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Friday, 18 September 2009

School Dinners

With constant talk of the success or otherwise of changes made to English 'school dinners' in the past few years I hope my children will feel privilidged to have been to a French school where food plays a very important role.

We moved to this area of France, close to Saumur, 3 years ago, and I remember my first visit to see the local Collège where the children would go to school. The principal took great pains to point out that not only did his school have a very good reputation for its academic teaching, but that it also had one of the best 'cantines' in the area.

Not being in a large city is an obvious advantage - students number around 600 making it fairly small as Collèges go. The vast majority of food is prepared fresh, daily and on the premises.

Each day there is an entrée, plat, dessert and cheese, always accompanied by a green salad and plenty of fresh french bread. Take today for example - here is the menu:

Rillettes with cornichons
Fillet of white fish served with vegetables and a beurre blanc sauce
Fresh poached peach served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream
Cheese - today garlicky cream cheese

The menus are planned in advance and posted up on the noticeboard. Theme days incorporating foods and flavours from other countries are often included.

What strikes me most is that the food offered to children at lunchtime here in France is the food one would serve any adult. No concession is made for age - after all why wouldn't a 12 year old enjoy a beurre blanc sauce or sauce bearnaise. Food is still considered to be important, something to look forward to. As a result of this, I have seen a change in the way my children eat. They are more open to trying new things, tastes and flavours. Of course, they don't like everything but when dishes such as black pudding , mussels, squid and offal are often served, they have a go and often come back with enthusiastic reports about something delicious they have tried at school.

Do they realise how lucky they are? I think they do - they look forward to lunch and enjoy telling us what they have had when they get home.

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