ONE ON ONE WITH THE CAFETERIA LADY
Brio Magazine, 2001
The Cafeteria Lady has been a popular feature of Brio Magazine since our very first issue. We thought it would be fun to give readers a little behind the scenes look this Grand Dame of
Disasters--The Cafeteria Lady.
Brio: Cafeteria Lady, when did you first decide that you wanted to be, well, a cafeteria lady?
Caf Lady: In elementary school I was torn between wanting
to grow up to be a chef and wanting to be a firefighter. So, in a sense, Iâ€™ve combined both.
Brio: Yes, weâ€™ve heard about your kitchen fires.
Caf Lady: I prefer to refer to them as very large dinner candles.
Brio: Didnâ€™t you once have a turkey explode in your oven?
Caf Lady: A minor explosion. There werenâ€™t any injuries or anything like that. Except, of course, to the bird. Iâ€™m still
waiting for one of the drumsticks to land.
Brio: So would you say youâ€™re a danger in the kitchen?
Caf Lady: I do risk my life on occasion, but itâ€™s a sacrifice Iâ€™m willing to make for my readers.
Brio: But you wouldnâ€™t recommend they follow your cooking style, say, in their home economics classes?
Caf Lady: No. What I do should never be tried at home. Only by professionals.
Brio: So you do consider yourself a professional chef?
Caf Lady: Absolutely.
Brio: What kind of education do you have? Did you attend a professional chefâ€™s school?
Caf Lady: Yes. For about a week. The schoolâ€™s insurance company said I had to quit. But I learned a lot in that week.
Brio: But you didnâ€™t attain a degree?
Caf Lady: One of the firemen said my grilled cheese attained 800-degrees before going up in smoke. Is that what you mean?
Brio: Not exactly. But weâ€™ll move on. I believe our readers would like to know more about you personally. Are you married?
Caf Lady: Yes.
Brio: Does your husband like your cooking?
Caf Lady: I donâ€™t know. He always disappears around dinner time.
Brio: Do you have any hobbies?
Caf Lady: Hobbies?
Brio: You know like collecting rocks.
Caf Lady: Is that a crack about my biscuits?
Brio: Weâ€™ll move on to another question. Whatâ€™s it been like working with Susie Shellenberger and Marty McCormick over the years.
Caf Lady: Itâ€™s been great. Susieâ€™s a real kick. And sheâ€™s always been so appreciative of the gifts Iâ€™ve sent her at Christmastime.
Brio: We heard she laid half her patio with your fruitcakes.
Caf Lady: She did that for sentimental reasons, Iâ€™m sure. Martyâ€™s been lots of fun, too.
Brio: How long have you been writing for Brio?
Caf Lady: Susie offered me this column when the magazine first started 14 years ago.
Brio: Thatâ€™s a long time.
Caf Lady: I know.
Brio: Thatâ€™s a lot of stomachaches.
Caf Lady: Yes, but they love it. Thereâ€™s something about my cooking that people just canâ€™t forget.
Brio: Salmonella has a way of doing that.
Caf Lady: You stick to your cooking secrets, Iâ€™ll stick to mine.
Brio: Fair enough. One project you have coming up is the Cafeteria Lady Best Cafeteria Food in America contest. Tell us about that.
Caf Lady: I'm on a mission from Tums. Just kidding. Actually, I'm visiting one school per state
to see which state, in my humble opinion, has the best cafeteria food. Pray for me.
Brio: And you'll be starting that this year?
Caf Lady: Yes, girls are already writing in and inviting me to their schools. One girl even wrote
from Pakistan! I'd love to go, but as you know we're on a budget and that's a little far to swim.
Brio: You'll be sure to give us regular updates and pictures, right?
Caf Lady: Absolutely! I'll even send you samples of the food.
Brio: That's all right.
Caf Lady: It's no problem.
Brio: No, really. That's all right.
Caf Lady: You've eaten my cooking. How bad could it be?
Brio: We'll be praying for you.
Caf Lady: Well, I know there's got to be some great cafeteria food out there, and I'm going to
find it, even if it kills me. Wait a minute...bad choice of words.
Brio: We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
Caf Lady: No problem.
Brio: Just one final questioon. Do you have any plans of retiring soon?
Caf Lady: Are you kidding? The look I see on peopleâ€™s faces when I cook for them is all I need to keep me going.
Brio: A look of terror does that for you?
Caf Lady: To the untrained eye it may look like terror. But I look beyond the wide eyes and
greenish tint in their cheeks and see love and gratitude.
And suddenly, itâ€™s all worth it.