon for dessert and what a treat it was. And how exciting it was to have the fire department arrive at the school.
Wednesday came, my day to cook with chicken teriyaki on the menu.
“Are you nervous, Mom?” my daughter asked that morning. I wasn’t but wondered if I should be. Yes, there were so many possibilities of all that could go wrong. Another fire alarm, bad-tasting food, food not cooking in time. With a crew of fellow parents to help, I reminded myself that anything that went “wrong” was just a learning opportunity for all of us.
It’s like being on a cooking show, really. Except without the lights and cameras.
With some moments of looking at the clock anxiously and working up a sweat, I cooked and help serve the 33 plates of food. The two hours flew by and I had moments where I wondered if my chicken teriyaki would be done in time. At 11:40 on the dot, the students filed into the kitchen and after a short prayer, their hungry appetites were satiated.
There was a lightness to our spirits as we worked together prepping and chopping. There were many sides delivered on that plate to the students that morning: food thatwas assembled and presented from a place of love and gratitude for this school.
Next up on the menu is a gargantuan batch of chicken noodle soup for Friday lunch. Now if only I find a hairnet to complete my lunch lady look, I’ll be completely set.
Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves Labrador retrievers and chocolate.