Category Archives: School lunches

Anyone for school dinners?

School dinners

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.

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There is life after peanut butter

Thanks to all the replies on FB with some great lunchbox ideas. I’ll put the suggestions in a future post. I came up with a cunning plan of my own this week to avoid making sandwiches: the twinlings are doing it themselves! I’d pictured an industrious scene, me making dinner, the twinlings diligently buttering and spreading; a production line working in perfect harmony.

On the first night Pickle seemed to share my vision, quietly absorbed in daubing slices of bread to his usual levels of perfection; equal amounts all over, no bread left peaking through – leaving me to concentrate on dinner, right? Wrong. Ladybird’s take on sandwich making involved either surreptitiously shovelling massive lumps of butter into her mouth or pinching out pieces of the bread, leaving a threadbare slice for her sandwich. I found myself darting backwards and forwards between chopping vegetables to thin out butter, move the tub out of reach and then rescue the butter lid from being pincered in between Ladybird’s feet.

Ladybird makes lunch

'I'll wait until she's taken the picture and then scoff this tasty looking lump'

Pickle at work

'Here is my signature dish - humus sandwiches'

Things have got better since, I think because I’ve accepted the gain might be more long term. But Pickle, whose usual interest in cooking extends to eating raw egg and flour when baking, actually came and ASKED ME if he could make his sandwiches, which was great to see, maybe he has more potential in the kitchen than I thought, or maybe he’s enjoying his humus aperitif.

I was really nervous about them going into the noisy school hall for lunch for the first time this week and then fending for themselves in the mayhem of the playground afterwards. I’ve found it intimidating enough negotiating my way through the hurly-burly to collect the scooters; the tumultuous din, green jumpers buzzing up and down and the menacing sound of footballs slapping the tarmac. I can’t get out of there quick enough. The twinlings, who normally retreat from anything too noisy, seem OK with it, none of the usual hands clasped to their ears. I’m left wondering if it’s just another case of children never doing what we expect of them, that I’m looking at it through my eyes, expecting the same reaction from them.

One thing didn’t disappoint, and that’s the before and after of the lunch boxes:

Now they look lovely

Now they look lovely

After

Now they don't (without smell-ernet you don't get the full humus effect)

I think I’d prefer this mess though than the pristine, unopened sandwiches I got back today, Pickle’s explanation ‘I was too tired.’ Hmm, not too tired for the fruit pouch or muesli bar though….

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Peanut Butter

Can anyone help me with some ideas for  pack lunches? Pickle is for once easy on the food front; he loves humus and cheese sandwiches, and although he’s fussy he’ll be happy with the monotonous rotation of these two fillings. Ladybird, on the other hand, has narrowed her sandwich fillings down to peanut butter, a no-no at school because of nut allergy sufferers.

So I’ve spent the week experimenting with previously rejected fillings: tuna mayo, BLT, Ham and egg mayo with verdicts delivered as: ‘Delicious.’ Munch, munch. ‘Actually mummy, really not nice at all. Can I have peanut butter now please?’

So from Monday the twinlings start lunches. I just know the daily rummage through the freezer and fridge for ice packs, sandwiches and yoghurts is going to mess up our ‘pinch myself they’re so smooth’ mornings; but it’s the thinking up of what delights to put in those lunch boxes that is really challenging me at the moment.

And then of course I know how it’s going to end up; all that thought, effort and organisation returned to me in a congealed, yoghurty mess with a shrew’s bite taken from each of the sandwiches.

So yes, you’re no doubt picking up on the fact I’m decidedly recalcitrant towards this aspect of school life. If you have any tips to inspire the ten lunch boxes I need to fill next week I’d love to hear them.

 

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