Day 110: rib-b-que

Today’s menu: Rib-b-que (I think), tater tots, pears, two slices bread

I ate. I was hungry. Believe it or not, I was too busy to even glance at the menu today to see what today’s meal was “called.” When I’m at work eating lunch is really a side note. I am so busy. But I think it was the “rib-b-que” and I think it’s all beef. It tasted ok. Tomorrow I’ll make sure to see what it was labeled on the menu. I do purposely try not to even glance at the menu because I like the “surprise.”

***

Today a student said, “I don’t like the letter F.”
Mrs. Q, “Why don’t you like the letter F?”
My student, “I just don’t like it.”
Well, you don’t have to have a reason!

I should have told the student that my favorite letter is Q!

***

I got a very sweet email from someone who mentioned that they had to stop reading my blog post yesterday when I mentioned that I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I think that there are a new crop of readers who haven’t been along for the whole ride and so they might have missed a summer post in which I mentioned my experience with Wal-mart.

To summarize more than 15 years ago my mom owned a small business in my hometown (I moved around a lot so I call it my hometown even though I lived there only for my high school years). It was a darling little coffee shop in an economically depressed area. She opened it when she had been trying to support my sister and I on about $15,000 per year during a period of time when my dad wasn’t working and things were very hard (At the time I knew my parents’ marriage was slipping, but I didn’t know about any financial problems). I know she borrowed money from a more wealthy family member to start up the coffee shop and got a bank loan too.

My sister and I worked very part-time in the coffee shop and I think I earned about $3.60 per hour. We both worked in “the front” (behind the cash register), but my sister was definitely the social one and wanted to get all the attention up front (she was in middle school, had little pink glasses and was so charming with an apron on!) I worked in the back. Yes, folks I helped balance the books as a high schooler. This was the long-forgotten-era called “no computers.” We did have a Tandy at home with large floppy discs, but it was too clunky for anything besides one game and certainly didn’t have spreadsheets on it. I sat in the back tallying up figures across large grids. I got so mad when I couldn’t make everything come out! I would sit forever making sure it added up.

My mom hired some great people and my sister and I had a blast with the other workers when we showed up after school. But I also resented “the business” because my mom was working 12 hour days and I missed her. She gave benefits to employees and paid a living wage. The place did ok for just the first year of operation.

Then Wal-mart moved into our town.

Wal-mart chose the outskirts of the town a couple miles from the downtown. The downtown slowly died. My mom’s coffee shop was right downtown. In its first year of operation, this Walmart store won an award for sales.

Sales at the coffee shop started dropping off little by little. Certainly there were regulars but growth didn’t seem to a possibility. My mom worked for another two years as businesses started to shutter. My parents divorced, I moved away to college, and my mom’s coffee shop went under.

I will never forget turning off the lights for the last time. I realized that I would miss the place even though I’d disparaged it so much in high school (“do I have to?” kinda teenager-stuff).

You’ll be glad to know that even though we were all sad about the death of the business (the space is now a Subway!), my mom persevered. She moved away and went back to school to earn two more degrees. Her job right now suits her well and I couldn’t more proud of her. I grateful that I had that amazing experience working for my mom at such an important time in my development. I learned more there than I probably have retained from school! Certainly that was the beginning of my food education.

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25 Responses to Day 110: rib-b-que

  1. Armenian Twin 95 September 22, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Aww, that was sad. 🙁 I'm happy for your family, though.
    In my area, we have Target. It's not as bad, yet. 😛

    Thank you for doing such an insightful project! I believe you could make a difference! And you almost have a million hits in less than a year! 😀

  2. JenH September 22, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    This is one of the sadder lunches, I think. The tots and the bread? I know the grain count isn't something your school came up with, and maybe you're supposed to assemble a sandwich, but gosh it's a brown and tan and beige meal.

    I hope tomorrow involves more color.

  3. Anonymous September 22, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Well we have a superwalmart right next to a target. I expect that at some point the target will become a supertarget and that should get interesting.

    From your pictures, I thought it was a burger patty. Oh well, to brown/beige for me!

  4. Table for Three September 22, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    I don't like tater tots anyway, but those look especially limp and sad. 🙁 Today's lunch at our school was a combined chicken and beef patty. It boggles my mind.

  5. Megan September 22, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    I'm surprised that a complete stranger is so connected with your choice of retailers that they choose not to read a post. This blog is constantly exposing me to a surprising array of people, I'll say that much.

    I agree with the above posters that this lunch does look sad. Especially in constrast to lunches where you got fresh fruit or a colourful vegetable! I know that people have said that this is depressing, and this sort of lunch would be what makes them think that. But hey, keep up the good work – we can't always tailor our reality to what we want to see, and you're doing a fantastic job of exposing that awful food that those kids have to eat.

    I've got my fingers crossed for you, in the hope that you get a decent lunch sometime soon – to make up for this one! 🙂

  6. KZ September 22, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    I just had to laugh, on my blog reader the ad that was at the bottom of your post was a Sam's Club ad.

  7. Leigh September 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Mrs. Q! I've been reading for a couple of months now and I love this blog & project. My daughter is only one so school lunches are a few years off but I've been getting quite the food education over the last year!

    I'm sorry to read this story about your family, but am inspired by your mother's determination, strength of spirit and perserverence!

  8. PB and Jess September 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Mrs. Q, I really respect you for doing this project. Looking at some of the food you have to eat makes me realize that I wouldn't have the courage (or maybe the stomach?) to do it.

  9. Shannon September 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    What a sorry looking lunch. I don't understand how one day is salad and oranges and then they can serve a meal that is just shades of brown and not see the problem with it. What happened to the whole "eat a rainbow" thing? Oh wait, I'm sure the red sauce counts as a veggie too . . .

    Are the pears just pears at least? Or with added sugar?

    Sorry about Walmart and your mom's store.

  10. Anonymous September 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Sadly, your mother's story is not a rare one. Walmart has put many 'mom and pop' shops out of business over the years. I also do not shop at Walmart, but understand why many do. What I don't understand is many of the people who shop there are the very same people that have lost their jobs because of it. However, maybe if more people realized the Walmart is one of the largest importers of Chinese made goods in the WORLD, and that they have one of the largest pay disparities between their hourly workers and top executives, these same people would think twice about it.

    Also, that lunch doesn't look pretty. I hope it tasted better than it looked. And that you get another salad soon!

  11. Mommy Lisa September 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I love Target – but don't want to go there right now because they gave money to a candidate here in MN that has COMPLETELY OPPOSITE values from my family and would like to cut wages for everyone from waitresses to skilled labor. Ugh.

    I hope their candidate loses.

  12. Erin Starks-Teeter September 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Maybe the person who stopped reading the post works for Wal-Mart. The company sure does get a lot of crap for business practices that many other non-vilified companies use as well. I don't shop at Wal-Mart because I don't like their products, dislike the atmosphere, and it's inconvenient to get there. It does seem a bit strange that people would get upset about where you don't spend your money regardless of the reason.

  13. Mary September 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Walmart is that bad, and so much worse… look up the rampant sexism it perpetrates as well! (Not to mention their choice in products, but that's to be expected in a giant, heartless corporation like that…)

  14. R September 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    "I also do not shop at Walmart, but understand why many do. What I don't understand is many of the people who shop there are the very same people that have lost their jobs because of it."

    Unfortunately, that is the only option for a lot of those people. When you lose your job and money becomes tight, you cannot deny that Walmart offers a lot of food for a low price. Not to mention, you can get other errands done while at the same store, saving what precious free time you have.

  15. Tina September 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    I have to admit…I see the reasons people shop at Walmart, and the reasons I choose not to. And I live in a small town in the South (not native, just moved here from Philadelphia a few months ago) and honestly, Walmart is one of the ONLY places to buy things! Especially with how economically depressed it is around here, getting neccesities for cheap is what Walmart does best. Unfortunately, I think that the way they bring those super low prices to people is harming America much more than it helps. And just the general feeling in society of how much "stuff" we need is ridiculous!

    The other thing I hate about Walmart, is how it has perpetrated this idea of cheap stuff that breaks quickly so you throw it away and go buy more cheap stuff that will break quickly…a neverending cycle!! Now, I know Walmart isn't the only one guilty of this, but they certainly have become the face of it and the biggest purveyor of it. I have made the choice to not buy at Walmart anymore (very tough in this tiny town!) and buy local when possible, second hand when available, make it by hand when I can, and just to cut down on my consumption and trash in general and be happy with less.

    If you haven't seen The Story of Stuff yet you should take 20 minutes and watch it…fascinating! Definitely changes your views on how much "stuff" comes into our homes and lives on a daily basis.
    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

  16. Paula Adams Perez September 22, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    I think you'd enjoy this cute video by Jib Jab – if you haven't already seen it. It's about a "BigBox" Mart! http://sendables.jibjab.com/originals/big_box_mart

  17. Woolridge Green Club September 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Watch this great video about buying local.

  18. Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    Sorry but I really doubt it's a Walmart's fault that a coffee shop closed – there isn't a coffee shop in a Walmart as far as I know and they weren't doing the combined stuff over ten years ago when I presume you was a child.

  19. Dawn September 23, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    The quality of products at Walmart and Target isn't always bad. I've bought decent things at both places at times – things I have owned over five years and are still holding together better than things I paid a lot more for.

  20. Mrs. Q September 23, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, the area was (still is) depressed economically so that was part of why the business failed. However, it's still hard to say if Walmart moving in to the area contributed. I do believe it did.

    I do understand the convenience of one-stop shopping. I have a little one in the car seat and running all over town can be a real hassle.

    In my family we call it a "successful failure" because it was a special experience for the whole family. No regrets.

  21. Canary September 23, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    Anonymous, you really don't get it. Wal-Mart didn't compete directly with the coffee shop. Wal-Mart competes with all of the so-called "mom and pop" stores in a downtown. The hardware store, the sporting goods store, the video store, the electronics store, the clothing store, the kitchen supply store, etc. When people aren't shopping downtown, they don't patronize coffee shops downtown, either. It's not that difficult a concept to comprehend.

    On the other hand, even understanding this…I shop at Wal-Mart because I have to live on the cheap in a rural community as a graduate student. I can buy groceries at a regional chain, but Wal-Mart is significantly cheaper. Some things I can't buy anywhere else in town – a new bookshelf in my price range, for instance. I try to buy some select things at local stores if I can, but there aren't many.

    I look forward to the day when I can afford otherwise.

  22. Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    I am not a supporter of Wal Mart for exactly the same reasons, but FYI the company actually supports sustainable initiatives. Because it is such a huge corporation, their support of sustainable initiatives can have a large impact on the embracing of sustainable practices worldwide. Of course, their motives aren't to be environmentally friendly. They are doing it because it saves the company money in the long run. Check it out, they have lights on timers and installed skylights in many of their stores. And they utilize solar and wind energy technology.

    In my opinion, that's their one slightly redeeming quality (but still i don't shop there, just playing devil's advocate). Hopefully, these practices will spread and be embraced by other major corporations.

  23. Anonymous September 24, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I live in a small town in North Carolina that has a population of about 1,200. As far as shopping places go, there is a Farmer's Furniture Store, CVS, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Maxway, an ABC store, a Car Dealership and Peebles. There are two 'local' hardware stores, one store that sells tobacco, a 'dented' can store that is really a sham, three florists, two pawn shops, three locally owned pharmacies, and two hip-hop clothing stores. Food wise we have a McDonalds, Hardees, KFC, and Pizza Hut…. and a Chinese Restaurant, Mexican Restaurant, BBQ Restaurant, a Ice Cream/Hamburger place, and a small place that sells hamburgers and hotdogs that taste like cigarettes. Grocery stores are Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly. There are five funeral parlors, six gas stations, three auto repair places, four barbers, and three tax preparation places. The closest Walmart is ten miles away.

    I wish I could shop locally, but the Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Maxway sell pretty much the same quality of stuff and it is pure junk from Swaziland, China, and India (I used to work at one of those three shops and my co-workers and I would play 'Where in the World did this come from?' on Truck Day.) The junk stores have run the Mom & Pop places out of town.

    Yeah, I can't wait to get the heck out of Dodge.

  24. HenrysmomA2MI September 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Mrs Q

    Been reading through lots of posts catching up. I
    so admire your willingness to admit when
    you don't know or understand something.
    Even more I admire your ability to actually
    make changes in your life. I often feel
    pretty hopeful after I read one of your honest post
    about what you know and what you've done.

  25. Ashamed to be an American September 30, 2010 at 4:12 am #

    This is the problem with America. Americans think they are entilted to every little thing (i.e welfare, health care, religious freeodm, etc). Look, I feel your pain with WalMart. I used to own a business (liquer store), before I decided to retire. I understand how it feels to close down a business. But seriously though, does WalMart care that your coffee shop closed? Heck no! It's not its job to make everyone ahppy. Its job is to make money. Wasn't the goal of your mom's coffee shop to make money? Or because she wanted to spread the joy of caffeine? I'm leaning towards the former. *rolls eyes*
    I get why you still have a grudge towards WalMart. But it just makes you look like an unreasonable, irrational shrew. Grow up, and stop with the pettiness. It's over. Big deal. You act like WalMart's mission is to please America. Well, it's not. Just like all businesses, WalMart is trying to make money. You want the Waltons' to feel sorry for you and your family? You want them to feel compassion? WEll, good luck with that. And I'm betting you don't shop at Sam's Club either. That's so mature of you.

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