As another back-to-school season begins, I’m reminded of one day during my elementary school years — a day when my pickiness nearly got the best of me.
I attended Catholic school. Nuns in full habit were our teachers, for the most part, and Mass was required a couple of times a week.
Lunch hour consisted of a hot meal. No brown bags.
The hair-netted lunch ladies would ladle out our food on trays, with separated portions for the veggies, fruit, main meat, etc.
Sometimes it was good. Other times, it was awful.
This one day was of the latter.
Peas were on the menu.
Now in my defense, I didn’t particularly care for peas, but at home, I managed to get them down okay.
Probably didn’t hurt that Mom bought the good, tiny peas, the ones cooked in rich butter.
The lunch ladies, obviously, had used a can of those huge peas, heated them up, and spooned them out.
As we kids ate, the nuns wandered past our long tables, watching to make sure we cleaned our plates.
So the “starving children in Biafra” would no longer starve.
(How American children eating icky food here was supposed to cure malnutrition there was beyond us!)
Anyway, I dutifully tasted the peas and found them beyond gross. Glancing around to make sure Sister wasn’t looking, I proceeded to scoop up every pea and systematically drop it into my mostly-finished milk carton — where, I was sure, I would pass muster in the empty tray line and join my friends on the playground.
That wasn’t to be.
Perhaps my guilty expression gave me away. Doggone it, I never was a good liar!
Another Sister, this one watching the empty tray line, spotted me, picked up the milk carton, gave it a gentle swish, and widened her eyes.
“What’s this, Deborah?” she asked, opening the carton and peeking inside.
“Nothing, Sister” died on my lips and I hung my head.
I’d been caught.
“Return to your table and finish your lunch,” Sister ordered.
Double-yuck. Now the peas had milk touching them, and I was a kid who thought her stomach was compartmentalized, just like our trays.
I sat sulking by myself the rest of the lunch hour, unable to make those milky peas go down.
And I missed recess with my friends.
When the bell rang, Sister sent me back to class. I’m pretty sure there was a lesson somewhere — something to do with honesty — but I’ve blanked it out.
To this day, I still can’t eat creamed peas!