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.