Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Back To School For Me!

School Dinners Remembered!

Today I'm off to Kizzy's school for an Open Lunch, where the parents are invited to join their child for a school dinner, all for the princely sum of £2.93!  Kizzy is very excited about this and assures me that there will be a veggie option available (fingers crossed!) Knowing that in a couple of hours I will be stood in the queue of a school cafeteria with my plate in my hand has brought back a flood of school dinner memories!

When I was in Infant's School I was a very shy little thing.  My over-riding memory is of getting my school dinner of a sausage, a scooped ball of mash and a spoonful of peas and walking back to my table, when horror of horrors, my sausage rolled off my plate and across the floor. I helplessly watched the runaway sausage roll underneath one of the tables.  I remember the feeling of embarrassment as I froze to the spot praying that no-one noticed my mishap, but at the same time wishing a kindly lunch lady would come to my rescue offering a replacement sausage and a friendly word.  Sadly it was not so.  Poor little six year old me was far too timid to tell anyone that I had lost the bulk of my school dinner under someone else's table, so I went hungry that day.

A little later on in my school career, I remember queuing for my pudding.  I was disappointed to discover that the sweet offering was some kind of fruit cake.  I have always disliked currants, raisins and sultanas so plucked up the courage to ask for a bowl of custard only...after all, these were the days when you were forced to eat up your food before being allowed back out onto the playground.  I didn't want to have to sit there nursing a bowl of my worst nightmare in cake form!  My newfound bravery was however destroyed when the dinner lady said "So don't you like chocolate chip sponge, love?"  Noooo!!  I had got it wrong...I loved choc chip cake.  But the shame of changing my mind and admitting that I had it wrong was too much to bear.  So I shrugged and said "Nah!" in my best nonchalant manner, whilst crying inside at the prospect of losing my fave pud.  

My mum did a stint as one of our school dinner cooks when I was about eleven.  My overriding memory of this era was that she got to bring home leftovers.  We'd get big trays of coconut sponge topped with jam, chocolate cake and my personal favourite Manchester Tart (remember the pastry case with jam and solid cold custard!!)  this kind of made up for my traumatic choc chip sponge incident!!

I always had a fondness for school dinners.  I was the weird kid who actually liked soggy semolina and tapioca pudding.  I had no problem with the overcooked vegetables, lumpy mash or thick gravy.  I actively enjoyed the strange chicken pie and spam fritters that were served up.  As long as it wasn't the gruesome mincemeat tart or fruit cake I was happy!!

So today, I will be looking forward to sampling school dinner again 2012 style.  Things have changed dramatically in the school kitchens since the seventies. They get things like pizza wraps, Cajun potatoes and Korma.  It all sounds very exotic compared to my school dinner memories.  But I will continue to look back with sheer nostalgia at the memory of my school day lunches!

school, 1970s, Wendy Jones


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