My School Canteen
The cuisine makes the mind
It is now a cliché to say, “Tailor makes the man.” We can say something new or we can add, something new to this adage by saying, “If the tailor makes the man, the cuisine makes the mind.”
It is in this light chiefly that I judge my school canteen. Lest it should send some wrong signals in your mind, my dear readers, I hasten to add that my school canteen is not just a modern commercial cafeteria.
Loved by one and all
Though situated in a corner of the school, the canteen is not a deserted, neglected, nauseating or maligned place haunted by boisterous goons, trouble-shooters or rumour mongers. It is a place much-admired and loved by one and all, not only for its superb well-ventilated building and meticulous arrangements but also for its excellent cuisine at reasonable, if not altogether cheap prices.
It has four well-built, noise-proof rooms which are joined internally and also have separate outlets. One room is meant for the staff. It has cute sofas and tables and tastefully decorated walls.
The colourful pictures on the walls are those of internationally reputed chefs and their unique recipes. This, indeed, is true of all the rooms.
In the second room sit the girl students exclusively though there is no bar to the girl students from sitting in the third room also which is meant for both boys and girls. In the fourth room sit the contractor and his men. This fourth room is a much larger one as compared to the other rooms and here are displayed all the preparations. Some of the preparations are just fast foods like Uncle Chips, noodles, biscuits, namkeens, etc. The real deftness of the contractor and chef’s skills are exhibited in their own preparations which are cooked and kept for a while in the kitchen-cum-pantry which comprises two rooms with a chimney-like outlet on the roof and which is adjoining the contractor’s room.
The contractor’s own preparations are displayed under such bizarre names as Muchhad Malai Kofta, Muchhad special milkshake, Muchhad paneer pakoras, Rajasthani vadas, Chennai Superb Idli Dosas and so on.
One must not conclude from these bizarre names that the preparations must be just claptrap – all colour and no substances. Far from it, there is real matter in them. The sagacious contractor knows or has been told, that the school children are not expected to be dieting or slimming in the canteen nor are they on any healthy diet. They need a nourishing, balanced diet.
It is this that makes the contractor not to neglect such items as Amul butter, Britannia bread, omelet of fresh eggs, pasteurised milk, ice-creams and cold drinks of renowned brands only and those straight from the concerned companies’ plants with no manipulative intermediaries, and then, of course, fresh fruits, neither too ripe nor raw. No cut fruit or other unhygienic substance is allowed in the canteen. Special attention is paid to tea and coffee which are, of course, in great demand.
All this has been possible because of the hawkish-eyed supervisory committee comprising the teachers and the students, especially the students drawn from the Home Science Department. The committee tests and checks everything before it is placed on the counter. It also decides the rates which are generally lower than the market rates.
The most important point which is borne in mind by all concerned is cleanliness. There are wire-netted doors which do not allow flies to enter. The floors, tables and shelves are washed daily with some strong anti-bacterial liquid detergent. All the utensils are also regularly disinfected.
All this does not imply that the contractor is a rogue. No, far from it, he is a gentleman who deserves all the praise. He himself takes interest in all the health measures and volunteers to co-operate with the authorities concerned. He is a great lover of children and sometimes joins them for fun. He does not mind if he is called “Chacha Cheeku” by the children. It is because his voice is shrill like some bird or young girl.
Meanwhile, all concerned are greatly alarmed at the rising trend of epidemics in the town. However, the authorities in our school, including our dynamic, enlightened Principal, Mrs. Jaya Jyoti, take great interest in all health and cleanliness measures and ensure as best as they can the preparations comprising pure, healthy, fresh ingredients.
Some negative points
My only regret, as of many other students is that I cannot visit the canteen too often. Since only interval provides this opportunity. Thus, the canteen also serves as a place for interaction among students and this adds spice to the joviality that we have in the canteen. And, to relax ourselves, sometimes we sing in a chorus or enter into healthy discussion over various academic and other matters. Here, our teachers never snubs except when some bullies indulge in ridiculing the meek students raising their obnoxious voices, but that happens only once in a blue moon. It cannot be denied that humour-mongers are also active in the canteen. But as the interval is over, there is all quiet in the canteen.
A happy place
The canteen is a healthy and happy place and we should make it such by keeping it spick and span and a tranquil hub – of the school.