A Defense of American School Lunches, Or: We've Got It Pretty Good Here

Photo by Ben+Sam
Delicious AND Patriotic

If there's anything that the Internet loves more than talking shit on America, it's following pointless trends and meme-blasting the hell out of them until they're just one more Bad Luck Brian, to be picked clean by 9Gag or Cheezburger.

So, Por que no los dos?

Case in point: International school lunches. Amateur punsters and anti-patriots are stumbling upon ornate bentos, highly varied and inventive lunch trays, and overall just pretty-looking things on plates claiming to be from some school someplace that's not here, and slapping innovative captions about America's supposedly atrocious sense of taste and climbing obesity rates.

Except, my fellow Americans, dig around in your brain pans for a moment -- were your lunches really all that bad?

Sincerely, of course, no cafeteria-concocted tray-based combination of food groups is ever going to match up to Mama's Home-Cooked Gourmet, and neither of those can compare to the trans-fatty goodness you'll be served up at your local hipster gastropub, but if I recall correctly, school lunches here in the States were actually pretty rad. I mean, let's be real -- where else in the world can you get Double Stuffed Pizza on Monday, Taco Boats on Tuesday, and a Breakfast Platter (FOR LUNCH) on Wednesday? It's a paradise of variety, which, as the cliché goes, is the spice of life.

But all that aside, let's say you could give a good goddamn about variety -- maybe you could have a lunch of steamed rice, Toriteri and musubi every day for the rest of your life. Or maybe you're siding with the extremely popular European position that Americans are fat-fatties and school lunches should be a matter of national security.

I'll allow that last notion especially -- American cuisine is, by and large, not the healthiest, especially when you stack it up with cultures that have a traditionally stronger focus on vegetables, rice and seafood, as opposed to enriched flours, dairy, and bovine protein. That's just the name of the game, but clearly that's not all that's going on over here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave - after all, we don't all suffer from type-two diabetes... just like everybody in France isn't skinny as a rail and fit to pedal the Tour (although I have it on good authority that the pencil moustache and beret are mandatory over there, even for women).

No, the web's recent obsessive clamoring for the school lunches of other cultures isn't just about curiosity, calorie-counting, or relative health and political implications -- in truth, it's outliers that are to blame.

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