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TLO School Cafeteria Review: Central Middle School (Edmond)

I’ve said it before and I’m not ashamed to say it again: most of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life were served to me in public schools.

As part of the free lunch program, it was all I had and, thankfully, the hard-working people that prepare them do their best to make sure the meals are not only delicious, but nutritious as well. That’s why when word came down to me a few weeks ago that a student complained about their meal, I was visibly irked, basically writing that, as an adult, I desperately longed for those halcyon days.

Let's be honest, this doesn't look that bad:

Apparently Central Middle School in Edmond heard my wailing cry because, a week later, I was in their prestigious lunchroom, reviewing their cafeteria food. No lie. I had received an email from the school’s principal, Mr. Pautler, inviting me to come down and try the food, giving him an honest opinion of it.

I took the first ride I could up there...

I arrived on Teach Like a Pirate Day, wherein the school’s educators dressed like the rapscallions of the high seas.

As I was led to the lunchroom by a fellow administrator, I couldn’t believe how much the school had changed since my forgotten days of being an Edmond-based substitute teacher in the late 90s; the hallways were grand and glorious, but it was the lunchroom that truly surprised me.

As I walked into the cafeteria, a soul music concert was playing on a large screen as numerous kids not only ate their assorted lunches but got down to the sweet music as well; already, this school gets a passing grade from me. I was introduced to Mr. Pautler, in all his dastardly glory, with the pirate costume being quite historically accurate; the outfit betrayed him, however, because he was a nice enough fellow, carrying on a genuine rapport with the kids.

The children eventually returned to their classes and it’s around that time that Mr. Pautler allowed me to head into the food service area and select my lunch: while it was mostly fruits and vegetables, the main dish was the Holy Grail of all school lunches, a slice of pizza which, surprisingly, in no longer cut into those famous rectangles but, instead, more popular triangles. Has education changed this much in twenty some-odd years?

Regardless, as I found a seat among the rows of tables, Mr. Pautler let me enjoy this lunch in peace or, as the next wave of students began rolling in, as much peace as I could. With the next chapter of soul music playing overhead, I took a large bite of this public-school pizza; true to form, the most heralded pizza in the world could never take the place of this single slice.

Respect for public school pizza is truly one of the best lessons that these kids will ever truly learn.

The cups of fruits and vegetables were a hearty addition, showing me that there was more to lunch than what was shown in the news story and, when I asked about it, it turns out there really was: in the report, it was made to look like there was just a lonely helping of chips and chili, already a hearty lunch.

But, in reality, not only were there fruits and vegetables missing from the picture, but, due to a shortage of chips, the school actually went out and purchased Doritos—honest to goodness Doritos!—for the kids as a better-than-average substitute.

Winded from that revelation, I then learned that, at least in Edmond, all lunches are free for every child, no matter their economic background. Insanely jealous, I nearly cursed and spat on the ground when I heard that, but I remembered I was in school and had to act like something of an upstanding citizen.

And while public school pizza might not seem all that great to you, for me, it was the finest lunch I’ve had in over twenty years, with the fruit and vegetables a well-deserved side-dish that is always hard to beat.

Central Middle School, with their top-notch cafeteria and excellent staff of scholarly cooks, delivered one of the best meals I’ve had this year and, as I think about it now, probably next year. Cómpralo ya!


 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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