Some of the kids asked me if I had a dog sandwich. I thought they meant hot dog.
From that point forward, I asked my parents for lunch money. Sometimes they gave it to me, but mostly I washed dishes in the cafeteria to get a free lunch. Sloppy Joe days were the best.The other thing about a school lunch is that you can barter with it—that is, if you have the right stuff. Margaret Cho understands this concept. "All the other kids would get granola bars and Capri Sun. I would get dried fish," the comic once explained. "All the other kids got Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. I got squid and peanuts. You can't trade that shit."
I pilfered lunches from my classmates. Not just any classmate, but the white kids who were famous for having good shit in their KISS and Evel Knieval lunchboxes.
The odd thing was that I actually loved Chinese food, especially my mom's cooking. I just wanted to fit in, like any other kid. I couldn't stand anything Asian—my appearance, my FOB clothes that smelled of moth balls, my parents' broken English, Bruce Lee, Lieutenant Sulu, you name it. If it was Asian, it wasn't cool.
Viewed through the lens of today's culinary scene, I would've never have thought food like Taiwanese beef noodle soup or dim sum would be considered cool.