When you think of your school dinners, what do you remember? I recall thick, stodgy jam roly-poly, glistening in the stark, stripped school hall lighting. Of course, there’s also the fur-ball my friend Tracy found in her beefburger – the beginning of a lifetime of vegetarianism for most of us, except strangely Tracy.
But generally school dinners haven’t left much of an imprint and the same seems to be true of Ladybird. She only ever remembers what dessert she’s had, but searches and searches her mind for what her main course was and always returns a blank. So I was looking forward to the parents lunchtime special for Reception children so I could see it all for myself.
Pickle and Ladybird were really excited to show Mummy, Granny and Grandad their school. We filed into the hall and wedged ourselves onto the tiny stools, like hippos perching precariously on daisys, only to discover that not only was there no-one to take our coats, there wasn’t waitress service either. Up we got, slowly, to visit the hatch.
It was a big day for Pickle, his first school dinner, and I was hoping for his seal of approval to give me a one day a week break from scraping houmous from the netting inside his lunchbox. He was keen to assert himself with the dinner ladies and nipped any crazy ideas they might have of serving him vegetables, by handing them his plate and announcing ‘I don’t eat gravy’, in a tone that I think conveyed the point there are many, many things he doesn’t eat.
Friday is fish and chips day. The fur-ball incident of the late 80s means I’m still seeking out the vegetarian option, which I found in the form of macaroni cheese, a side salad, bread and a flapjack – all washed down with a fine, chilled water. Looking at my compartmentalised dinner tray it didn’t feel like Jamie Olivers made much of an impression on children’s cuisine. But I’m sure they work on a tight budget and probably haven’t got great facilities either.
While I’d eaten a mid-morning snack, just in case, Grandad had skipped breakfast to build up his appetite, a risky strategy I thought, but one which paid off with immense satisfaction at his fish fingers.
Mealtime was brought to a close by a friendly looking dinner lady coming to our table announcing we could now ‘scrape’. Maybe it was the gloves, but I couldn’t get the thought of a cervical smear out of my mind after that.
The lunchtime brought ups and downs, Pickle approved of his fish and chips and agreed to try it again, phew. Ladybird found the disappointment of not getting to play with Granny in the adventure playground too much and we had to leave her sobbing in the queue for her scrape.
But as far as two courses for £2.50 goes it wasn’t bad and crucially, no fur-balls.