Probably no other meal preferences have changed during one’s
life more than lunch. Think about it.
By the time you’re five years old, you pretty much have your
breakfast selections made and they remain unchanged. I preferred my eggs over-easy
with a glass of tomato juice; a Denny’s server will receive the same request
from me now. Same goes for dinner. Steak: medium rare. Pizza: with anchovies;
blue cheese dressing on the salad. Seafood has always been a favorite.
But think about lunch during your lifetime. It’s all over
Elementary school: We ate in the school cafeteria. Lunches
were seldom brought from home. I remember on the first day of school, the
little carton of milk appeared on my lunch tray and I started crying because I
didn’t know how to open it. Opening the carton of milk was not yet part of my
skills-set and I thought it was terribly unfair that everyone assumed it should
be. I finally mangled it opened.
Our favorite entrée in the school cafeteria was an item we
called “moosey-cow”. It consisted simply of ground beef and potatoes in a thin,
milky sauce. Even as a little kid, I knew that moosey-cow was highly overrated.
Junior High: The 8th-graders were the big shots and were
allowed “open campus” for lunch. That meant we had just enough time to scurry
down to the lunch counter on the town square if we really hurried. A hungry twelve year-old boy can wolf down three
chili dogs amazingly fast. They were 25 cents each.
High School: Junk food from the snack bar, sitting with your
best friends. Once driver’s licenses were obtained at sixteen, we’d peel out
with Led Zeppelin blaring from 8-track tape players. I have to admit that beer was consumed on occasion for
the sole purpose of being naughty.
College: Dorm room cafeteria food was actually pretty good.
Or, we’d hang out at our favorite burger joint, Grins
, which is still there and
where I still like to meet my best friend from college, Madeline, whenever I’m
in Texas. We used to drink several pitchers of cheap beer and skip class. Now,
we’ll have, maybe, a Dos Equis. We’ve both completed graduate studies in theology and she’s a hospital chaplain. I remind the waitresses that we used to eat
there thirty-four years ago. I’m sure they’re bored with it.
During my twenties: I worked in a bank and would bring my
lunch to eat with thirty women in the employee break room, glued to the TV,
watching All My Children. I can still remember everyone crying when Jenny got
blown up on the jet ski. Good times.
In the monastery: Lunch was a simple affair, eaten in silence
while one of the monks read aloud; usually passages from saints’ biographies. Once
when I was reading, I came upon a passage about some saint who was mortifying
himself by consuming a diseased person’s pus. I skipped that sentence (as if anyone
was actually listening anyway).
Now: I keep promising myself that I’m going to save money by
bringing a healthy lunch from home. I never do. Sushi from the food court or lo
mein from Panda Express are far too easy. I eat in my office and blog.
Things have, indeed, changed from the days of moosey-cow and
mangled milk cartons.