My family really likes this series of books called Uncle John's Bathroom Readers. Disgusting-sounding, I know, and believe me, this was after my time at the house. They're really just big books full of interesting lists and facts and stories that you can peruse whilst whiling away the hours. A few years ago for Christmas I compiled something I called Uncle Kami's Bathroom Reader. It was super easy... I just photocopied all the good articles and funny tidbits I found in magazines and books and had the pages bound for my family's reading pleasure. I rediscovered good ol' Uncle Kami lately and there's some excellent stuff in there... a lot from the pages of Harper's magazine, which I don't even get anymore. Might be time to resubscribe. Anyway, found myself wanting to share this piece, found originally in Harper's:
"Did you Know?" by Jeff Johnson, was published in the Spring/Summer issue of Fence.
Did You Know?
1957- U.S. public school/elementary student pie consumption: at least 14 pieces annually (school year)
1982-- student pie consumption: 4 pieces
1999- s.p.c.: 1.77777703 pieces
Did You Know?
That early pie in schools was mainly pumpkin. Or apple. Made annually from more than seven tons of felled, bruised apples from Oregon, Michigan, and Washington State.
Many school cooks were convicts (before government watch programs were started).
Many cooks had ailments and wore conductor's creme on their elbows and other joints.
Many cooks lied, gambled, swore, drank beer, and abused their spouses. Many cooks were honest citizens and doubled as youth coaches.
During recess many cooks played tackle football with young students but would not hit them hard, often gently placing a rugged hand on the small of a child's back and easing him to the ground and saying, "you're down."
Many cooks, over time, refused to bake pies from scratch;
pies were shipped in,
packed with perservatives and additives;
students shied away from them--- bland pies that had been frozen for months on end;
sometimes a wristwatch or a Band-Aid would drop into the pie
during the process.
Did you know that John Lennon's 1973 hit "Mind Games" has played on more transistor radios in elementary-school kitchens than any other song? Second place belongs to a Men at Work hit, "Down Under."
Did you know that the student pie revolts of the early 1960s put an ugly deep scar on the face of the school-lunch program? In fact, if the school-lunch program had a face, it became a pinched, worrisome, blemished face, peering in to the windows of a diner, with cupped hands, looking for father and not finding him, then turning sharply toward the street and getting doused with slush from a passing taxi.
Cooks had nicknames for different pie situations: a dropped pie that was still baked and served was a hornet; a dropped pie that was unsalvageable was a bluebird; a pie that was too hot to be served without mitts was an eagle; a pie that tasted better with whipped cream was a goose.
The school-lunch program had an auxiliary army; in the summers many cooks would fight in Korea, Western Canada, Vietnam, or wherever duty took them.
The cooks liked to travel to war by ship and sang sea shanties.
Did you know that in 1975 the first ever national cooks vs. custodians bridge tournament was played in Bakersfield, CA?
The custodians won.
Many school-lunch cooks were women, and they resembled Rosemary Clooney and often doubled as nurses. Many of them worked without proper credentials, often diagnosing problems based on intuition.
Many cooks battled the flu on the job, unknowingly passing it to students who often passed it to their parents or pets, or the people their parents worked with or slept with on the side.
Once the flu is "baked in" to a casserole, it gestates and becomes fourteen times more lethal.
Many school lunchrooms doubled as gymnasiums and auditoriums and some of the worst student plays were performed in rooms where chow mein had been cooked not more than twelve hours prior.
Did you know that many of the worst singers, dancers, and actors in these performances were students who had large amounts of meatloaf digesting in their stomachs and intestines during said performances.
Did you know that there was often a free pine green or dark red telephone in the corner and that when time permitted, many cooks would quietly work out personal-debt problems or domestic issues and that many of the words uttered into these phones, with ladles shanking in the background, are among the saddest known to man?