Since the early 1900′s when cafeterias first began serving trays of mystery meat to hungry scholars in the public school system, there’s always been someone behind the counter slinging hash and taking names. And since the inception of Sloppy Joe Tuesdays, displeased kids have taken it upon themselves to find a hair net sporting scapegoat in the form of the Lunch Lady or cafeteria chef to show their disappointment.
Not surprisingly, pop culture has taken full advantage of lampooning one of the most thankless roles in blue collar history.
Lunch Lady Doris has been serving up questionable specialties at Springfield Elementary for decades. Often seen with a cigarette precariously perched on a lipstick shellacked bottom lip, whilst preparing delicacies chocked full of animal parts, shredded newspaper or old mattresses, she goes above and beyond when it comes to stretching that paltry School Board assigned meal budget.
Part Yoda, part lothario, “Chef” as he was known at South Park Elementary served as mentor to Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman for many years, dispensing philosophy & occasionally a Chocolate Salty Ball. It wasn’t Lunch until you heard that deep baritone “Hello, Children!” followed by sage advice and an inappropriate song.
Adam Sandler’s love letter to the true unsung hero of High School in “Lunch Lady Land” features an always game Chris Farley dressed up as the object of the songs affection as he proceeded to rock out an impressive interpretive dance. Bonus SNL trivia points if you knew Sarah Silverman played the dancing chop suey in this skit.
It’s evident that from an early age, Sandler was obsessed with Lunch Ladies and Sloppy Joes.
The Lunch Lady graphic novels by Jarrett J. Krosoczka feature a heroic purveyor of student bound slop who also takes time to do battle with aliens, robots and other assorted meanies in this very popular series for kids. She also has a kick hash theme song.
Riverdale High has their own cantankerous cook in the form of Miss Beazley. A long time Archie Comics character, her food is almost always the punch line to many a strip. Sarcastic, hot tempered & saucy while serving up slop, Miss Beaz is the epitome of the disenfranchised cafeteria worker.
Of course sometimes the Lunch Lady is portrayed as something much more sinister. Take Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Earshot” for instance.
When you get your own action figure, you know you’ve made it. I don’t see any Vice-Principal or Guidance Counselors being blistered packed on cardboard.
And kids, if you often think the grass is always greener on the other side when fleeing your cafeteria for a burger joint instead? You’ve been warned. Where do you think cafeteria workers come from?