When it became known that I would be going to boarding school, instead of high school with my friends, two main sets of questions arose.

My friends: “What did you do?”

My parents’ friends: “What will she eat?”

Coming from a family where stock is thicker than blood, this was more cause for concern than just explaining to my friends that I hadn’t done anything wrong (although rumors that I’d stabbed my little brother ran rampant).

When my father attended Brooks School in the early 70s, he compromised his strictly vegetarian Hindu upbringing and started eating overcooked pot roast and other New England specialties for sheer survival’s sake. Since then, the cuisine at boarding schools (those not established for housing wayward teens) has vastly improved. Let’s take a tour, shall we?  

On the left-hand side are the cereal and dessert bars, complete with ice cream machine. Mothers, avert your eyes. Do some kids eat the frosting away from cake for lunch and top it off with a mishmash of Lucky Charms and vanilla soft-serve? You bet your lucky bow tie. Across from there was a well-stocked salad bar, which remained empty. Oh hey look, it’s an anorexic sophomore. Careful, that dressing’s mad fattening. See? I’ve still got it.  

To the right are fixins for as many PB&Js as you can cram in your pockets, and if you keep going you’ll find the sandwich line. A guy in my class actually figured out a formula for the exact time to get in line to order a sandwich and not be late for class, and loaded it into my graphing calculator alongside Drug Wars.

The kind dudes behind the counter will make you literally any sandwich you can dream of. My old standby was a whole wheat wrap with turkey, pickles, lettuce, tomato, honey mustard and low-fat mayo (hey, I had to stay in shape for crew season, nobody likes a chubby coxswain). And maybe the frosting from a piece of cake. And a Cinnamon Toast Crunch vanilla cone.

If you keep going, you’ll encounter the grilled cheese griddle and wok bar. Yes, they let us make our own stir-fry. A budding cook of 14, I immediately took it upon myself to school clueless classmates on how not to fill the dining hall with angry scorched rice smoke. It was here, and not in algebra, that I learned order of operations: oil, onions, peppers, baby corn, chicken, rice, soy sauce, scallions. I also learned that using all the cheeses in one sandwich makes for a great grilled cheese. All kinds of education. 

Next to that, pasta. Abundant chafing dishes of spaghetti and rotini alongside vats of marinara and meat sauce lead you right into the hot food line — undoubtedly the shortest line, but a solid spot to find classics like macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, meatloaf, pizza, microwaved burritoes and the like. Long story short, kids at boarding school do not go hungry. Rather, they are in constant danger of a 4-years premature “Freshman 15,” but in a good way.

Why am I back at my high school? Last night I delivered an address to the graduating seniors with all the advice I had on getting a dream job. It went well.