What's for lunch?
These words are now permanently inscribed in my mind. Once a day, five days a week I hear these words. The first two before lunch, and the second two proceeding it. A chorus comprised of 30-40 students and 2-3 teachers is giving thanks for the delicious food provided. It’s a non-religious affair. We are giving thanks to the farmers who grew these vegetables, the nutritionists who planned this meal, the staff who prepared it, and the class representatives who donned their aprons, hats and masks, collected it from the preparation area and served it before us. In 15 minutes the entire class will have inhaled it, and we will once again put our hands together in thanks. Thank you for making my stomach full for the reasonable price of 270yen per day. Throw in an extra big thank you if I don’t feel sick from eating too quickly.
As a teacher, I must set an example for the students. Eating everything on my plates, on time every time, even if I had all-you-can-eat barbeque food poisoning the day before and only managed to eat one piece of toast in the preceding twenty-four hours. It was a close one, but I lived through that experience. I also lived through the time they served chicken liver for lunch, and the time I almost choked on a fish bone. I still haven’t perfected the art of de-boning fish with chopsticks, New Year’s resolution number 5. You never know what will show up on your plate, it could be an adventure, or it could be delicious, delicious curry. One thing that is guaranteed is not everyone will be happy with it.
May I present the lunch time entertainment, brought to you by the students. It is a magnificent display of scissors, paper, rock prowess, negotiations worthy of UN status, and large volume speed-eating dexterity. Intra-class food trade is a very serious business, since eating school lunch is compulsory, and children naturally have many odd likes and dislikes. Chopsticks and food are everywhere, boys with plates of rice as big as their heads, and an extra 2 cartons of milk, one won in a giant scissors, paper, rock tournament, the other given to him by the girl sitting across the way. You quickly learn who your enemies are and who your friends are. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and there is only fifteen minutes to get rid of everything on your plate. Could an Australian 12 year old survive this? Probably not. Will I survive this? For sure. In fact, I am a fan. A warm meal every day, bring it on! What’s for lunch today?