Wednesday, 2 May 2012

School Dinners!

I posted earlier about my memories of school dinners as I was due to enjoy lunch with my 9 year old at her school.  Well, I can now report back on how things have changed since my school dinner experience of the 70s!

Kizzy's Junior School cooks all its meals on the premises in well equipped kitchens that are attached to the multi-purpose hall.  Many of the ingredients used are locally sourced and include free range eggs, local farm vegetables and locally produced cheese.  It also focuses on seasonal foods and often uses organic ingredients.  In fact our school meal service here in Shropshire has been recognised as a 'Beacon of Excellence' in this area. They also cater for vegetarians, with a different option available everyday.  It all sounds really impressive, but how did my experience hold up against their reputation?

On the menu today was roast dinner, and I was delighted to see Quorn fillets as an option for those who didn't eat meat.  It came with all the trimmings; gravy, mash, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, fresh carrots, broccoli and cauliflower cheese.  The presentation was from the 'pile-it-high' school of serving, but it was a good size meal.  Pudding was an old-school cornflake cake with custard...I was a bit excited by that! Other choices today included freshly made wraps with salad, fish fingers or quiche.  I was so tempted by the quiche, I remember loving school cheese flan as a child, but I wanted to do the whole school roast dinner experience.  Fruit salad and apple crumble were alternative pudding options.  Spoilt for choice!

roast dinner, school dinner,

Kizzy had the same as me and I was impressed to see the portion size and the fact that she had three of her five-a-day right there!  I liked that they had their meals on real (albeit melamine) plates and bowls rather than on those horrible all-in-one plastic monstrosities with separate spaces for dinner and pudding on the same plate.  Sloshing gravy into your custard is just not on!

school dinner, roast dinner, school

The dinner really got a big thumbs up from us.  It was 'real' food, not processed rubbish.  The vegetables were not overcooked and the mash wasn't lumpy!  How things have moved on in the last 35 years!!  The traditional school pud was exactly how I wanted it to be, a bowlful of pure nostalgia!  (I did notice that the pastry base was wholemeal...nice to see them sneaking some extra fibre into the kids' diets!)  We also got a cup of cold water (from a rather surly Year 4 water monitor!) served at the table.

I was really impressed by the quality, quantity and choice available.  I will definitely let Kizzy have school dinners now and again as £1.95 is really good value.  I'd go as far as to say that the vegetarian roast dinner surpassed some of the pitiful veggie options I've eaten out at restaurants!

It's nice to see that school dinners are at last providing wholesome, freshly cooked food for our kids and are no longer relying on cheap processed food.  Is Jamie Oliver to thank for this??  If he is, good on him!

I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch date with my daughter today and can confirm that school dinners are no longer objects of revulsion or the butt of jokes!  I look forward to the next open lunch so I can be cooked for again with a two course meal for under three quid!


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