Do you remember your school canteen? The dodgy brick box that housed a delicious den of finger buns, Twisties and Sunnyboys?
Where 20 cents could have pretty much bought you anything, including a swag of new friends if you chose to treat them at lunchtime?
The New School Canteen has gone corporate, and I cannot help wonder whether this is a good thing or whether I should just embrace my inner laziness when it comes to dishing out snacks.
My mum was a single working mum and could not do canteen duty as much as I would have liked her to, which would have been every day if I had my say. But when I was lucky enough to score Mum in the canteen, I would tell all my classmates.
“Mum’s on canteen today.”
Instantly my cool factor would skyrocket and I would be the leader of the pack until the end of lunchtime, when the empty icy pole wrappers that Mum had shouted everyone would disappear into the bin along with my ego and pride. It would be weeks until Mum hit that canteen again. Weeks.
My mum loved doing canteen though, and met two lifelong mates behind the counter. Mates that even came to my wedding, thus is the power of a re-heated sausage roll.
Having mums behind the counter is important. I should know.
During my high school years, when I found myself at boarding school, a group of fellow boarders would scrounge together $1 and go and line up at the canteen. It was important to get into the right line. The right line belonged to Mrs Albert, the mother of one of the girls.
The drill was this: When you reached the top of the line, you would smile at Mrs Albert and order a Frosty Fruit. Mrs Albert would fetch you the Frosty Fruit and say “Put your money away, darling! My treat.” So you thanked Mrs Albert profusely before heading back to your gang and handing the dollar over to the next girl, who would go and line up at Mrs Albert’s line.
Sneaky. Devious. Brilliant.
And thus lays the problem with the corporate canteen. You cannot bullshit big business.
My kid’s school has a privatised canteen which has introduced a new system where you can log on and order from home. The money comes off a designated credit card and the order is spat out on a little sticky label at the canteen, which is then filled by the licensee who runs the business.
I vowed I would never use it. Until one day, despite an avid search of the freezer for some bread and an even more avider (??) search down the back of the couch and the console of the car for a couple of bucks, I had no other choice. I created an account, ordered that cheese sandwich and the rest, as they say, was history.
Oh the joy! You can even order up to a week in advance or make a standing order.
But is my own laziness and disorganisation – and unwillingness to volunteer to do canteen duty – helping in the demise of the traditional school canteen? Indeed it is.
School canteens are on the extinct list, with many being closed down or restricted to operating just a few days a week.
Parents are not volunteering with the same gusto that was shown back in 1980, where the mums behind the counter saw it as a good chance to connect with other women, have a laugh and make devon and tomato sauce white bread sandwiches until the bell rang.
So you have to ask, as a general rule, why that does not appeal to us anymore?
How can we make canteen duty cool again? Or should we accept the things we cannot be bothered to change?
MORE STORIES BY MRS WOOG
*About Mrs Woog: “I can be found in the laundry, folding laundry, sorting laundry and dropping off the dry cleaning. I am mum to two boys, boss of my husband and master of a cat and two guinea pigs. Come nightfall, I watch TV while tweeting which drives Mr Woog insane. I like to read cookbooks and eat out. During my waking hours I ferry kids around in the Mazda while drinking takeaway coffees and listening to talkback. I think about going to the gym every day. I used to work in the publishing industry before I realised it was nothing like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld made out like it was. Now I write this blog. And I never get writer’s block. It is a gift I have.”
*Homepage picture of sausage rolls via jujichews.com