I care as much about school lunch as I do about school academics, I volunteer in my kids’ school cafeteria, and my essay for The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage is about school lunch. In the essay, I describe how my own elementary school cafeteria experience affected how I feel about my sons’ school lunch today, and a lot of my experience (a lot more than I was able to write in the essay) has to do with my mom. She cooked daily and fed our family well — she has always cared about food — but she never stressed food. No one meal was going to make or break our day, our health, our happiness. So when I was in third grade and she went back to work full-time, off I went to the school cafeteria where I felt totally free to choose whatever kind of weird lunch appealed. Most of fifth grade, that meant coconut ice cream and french fries. You can read more about that in the book.

In the meantime, read this essay, Notes From a Napkin, on Literary Mama, about a different experience with school lunch. Here’s an excerpt:

“I crunch on a florescent orange Cheeto as I watch my classmates open their lunch bags, assuming that every cookie in sight is homemade. I want my mom to be the type of mother who writes napkin notes and makes chocolate chip cookies from scratch, but that’s not her way and I know it already, at ten years old. There is no napkin in my bag because I packed my own lunch. I lick the Cheeto dust off my fingers.”

For the record, neither my mom nor I are napkin note-writing mothers. Are you?