Going Cold Turkey on Turkey

A school story from my childhood circa 1995. This is one of our family favourites. Mum’s side of the conversation has been told many times, particularly as it’s used as an example of my attitude.

When I was in Reception (Age 5 in the UK) I was very briefly given school lunches. At this point in life I was a vegetarian and lunch at school was a sliced turkey breast. After eating the various vegetables and dessert I raised my hand to let the lunchlady know that I was finished, as one had to do at the time.

Lunchlady: You need to finish the turkey before you can go out to play.

Me: But Miss, I’m a vegetarian. I don’t like turkey.

Lunchlady: You will finish your lunch otherwise I will call your mother!

What she didn’t know is that my mother was a both a solicitor and, more importantly, a vegetarian. Even in my five year-old brain, things were on my side.

Me: OK then.

Lunchlady: Stay there!

The lunchlady looked at me with disdain before heading off to the office to call Mum.

Lunchlady: This is [Name] from [School]. I’m calling because [My Name] won’t eat his lunch!

Mum: What is it?

Lunchlady: A very nice turkey breast!

Mum: Well I wouldn’t eat it. I’m a vegetarian. Did [My Name] say that he was a vegetarian?

Lunchlady: …Yes. But what would you like me to do?

Mum: Don’t make him eat it!

Lunchlady: sniffily It’s a very nice turkey breast!

The lunchlady hung up and returned to the dining room and just looked at me with a level of frustration rarely seen when dealing with young children.

Lunchlady: Go!

I left. And the next day I started having packed lunches. I’m no longer a vegetarian but I still hate turkey.

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I also dealt with this sort of thing, one time getting sent to the principal’s office and told I was a criminal over it. Why do schools think it’s okay to try to force kids to eat things they don’t want? Or, for that matter, things they can’t eat?

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I have to admit that, in the UK at least, this was at the point where school dinners were an “Eat it or packed lunch” option. As I went through the school system I did see things (slowly) change from a Yes/No affair to having different options (hot/cold, meat or vegetarian, halal, etc.). But I don’t think that things would have changed over here so quickly if it wasn’t for Jamie Oliver’s work on how unhealthy school dinners were.

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Was this the free-for-hungry-kids option or did your school only serve one meal for anyone eating from the cafeteria?

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One meal for everyone using the cafeteria.

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