Sometimes you eat something delicious and then weird stuff happens to your butt. Sometimes the delicious thing that you ate was a taco. The last time something weird happened to my butt because of tacos, I had no regrets, because the tacos were that delicious… but the time before that, when I had fish tacos from a high school cafeteria, regrets were abound.
The idea of willingly eating fish tacos from a high school cafeteria may seem inexplicable to some, but I believed in them. As a teenager, the only time I ate at our cafeteria was on Chili Cheese Nacho Day,1 which resulted in only good experiences.
But this was many years later, and in a different province. I was doing a brief stint as academic support in an alternative high school program;2 I’d brought a lunch, not realizing I’d a be generously given meal voucher for the cafeteria.
This, of course, was occasion to have two lunches.
While I was eating my salad,3 I asked the kids about what they preferred from their cafeteria (mostly, it turns out, they got chocolate milk and tater tots). One of them peered at my salad, “If that’s the kind of food you’re used to eating, I don’t think you’ll like the food in our caf.” I waved her off. I eat all kinds of things!
When I got down there, I saw that they had fish tacos. I don’t remember what happened to my butt as a result of the fish tacos, but something unpleasant definitely happened to my stomach, and luckily I was able to rescue myself with a some coca cola. When I approached them, clutching my stomach, the kids looked at me like I was some kind of idiot, “You got the fish tacos!? You should never get the fish tacos!”
“Why didn’t you tell me!?”
“We didn’t think we’d have to tell you that! What’s the matter with you?”
Then why do they have fish tacos there at all? Why do they keep making them, if no one eats them? I forget, sometimes, that places like a public school are not subject to standard market forces, and things like ‘the menu’ can be determined by variables such as stubborn parents that thinks kids need to eat more fish, or an administrator who is required to represent a broad spectrum of available protein sources for their annual report.
For whatever reason, the high school provides poisonous fish tacos. I don’t think it was available every day, just on special days. “Poison Fish Taco Day,” I guess you’d call it.
Thinking about it now, this kind of scene probably played out quite similarly hundreds and even thousands of years ago, to any visitor from far away.
“What is good to eat in the forest?”
“Oh, I don’t know, whatever! You should be fine.”
(later that day)
“What did you eat? You ate the yellow mushrooms? Why did you eat the yellow mushrooms?”
“Why didn’t you tell me not to eat the yellow mushrooms!?”
“Because everyone knows not to eat the yellow mushrooms! Are you stupid or something?”
The school cafeteria is like a forest or a jungle, with all kinds of things available to eat – but only some things are edible.
In any environment, it seems, children will quickly learn what is not safe to eat or drink, and then may just take that knowledge for granted. It wouldn’t occur to any of them to tell someone not to eat yellow mushrooms or fish tacos, because it never occurred to them, or anyone they previously knew, to try to eat them!
Likely, anyone that was inclined to eat such things was promptly removed from the gene pool and more or less quickly forgotten.
Perhaps now, I suppose, the next time a visitor asks them about the cafeteria, one of them might have the presence of mind to say, “I’d stay away from the fish tacos, or anything else that’s claiming to be meat.” And I would be the reason for that warning. So maybe, somewhere down the road, my misadventure in the Kitsilano High School Cafeteria will have saved a life.
When you think about it, it is very farsighted of our education system to be so thoughtful as to promote ancestral behavioural patterns of food discrimination by providing poisonous items in their cafeteria. Where else will they learn it? At home? Not likely! Most parents are way too cautious, these days. You can’t even get gluten into some of those households! I suppose we should be grateful that at least someone is thinking of the children.
2. This program allowed students to progress through their course material at their own pace, and was especially beneficial for students that struggled in a typical classroom setting. This program included both students that operated both ahead and behind their grade level. ↖
3. At this time, my salad probably consisted of spinach, lettuce, shredded carrots,raw cheese cubes, pickled asparagus, olives, and pumpkin seeds in olive oil and vinegar. At this point I don’t think I was yet including chopped figs or parmesan cheese, but it looked and tasted really good. ↖