United by a passion for â€“ OK, a curiosity about â€“ mock chicken leg, MPS' Cooper School on the South Side hosted a Mock Chicken Leg Summit.
Last autumn, I wrote about a long-standing, much-beloved and much-derided MPS lunch entrÃ©e. I'm talking, of course, about mock chicken leg, which is basically a breaded pork chop shaped (ever so vaguely) like a chicken leg.
In addition to lots of comments on social media, the article led to a Twitter discussion between me, MPS' media manager Tony Tagliavia, Teach for America's Garrett Bucks and Schools That Can's Isral DeBruin and Kole Knueppel. That repartee led to our repast, courtesy of Cooper Principal Jennifer Doucette and her staff and students.
Alas, Tagliavia was sidetracked by a meeting, but the rest of us met up at Cooper last week and got the greeting of a lifetime.
Doucette is a good friend and has a great relationship with Schools That Can and so she rolled out the red carpet for us (not literally, but certainly figuratively).
Building engineer Sue Beay is another friend and she set us up in style in the cafeteria. Alongside the tables where the younger kids at Cooper (which is a K4-8 schools) were eating their hot dogs and brats, Beay laid a table adorned with a table cloth and springy decorations.
Cook Danette Storey was no less welcoming, cooking up our lunches (which she had saved from the previous day), offering us our choice of milk â€“ chocolate all around (which, I know, is ironic considering my stance that it oughta be banned from school cafeterias) â€“ and slipping us each a red Twizzler.
The kids â€“ who referred to us, naively, as "dignitaries" (in their defense, they don't know us) â€“ walked past our table on the way out after eating and we chatted with lots of them.
Most said they like the mock chicken leg, which contradicts what adults in schools tell us. We also polled them, informally of course, on their lunch of hot dog or brat. Almost all prefer the former.
Cooper does pre-pack lunches, so our mock chicken leg â€“ which contains a lot of food â€“ arrived in a pair of plastic wrapped trays.
In one, there were red grapes, a bun and a pat of butter. In the other, there was a mix of cubed carrots and parsnips on one side and the mock chicken leg atop a dose of mashed potatoes on the other.
As a kid who always wanted to eat hot lunch in grade school, I enjoyed it. Sure, it had that kind of cafeteria vibe that you'd expect and the pre-pack wrap pretty much guaranteed that any crispness was steamed out, but it was exactly like what I always think of when I think of school hot lunches.
This doesn't mean, of course, that I think school lunches are fine the way they are. Schools and districts that are partnering with urban farms and farm markets to create fresh lunches are carving out a path to a healthier future. But it's a big change for a big city, however, and it will take time for all of America to get there.
In the meantime, this meal, while not a gourmet feast, included a good mix of foods, including fruit, veggies and a whole wheat bun. Whether or not the kids eat all the good stuff is another story entirely.
In addition to getting a tour of Cooper from Jennie, chatting about buildings and MPS facilities folks with Sue (as I'm wont to do), meeting great kids and dedicated teachers, the real result of the summit â€“ though never the expressed goal â€“ was that Bucks, DeBruin, Knueppel and I also talked about education in Milwaukee.
Despite our differing viewpoints and backgrounds, we spoke openly and were reminded that we may not entirely agree on the road to get there, we all agree that that every single child in this city not only deserves a great education.
On a lighter note, we also realized that the pre-pack mock chicken leg is likely different than the mock chicken leg at schools that don't serve pre-pack. So, round two â€“ at a non-pre-pack MPS school cafeteria â€“ is currently in the works.
At that one, we will surely solve all of the education world's problems, one cube of parsnip at a time.
What should I take away from this article other than you had a lunch at an MPS school? Will you discuss the issue of poor nutrition in school lunch programs, poor nutrition at students' homes, the difficulty of providing meals on such a tight budget, etc.?
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Feb. 12, 2016
T. Rex's bigger and badder cousin Giganotosaurus is here and so are some of his friends, until May 15. The new exhibit at Milwaukee Public Museum is full of interactives and more that your kids (and you) will love. Here are some of them.
Published Feb. 11, 2016
Thanks to Milwaukeean and photographer Adam Levin, who found a treasure trove of old Kodachrome half-frame slides of Milwaukee in an antiques store, we can offer up these gorgeous photos of the city as it appeared in the 1970s.
Published Feb. 6, 2016
Milwaukee is and has always been America's beer capital, so it makes perfect sense that the country's first African American brewery was born here thanks to Theodore Mack, Henry Crosby and their cohorts.
Published Feb. 5, 2016
The '50s might seem like light years away, but, really, you can get there in under an hour, by checking out some of these classic dining spots - including some drive-ins with car hops - in Kenosha.
Published Feb. 5, 2016
Despite the fact that it's cold outside, I wake up in the middle of the night a lot these days thinking about frozen custard. That's because I'm co-authoring a book about this delicacy at the moment and it's consuming me even more than I consume custard, which is saying something.
Published Feb. 1, 2016
Now that the Tippecanoe Library revamp is complete, attention is turning fully toward a mixed-use development that will replace the Mill Road branch. Here are some facts about the planned new library development at 7717 W. Good Hope Rd.
Published Jan. 29, 2016
Two turntables and a microphone has morphed into a laptop. But not all club DJs have given vinyl the toss. We caught up with Steven Watkins, who DJs at numerous venues around town, playing a variety of music to ask him about working as an "unplugged" turntablist.
Published Jan. 27, 2016
We're celebrating unplugged week here at OnMilwaukee - ironic, I know - but it's a perfect reminder that there is plenty to get out and do in this town if you'd just put the damn phone down for a minute (yes, guilty as charged). Here are six museums and shows worth checking out right now...
Published Jan. 26, 2016
Another remnant of old Milwaukee will soon disappear from the landscape as workers begin to deconstruct the four-story, 16-flat Vermont, 610 E. Mason St., to make way for Northwestern Mutual's 33-story, more than $100 million development that will occupy nearly the entire block.
Published Jan. 25, 2016
Each year on Jan. 25, Scotland and Scot-o-philes and poetry fans celebrate Burns Night to mark the birthday of the legendary voice of Caledonia, Robert Burns. Get in the spirit with some single malts from Islay.