“You Also Need Peanut Butter”


The Bible quote “Man cannot live by bread alone” is etched over the door in the old dining hall at McCallie. It was the cadet Ansel Head’s first encounter with education at the institution. How stupid, he thought. Why would anything so obvious be displayed so prominently in what was billed to be the South’s premiere school. Were the other cadets so remedial that the authorities felt they had to start at such a basic level; or was it that the authorities themselves needed a daily reminder of the obvious.

Then the recruit cadet had his first meal. Schooling at McCallie had begun. The meaning of “Man cannot live by bread alone” was not to be found in its obvious interpretation; there was more to it than met the eye. It was both a warning (one was never going to get anything from the dining hall kitchen that would sustain life) and a prayer (the only apparent alternative was to plead ones needs to the almighty).

Older cadets, seeing panic in the recruit’s countenance, pointed to contraband peanut butter on every table. “You also need peanut butter” was never added to the quote over the door nor incorporated into the formal curriculum but it was a life-giving truth that made existence possible on Missionary Ridge.

It had become obvious to the newly incarcerated recruit cadet that if one was to gain any practical education from McCallie, one had to look beyond what was being put forth by the authorities, to look for the double meaning, even triple meaning, in everything being perpetrated, and to seek out those teachers who smiled when pushing platitudes and the company line.

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