By Gary Lloyd
Ernest Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms, 300-plus pages about a World War I love affair between an expatriate and an English nurse.
I’m about to write A Farewell to Crispitos, 500-plus words about a 2021 love affair between an entire community and a fully cooked tortilla packed with chicken – Tyson says it’s chicken; I thought it was beef – and melted cheese.
In August, Crispitos were served for the last time this school year in Jefferson County and Trussville City schools. Tyson is not making Crispitos for the remainder of the year due to a shortage of tortillas and workers, according to a post on the Jefferson County Schools Child Nutrition Facebook page.
I remember Crispitos even when I attended Hewitt Elementary School. Third-grade teacher’s name? Don’t recall. Which Ninja Turtle was on my backpack? No idea. But I remember Crispito Day. Kids were simply happier on Crispito Day. And apparently that feeling has persisted across dozens of years. And for now, it’s over.
I learned recently that a local choir teacher wrote and composed a song about the Crispito. Hundreds of parents took to Facebook to share their memories of Crispitos, as well as provide their kids’ thoughts on the tortilla-wrapped goodness. I even spoke to a local educator about Crispitos, a conversation that was one-third reminiscing, one-third joke-making and one-third devastation.
“Crispitos are an American treasure,” she told me. “I can’t remember a time when I was in grade school that the lunch line wasn’t packed for Crispitos day or remember a person who didn’t get an extra one.”
At a previous educational facility, she was excited to see Crispitos on the menu. Most of the kids there had never had them, and most of them did not understand her love for them.
“I will say, they were a little spicier than I remember but maybe that’s because I’m old now, but I digress,” she joked. “I normally don’t eat lunch at school because I’m using that time to help my students or use it as a time to somewhat decompress, but I made sure I was able to enjoy my last Crispitos (on Aug. 31). RIP to one of the best school lunches there is.”
When Jefferson County Schools Child Nutrition posted the bleak news about Crispitos on its Facebook page Aug. 23, after a week the post had been shared nearly 2,000 times and commented on 500 times. Crispitos are big news here. Among the highlights in the comments were “I used to choose the day I’d have lunch with my kids at school by when they were being served” and, in a reply to a friend who tagged her in the post, a woman said, “I tried to ignore this heartache and you insist on tagging me huh.” Popular hashtags included #SaveTheCrispito and #RIPCrispitos.
Tyson said in a statement that it is “working hard to return the beloved staple to schools and other foodservice locations by early 2022.” In a Facebook post Aug. 31, Hewitt-Trussville Middle School posted a photo of a student with two cheese-covered Crispitos, corn and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. In part, the caption read, “We said goodbye to crispitos today. We hope to meet again!”
Yes, we do. We can only hope.
Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.