Dining Family Style
Table manners are reinforced, friendships are formed, and bonds are strengthened through the magic that is lunchtime at San Antonio Academy.
In any Italian home on any given Sunday, you can find images that would make Norman Rockwell envious. From counters covered with assorted pasta and meat dishes to multi-generational family members conversing at the table, it doesn’t take much for the love and laughter to erupt from these weekly get togethers. It’s not a far-off thought to have a great -grandfather stirring the sauce with his great-granddaughter, while a grandmother and grandson sing songs from the Italian greats of their time. Traditions are strengthened, lessons are learned, and family is the center point of it all.
By the same accord, somewhere far off on a ranch, there are cowboys sharing stories of their wild experiences and crafting a tall tale here and there. They are the keepers of western traditions and protectors of the creatures entrusted to their care. They take turns cooking for one another on their journey and relish in sharing some of their favorite dishes with their fellow cowboys. Their appetites are ferocious and driven by a hard day’s work, which motivates them to create meals with foods that keep their bellies full and heads clear. During their wild and rugged time on the trails, they are each other’s family, and treat one another as such.
At San Antonio Academy, lunchtime routines are much like that of an Italian Sunday dinner or a cowboy’s campfire. Boys of various grade-levels are gathered around together in the cafeteria to share good food and great friendships. This family style tradition is what makes SAA’s dining experience so unique. And one that always begins with a blessing: “We thank you Lord for happy hearts, and rain and sunny weather. We thank you Lord for this good food, and that we are here together.” Amen!
This family style approach allows the older boys to shine in a leadership role outside of the classroom and drill field. The lunchroom responsibilities grant even the youngest boy an opportunity to lend a hand in the overall cleanup of the dining hall, while the presence of the teachers affords the boys conversational time with a faculty member who is not part of their daily academics. With such a specialized way of offering meals comes questions from new or perspective parents hoping to gain insight on this way of dining. Since my most recent school contribution came in the form of a campus tour guide, I heard the following questions/concerns arise when we visited the dining hall:
My son is extremely picky. There is no way he is going to eat what is served without lunch from home.
You will be surprised at how much your son WILL eat without you next to him or a packed lunch from home. Thanks to the guidance of the teachers and the role modeling of the big boys, he will eat a hearty and healthy lunch that will sustain him until you see his smiling face at pickup.
Should I be worried if my son is going through a “no meat” phase? Aren’t all the lunches just meat and starches?
Eating less or no meat at all is not a worry! The kitchen staff makes a fresh soup of the day to accompany the well-stocked salad bar that is an option to all. San Antonio Academy encourages all the boys to make healthy choices each day with the lunch items available to them. The salad bar isn’t just for the adults – my pre-k boy visits it quite frequently! In addition to the veggies of the salad bar, your son will find an assortment of sandwiches at his taking if he so wishes.
What are the dining hall expectations of an Academy boy?
Lunches are divided up into two periods: First lunch = pre-k, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th; Second lunch = kinder, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th. Each lunch table has boys from the designated grade levels present. The oldest boys at the table serve the main entrée to his tablemates and all hands are expected to help. During cleanup, each boy is responsible for taking his plate, utensil, and drinkware to the appropriate spot on the cart (smaller boys are assisted). The tables must be wiped clean and the floor under and around their tables should be neat. First lunch arrives to a tidy and clean lunchroom and must grant that same experience to their brothers in second lunch.
Can I eat lunch with my son?
Absolutely! Parents are welcome and encouraged to spend lunch time with their son. A visitor’s table in the middle of the dining hall awaits your presence and you can see first-hand how special that time is for the boys (pre-k parents are asked to wait a few weeks before coming to lunch so the boys can get adjusted to the routine). Birthdays and other milestones serve as an exciting reason to eat with your son, but sometimes a random day can be just as special.
Mealtime at SAA is rooted in family values and traditions, with a lively twist of the boy spirit thrown in there for good measure. No two table conversations are alike, and each day brings more laughter than the last creating memories that they will treasure for a lifetime. Lunchtime serves as an important part of the day where their brains are given a break while their bodies are fueled with foods that satisfy all appetites. What was once a primary school boy cleaning the chairs, over time, becomes the upper school boy leading the table. The little guys leave arm in arm after high fives from their big brother, skipping off unaware that they soon will become the givers of the high fives.
The savory cuisine is enough to make any Italian proud, while the theme of brotherhood can make the most stoic cowboy tip his hat to those behind the scenes, all the while being encouraged to “come back again real soon.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kathy Bolner is a current Enrichment teacher and former 1st grade teacher at SAA; an Alamo City Moms contributor; mother to an eight-year-old daughter, and a five-year-old son who attends Pre-K at SAA. Kathy is a transplant to San Antonio from Pittsburgh.