Winner in the Food For Thought writing contest

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I couldn’t find this online anywhere, so I decided to publish it here.

I was the kid who brought her lunch in sticky, leaky Tupperware
By Juliette Kaplan, Bellevue, Wa.

Tupperware was not cool.

When people asked me,
Where are you parents from
Like a well-rehearsed robot, I would recite,
My mom is from the Philippines,
And my dad is from the former Soviet Union.
I thought he was from the Ukraine
But I just said what I heard from my mom.
Needless to say,
They were foreign,
With no experience with lunch time protocol,
Operational standards,
Social responsibility,
Or peanut butter and jelly.

Oh how I longed for gushers and handisnacks
Dunkaroos and Chex mix.
But no.
Why buy special food for lunch, when last night’s dinner wait to be reheated?
My food did not look like colorful plastic jewels,
Or glorious, cheesy orange goo.

I wanted to eat commercials, my parents fed me
Eyeroll, please!
Food.

My mother’s chicken adobo, that she marinated for days
In a recipe that endured Spanish colonization,
Japanese occupation
And American immigration.
Babushaka’s mashed potatoes and Russian meat patties
That lie somewhere between hamburgers and meatloaf
What are you eating Julie?The dreaded question
It’s called catleka, it’s this Russian thing, I would grumble,
as I bowed my head in shame.

Or maybe it was
Longan
Similar to a lychee fruit, it came in cans of heavy syrup
And was transferred to Tupperware
For me to carefully balance
So it did not leak,
And make me as sticky and unappealing to other kids
As my bulky Tupperware lunch was to me.

Oh how I longed for a nifty paper sack
But why on earth would we buy paper sacks,
When we have plenty of plastic ones
From the grocery store?
Besides,
Tupperware did not fit nicely
Into nifty paper sacks.

Lines of children
With lunch boxes with Velcro
And Disney pictures and superheroes
And a plethora of nifty paper sacks!
And then me,
Inconveniently
Trying to hide
My crumply white plastic grocery bag
The handles tied into not even a friendly bow,
But stiff, alert rabbit ears,
Conspicuous, and scared
Giving me away!
So desperate, so uncool.

There’s no microwave at school, DAD!

A lousy and fruitless attempt to be sure,
How could they ever understand?
That’s ridiculous! He said,
Is there a kitchen?
Then there’s a microwave!

I hated my stupid Tupperware,
And my quick, covert trips across the cafeteria
With the regretful request
To reheat
My uncool lunch
that was really last night’s dinner.

But at least I dodged
Direct exclusion
When the trading frenzy erupted
Fruit-by-the-foot thrown across the table,
Egg salad, on white bread
Flying overhead.
My Tupperware-encased,
Preservative-free, non-English words, did not fly among these kids

Oh Tupperware, you were the source of my social demise.

But I forgive you, Mom and Dad,
For the years of anguish I endured
In the closed mind of the American school lunch room,
Unwelcome to aromas of heritage and love.
Because now I’ll take Tupperware,
With delicious delicacies from your respective homelands
Over boring PB and J
Any day.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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