“I heard there was a food fight yesterday,” said some freshman I was eating with.
“Oh really,” I replied, uninterested. I had heard rumors about Cathedral High School’s food fights. A few kids throwing their lunch around. Big fucking deal. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was ignorant of the true magnitude of these events. We keep eating, and then I hear some shouting. I turned around, but nothing is happening.
“What’s going on?” I asked the guy across the table.
“Somebody threw a roll or something,” he said.
I kept gawking. Everybody was looking across the room, but all was calm.
“Big deal,” I said. “Some big fucking food fight. Whole lotta nothing going on.”
A minute later I heard—and felt—a loud rumble. Wow. What the hell is that? An earthquake? I turned around again. No, it wasn’t not an earthquake. It was more like a cyclone—of food, plastic bowls, trays, milk cartons, and silverware. Food flying everywhere. Look at these motherfuckers, I thought. About 300 upperclassmen, going wild—all covered with American chop suey, chocolate milk shakes—you name it. The pelting sound of food hitting people, walls, and floor. The cacophony of chairs sliding back and toppling, the clattering of trays, the chaos of all these food-splattered students getting the hell out of there, stampeding to the exits. Jesus, I’d never seen anything like this. What…bedlam. I looked at the long rows of tables, now zig-zag lines. At that point in my life this was the closest thing to a riot I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
After a few seconds of silence, the remaining 400 or so students give the food fight a standing ovation.
“AH HA HA!” laughed the students in every classroom. “A food fight!” said the school in unison.
All the guilty participants, food-stained and laughing, would revisit the scene of the crime and sit amidst the filth as Sister Mildred dragged in a microphone and a small amplifier, trying to get to the bottom of who started the battle.
“I am sick of you people throwing food like children!” she shrieked, generating even more laughter.
“You think this is funny?” she asked. “How would you like to get expelled?” She threw around the words “expelled,” arrested,” and “violent,” “childish” a few times. Yes, we know, sister. Violent behavior. Childish. But we have to have our food fights. Why? Good question. We don’t have an answer. After getting nowhere in assigning blame, she made everyone clean up the mess.
Still, I remember nearly my whole sophomore year going by without a food fight. “When the fuck is there going to be a food fight?” we asked. We waited and waited. But nothing. I’d lob a ketchup packet or a roll into the crowd to get things going, but there was no retaliation. Although there were several promising scenarios—a bit of food or a milk carton tossed across the cafeteria, followed by lots of students yelling—the incident always petered out when the nuns came a-runnin’, saying, “Don’t you dare!”
Then it happened. The end of sophomore year in 1979. The mother of all food fights. It started in one section of the cafeteria and kept spreading, like “the wave” at Fenway Park. In no time 500 or 600 students were involved. Even many of the girls got into it.
“Would EVERYONE in the third lunch wave please return to the cafeteria and sit in the places you were sitting?”
“AH HA HA! A fucking food fight! Finally!”
And so it went in the cafeteria of Cathedral High School in the late ’70s.