More School Lunch

Broccoli fresh from the garden

What’s my first grader having for lunch today at school?

Well, first he’s eating a mixture of fresh garden vegetables. Last time I saw this on the menu he said they ate broccoli, cauliflower and swiss chard. Then the first course is pasta all’amatriciana, a rich-tasting sauce made with tomato and guanciale (air-dried pork cheeks) and then topped with a little pecorino Romano. After he’s licked that plate clean (well, not really … the teacher won’t let him), he’ll have some croquettes made with fresh ricotta and spinach. To top off the meal, he’ll eat some fruit. Likely sweet and incredibly juicy Sicilian blood oranges.

It gives me such pleasure to check the menu each morning and see what a great lunch my son has ahead of him. Looking down the week I see a series of carefully planned meals – Mediterranean pasta followed by pork stew and fennel salad one day and lentil, rice and vegetable soup with breaded sole and pan fried potatoes another. The food is fresh, organic and cooked in the school kitchen each day. The children drink water (the Italians don’t have the same milk obsession as North Americans, maybe because they don’t have a powerful milk marketing board) and they don’t eat dessert other than fresh fruit.

Examples like the lunch programme at this Roman school and examples from French school lunches (read the menus on writer Karen Le Billon’s blog http://www.karenlebillon.com) are a constant refutation of the idea that children will not eat healthy food. Of course, schools in Italy and France have culture and tradition to help them settle the question of what and how to eat. But the fact that they serve up multi-course, delicious food to school children every day shows how easy it can be if the children’s interests are put first.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “More School Lunch

  1. If only we had been offered such food when I was a kid in Florida — where the school meals included watery spaghetti with weak tomato sauce full of not-very-cooked onions. Now we get to choose our own meals, so lunch at home in France today was a delicious paella that my wife made with chorizo (of course) and chicken and scallops and shrimp and peas and red pepper. And Basmati rice. I feel like I’m a kid again — only better!

  2. Jeannie! I want to cry. Or just return to Rome.

  3. Samantha

    The cooks at Nicholas’s school in Montreal last year were (and still are — they’re still there; it’s just we who are not) Italian, and while his lunch was not really multi-course, the offerings were similarly delectable. Nicholas STILL talks about it … particularly when they are given plain noodles for lunch at his current school. (“Plain noodles! Who would want to eat plain noodles??! At The Priory we never had plain noodles!”)

  4. Just came across this post and your blog now. Wish I had found it months ago! Fascinating reading, and I totally agree: the examples from Italy and France show how good “kid’s food” can be…if we put their interests first.

  5. I’m jealous for my lunch let alone my son’s!

    My son’s nursery (in the UK) though isn’t bad, they do have curries occasionally so it’s not all boring bland food but they do have incredibly sweet puddings. I remember in his first week he was given butterscotch tart! I decided that was inappropriate (for a 22 month old) so he now has fruit after his meal which he’s fine with.

  6. gautier

    je suis français et j,ai essayé de comprendre la passion des français et leurs relations a la nourriture,et leurs façon d, éduquer les enfants sur l, importance des repas en famille.C,est en lisant les articles d, un américain qui a écrit sur le rapport que les français ont avec le pain.Si vous mangez avec des français évitez de gaspiller le pain .
    Le paradoxe c,est que le pain n,a jamais été aussi bon alors que les français en mangent de moins en moins. En conclusion je suis pessimiste sur l,avenir de l,alimentation en France

  7. Peter Lowrey

    As a Canadian living in Italy for 20 years I dread the food when I go on a home visit. The food especially the produce is industrial and bitter. No wonder I hated salads and fruit as a child. I’ll never forget my first visit to Greece in the ’70s when I discovered what food was supposed to taste like.

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