“School Cafeteria,” by Rob Huffman

Jun 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

My dining partner (a young man whose most singular talent is an ability to laugh-snort milk through his nose virtually on demand) and I entered the dining establishment hungry and eager for a pleasant midday culinary experience.  The restaurant was “cafeteria” style, meaning that we chose our meals from a steam-shrouded and ambrosial variety of possibilities, effulgent in their pristine stainless steel serving containers.

Our waitress/server (for indeed she was one and the same) requested that we place our orders quickly.  We inquired after the food’s ingredients and preparation—their provenance and freshness; were they locally grown?—but again were asked, in a manner slightly less friendly, “what we wanted.”  And to “hurry up.”  Did this brusqueness perhaps indicate the establishment’s popularity, whereby an inverse ratio might exist between this French-style maitre d’ rudeness and the excellence of its proffered cuisine?

For my entrée, I chose the doigts de poulet, lightly breaded white-meat chicken, daringly coupled with a choice of “dipping sauces’ (I chose barbecue.)  My dining partner opted for the grilled sandwich avec fromage.  (Le fromage americain, to be exact.)  He pronounced his sandwich moist (well, greasy’s the word he used), but toasted to perfection.  A side of tomato soup provided a striking visual counterpoint to his otherwise brownish meal.  (Here was an eating establishment whose attention to presentation equaled their scrupulous and inventive cuisine.)

A chilled fruit cup proved an excellent palate cleanser, refreshing with squish and crunch equitably distributed.  My only quibble was a wish that a second halved cherry might have been found among the copious pear and peach mini-cubes.

We sat back, well satisfied, sipping at our milks, wittily served in their own individualized and palm-fitting cartons.  I had white and my dining companion opted for the chocolate.

But, in the way of most worldly pleasures, our repas a l’ecole was all too quickly over.  And so, reluctantly, we finished our meals. (Alas, but twenty minutes were allotted for this noonish repast!)  The charming woman (the very same who had previously served us!) appeared at our table, and began wiping down the begrimed surface (the nasal milk-squirter had acquitted himself magnificently). Had she dropped by to inquire after our postprandial satisfaction?  Or perhaps to offer us—gratis—some savory morsel with which to entice us to, as the locals say, “come again?”

But no, we were told to “get to class” and that “lunch was over.”  And so we fell in step with our James Polk Elementary School classmates and headed towards our afternoon studies.


Rob says: “My name’s Rob and I’m a high school librarian.  As such, I spend my days surrounded by the neatly-bound fruits of human culture, all of which remain unread.  Untouched, really.  It’s pleasant work; I function as a kind of intellectual eunuch in a texting and illegally-downloading-music harem.  I say ‘intellectual,’ but really all that means is I can fondly recall an era when words like ‘you’ and ‘for’ were thusly spelled.

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