La Cantine

3338fc6I was on the phone to Courtney the other day and she was talking about getting packed lunches ready for her sons to take to school. I almost fell off my chair!
Here in France (or at least at my kids’ state-run schools) there is no way a sandwich is ever going to be introduced onto the school premises.
It seems like one of the main responsibilities that the French State has taken upon itself is to educate its masses into making every little French inhabitant a culinary expert.
My little girl has been going to the local maternelle since she was 3 years old. At lunch time she, and another 150 kids roughly her size, get taken to the cantine. They all sit down around the table and get served a 3/4 course meal. They start with a starter (salad, soup or similar), continue with a main course, then get a piece of cheese and finish off with a dessert. The weekly menu is hung outside the school for the whole neighourhood to see. And if I don’t have time to check it outside the school I can read about it on my town hall’s website!
Now, I am sure that the quality of the food is not comparable to some of the gourmet restaurants here in Paris, but my kids now know the difference between a good ripe camenbert and one that has not reached its perfect runniness. In my book, this is as important a lesson as learning her ABCs!
I also reckon it makes for very unfussy eaters. There is nothing like watching your peers eat the same food as you to make you finish your plate…

- Emilie


Make-ahead mashed potatoes

10 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Marta | November 26, 2009 | Reply

Salut ! In Barcelona, Spain, they also eat a 3-course warm meal at school, but, of course, they don’t get yummy French cheese :)

2. Gaila | November 26, 2009 | Reply

In my city (in the region of Galicia, northwest of Spain) it is exactly the same menu (except for the cheese, like Marta said) and it can also be seen in the town hall’s website. It is designed by a nutritionist and they even offer suggestions for the dinner. It is one less thing I have to worry about!

3. Carmen | November 26, 2009 | Reply

Yes, in Spain it is customary to have the menu provided at the beginning of each month, and they even include suggestions for the dinner to complement the lunch and nutritional facts. A vegetable option is also available.
In our school they also allow packed lunch but it has to be “healthy”… whatever this means!

4. kim | November 26, 2009 | Reply

I think Courtney,s nursery is an exception here in UK, most state & private school will provide a warm lunch for pupils. Very rare packed lunch here. My sons lunches are quite good and is publised every week in school entrance and on website. Some stateschool are very bad, so bad that Jamie Oliver has tried to step in and improve them….

5. Sandra | November 27, 2009 | Reply

I love this idea. In Australia the norm is packed lunches and I try my hardest to vary the contents of our son’s lunchbox but I would love to give him a cooked lunch every day. We have talked about spending a few years in France and this adds big points to the pros column. Thanks for sharing. Sandra x

6. Lieve | November 27, 2009 | Reply

What do they do about kids with multiple food allergies?

My son can eat a ‘warm’ at school (it’s a optional, about half of the kids bring lunch, half eat the school lunch), but I with the allergies he has/had, esp. when he was smaller (milk, egg, nut, fish, soy and wheat), there was no way he would be able to eat the same as the other kids.

7. Courtney | November 27, 2009 | Reply

I love that your daughter knows the difference between a good and a bad camenbert!

Also, I think it’s also because my kids are still at nursery that they don’t get a hot lunch at school. I know that in September, our oldest will go to ‘big boy’ school, and he will get a school lunch. Though I’m sure it will be nothing compared to the one at your daughter’s school!

8. Esther | November 27, 2009 | Reply

I don’t know of any school in the Netherlands that provides school lunches! We all pack sandwiches for lunch, the school provides milk.
But then, the Dutch don’t typically have warm lunches to start with. I don’t really mind packing lunch…

9. Emilie | November 28, 2009 | Reply

Good question Lieve, I have no idea! I will ask to principal and get back to you.

10. baroquebabies | November 29, 2009 | Reply

My son also gets a warm lunch at his german kindergarten (preschool) and I am often jealous! They have the menu plan listed on the bulletin board as you enter.

We do pay 50 Euro per month for this option, but we think it’s a steal and completly worth it!