It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Cheesy
BY ROB JENIS
I love cheese. I’ve always been an advocate for a bunch of different types of cheeses. So, naturally, when I saw crumbled feta and shredded mozzarella cheese as choices for salad toppings in the Jericho High School cafeteria, I was ecstatic! That is, until I was robbed of my dignity.
Each salad purchased from the school cafeteria is allowed one protein and four toppings. Looking at my options, I contemplated selecting a hard-boiled egg, a few slices of turkey, or a scoop of tuna or chicken salad as my one protein. Unable to make this ridiculously difficult decision, I switched and started out with the easy stuff. “Can I please have feta cheese on my salad?”
Needless to say, this was supposed to be a simple question with no strings attached. Unfortunately, with cheese comes great controversy.
Now, I’m not one to typically freak out over seemingly minimal issues. Perhaps I misunderstood. Maybe she meant to ask what I wanted for my three other toppings as well as my one protein.
“What about my protein?” I asked in as polite a tone as I possibly could due to the possibility that I was in fact wrong. I wasn’t.
The lunch lady went on to explain to me that all cheeses count as proteins on salads in Jericho High School. After much debate about how cheese is in no way comparable to meat, fish, or eggs, she insisted that she is not in charge of what counts as a topping and what does not. In fact, she actually agreed with me on the topic.
I caught up with the new Jericho High School assistant principal, Dr. Artiles about the problem. “Cheese is not a protein even though it has a degree of protein within it. We need to readdress our lunch offerings when it comes to making a differentiation between a protein and a non-protein for the purpose of making the perfect salad. This is about making the perfect salad.” Well said, Doc.
He’s not the only one who agrees with me. “I think cheese is a topping on a salad, not a protein. A scoop of tuna or chicken salad, that’s your protein, but when I have cheese on salads I think of it as a salad topping like olives,” stated AP Psychology teacher Judy Ornstein.
Students and teachers around the school have shown support and made clear how they feel about the situation. After much research, I met up with the head of the school lunch program here at Jericho High School, Tracy Gilet. She explained to me that cheese is designated a protein by the Department of Agriculture, and that she is only allowed to serve what they tell her is allowed– two ounces of protein per salad. While it is true that the servings of protein are fairly generous at the salad bar, that doesn’t mean there is no solution. Gilet and I came to an agreement. Cheese is now allowed to be sprinkled on top of any salad in addition to any other protein as long as the total amount of protein selected stays within the two ounce limit. It doesn’t count as another protein (in which case a student would have to pay an extra $1.25).
Thanks, Ms. Gilet. That’s more than I could have asked for.