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 June 23, 2016
Today, I spent a little time with architect Craig Eide and Fernwood Montessori School principal John Sanchez touring the Bay View public school's new addition, which is expected to be complete by mid-July, for a Sept. 1 first day of school.
Published June 21, 2016
Recently, we visited Engine Co. 6 on Brady Street, a firehouse that, in addition to being well-known in the neighborhood, has a long history on the East Side. The first station was built here in 1875 and was replaced with the current building in 1946.
Published June 15, 2016
On Tuesday, Milwaukee Christian Center's Neighborhood Improvement Project "dropped" another modular home for low-to-moderate-income families into place on Milwaukee's South Side, in the shadow of the St. Josaphat dome near Lincoln Avenue.
Published June 14, 2016
More than a century and a half after the opening of the first brewery in Milwaukee, the city's identity is still drenched in beer. At Forest Home Cemetery, many of the men who made the beer that made Milwaukee famous lie in repose. You can "meet" them at Brunch with the Barons.
Published June 13, 2016
Last October, Marquette University opened a new Jesuit Residence. But one reader knew I'd be more interested in the building the priests formerly called home. So join me as we take a last look at the old Stratford Arms Hotel before it is razed in July.
Published June 9, 2016
"American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood" is at Milwaukee Art Museum from June 10 through Sept. 5. Here are seven works that especially caught the eye. But, rest assured, in a show with about 100 Benton works, there's plenty more.
Published June 7, 2016
Milwaukee as it could be. That's how artist John O'Neill approaches his unique, colorful, engaging and action-packed Milwaukee Envisioned series of drawings of the city, which mash up the past, present and potential future of the Brew City.
Published June 3, 2016
The Maryland Avenue Montessori School building has been growing periodically ever since the first school was opened on the site in the mid-1860s. With one of MPS' most successful and popular programs bursting at the seams of the building, a new addition is coming.
Published June 1, 2016
Lincoln Warehouse is home to brewers, distillers, hair salons, recording studios, online retailers, artists of all stripes and warehouse space. Get a peek at the creative energy at an open house on Thursday, June 2.
Published May 31, 2016
Any day now, the single-story brick building on the corner of 5th and Juneau will disappear from the landscape, removed to make room for the new Bucks arena and related development.