Archie and Arabella went to a private primary school. On top of the fees we were required to do ‘maintenance hours’. If you didn’t do your ‘maintenance hours’ you had an extra fee (more like a fine) added to your fees. I’m forgetting how much it was but probably around $350.00.
In order to keep my $350.00 in my own pocket I signed up for the minimum amount of 12 hours of maintenance. There was a list of dud choices of ‘volunteer’ tasks you could choose from like spending a few days in the library covering new books. No thanks - a bit monotonous and I just couldn’t see myself sitting quietly in the library with no one to talk to for long stretches of time while I wrapped clear plastic around book covers.
Then there was ‘banking’. The students had bank accounts (real ones) and they could bring in money every Tuesday and some poor mother would compile it all and take the deposits down to the bank then return the bank books to the rightful owners. No thanks – not good with figures or detail so that could be dangerous.
Then there was helping out at events like the walkathon where the students had to raise money for some charity by going on long walks and parents were asked to stand at checkpoints, sometimes in the pouring rain and yell out encouraging things like, ‘Good on you’, and ‘You can do it’, and ‘You’re nearly there’, etc to all the walkers. No thanks – didn’t feel like standing for hours in the one spot in probable rain yelling out encouraging noises.
And the last option was the canteen. As unappealing as this was, it was the lesser of all the above evils. I wouldn’t be on my own, I would have people to talk to, the prices were deliberately easy to add up, if it was raining you were undercover, there was no requirement to be encouraging and they gave you a lunch break.
So after dropping Archie and Arabella to school I would park my car and head on over to the school’s canteen where I’d put on the mandatory frumpy apron. Sadly, there was always so much to do in this school of a thousand students. The canteen made its own pastas and muffins and sandwiches and fruit salads and wraps and chicken burgers and cheese on toast and popcorn and cookies and salad boxes. Very little was outsourced except for the sushi and the butter chicken curry and a few pastries.
As soon as you arrived you were put straight to work by the person paid to run the canteen and my first job was to go through all the lunch orders and mark off what we needed out of the freezer in terms of pies and sausage rolls and patties for the chicken burgers etc. And you didn’t want to get the count wrong or some poor child would go hungry.
When I first started volunteering in the canteen, it would sell licorice straps and cans of soft drink and slush puppies and hot dogs and giant iced donuts.
Fast forward a few years and none of these items were available. The licorice straps were replaced with dried apricots, the soft drinks with bottled water, the slush puppies with frozen fruit sticks, the hot dogs with sushi and the iced donuts with fresh fruit salad.
But, as a volunteer I found, (as much as I hated it when my turn rocked around), that I actually enjoyed myself despite the frumpy apron and hard work. The women I worked with were always welcoming and fabulous and the children were mostly gorgeous. I loved the little girls who would nervously approach the counter and put their five cents down on the counter and ask what it would buy. (Actually nothing but I would at least tell them they could have an arrowroot biscuit).
And as for Archie and Arabella, every time I was on canteen they were in overload. That day they were the most popular students as they had a never ending stream of friends ready to cash in on freebies from the canteen. There was an unwritten law that if you were on canteen you had to buy for your child and all their friends. Ice blocks all round!
So I never did pay the $350.00. I always did my ‘volunteer’ hours and always did them on the canteen.
One of the items we used to sell a lot of was the banana bread. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making your own at home…
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
Cost: This can be easily made using ingredients you already have on hand. I only needed to buy eggs.
- 1 cup (150g) plain flour
- 1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 125g butter, melted, cooled
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
Preheat oven to 180C (375C).
Grease and line a loaf pan 11 x 21 x 6cm.
Combine flours, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk butter and eggs together. Stir in banana. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth the surface.
Bake for 45-50 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm spread with butter.
This recipe has been adapted from Taste.