Working and/or Eating?


For the second year, I have been sent by the school authorities to another school to give oral exams. This entails getting up early, driving 90 minutes to get there and listening to seven candidates in a row before the lunch break and then listening to another batch of seven before driving back home.

This morning, while the four examiners were sipping the cup of coffee we had been offered on arrival, the headmaster came to greet us and announced that a secretary would come to sell us lunch tickets. I politely declined, adding that I had brought my own food and would join the others in the staff dining-room.

At that point the head replied that people were not allowed to bring into the school food that had not been prepared on their premises. It echoed something I had heard in my own school but had not investigated since I can always eat at home this year. It was a bit too early for me to think of something clever and polite to answer so I kept silent.

However when the time came to have lunch I chose to ignore the remark and brought my mixed rice and chickpeas salad into the dining-room. By then I had pondered the question and had an answer ready in case someone asked me to eat outside. It was a little cold and windy so there was no way I was moving out.

I am not undisciplined on principle but some situations can really irritate me. I know that the French secular system has no place for religious “idiosyncrasies” but the incident made me realize that it not possible to be a vegetarian either, not to mention that I wonder what they expect people who have food allergies or intolerance to do. It was in fact the case for another of the examiners who also brings her own food.

My morning stupor prevented me from asking the reason behind this peculiar rule although I suspect it has to do with the zero-risk syndrome. It seems unlikely that a rotten egg eaten by myself in the staff dining-room might infect the students but I cannot imagine why schools would take such drastic measures.