Now that Jamie Oliver has been sent packing with his hostess trolley full of macrobiotic earnestness from US schools content to pack the pie-holes of the nation’s waddling blimps; the story brought back an olfactory whiff of rancid memories from my own days in state primary school. In this case the life-changing lunch villain was liver and mash This brown lump of organic compound came in square shapes replete with protruding tubes like some hideous gravy-covered road kill from a Quatermass movie. The dinner ladies, no doubt knowing a thing or two about presentation, slapped it onto our plates like a karate auctioneer.The real cuisine trauma though was reserved for the ‘scraping bowl’; a large metal receptacle into which we would dispose our uneaten food in the knowledge that local pig farms could share in the misery. The sight of a 3 foot high tottering tower of liver haunts my taste buds to this day, to the extent that any attempt to serve me dishes consisting of organs would have to come as part of a package including a tranquiliser dart and three months of post-traumatic counselling.
But what is it about school dinners that provoke a sense of communal revulsion? Was it the thought of Mr Hedges, the maths teacher reaching first for the custard jug -only for the sight of an erroneous nasal clipping dropping into the yellow gloop? Was it the realisation that at some stage a pea with the outer strata of an asteroid would hit the fat girl tucking into her flame-seared gypsy tart? Was it the hirsute dinner ladies serving a rehabilitative programme decreed by the Nuremburg trials? Who cares? School dinners were a rite of passage alongside dropping a pen and looking up Miss Evans’ skirt; putting dogshit in the caretaker’s mop bucket and stapling the posh kids’ duffel coats to the desk. It’s what made us what we are in this country today: bitter, hopeless empty souls gazing out a window of despair as the clouds of hopelessness drift by, dripping tears of lost ambition. Turkey twizzlers? Kids today don’t know they’re born, etc….