After a Wednesday day off in French elementary schools, here we are back again looking at what American and French kids are eating in the school cafeteria. However, this week in France is “Semaine du Gout” (“Week of Tasting”) a week to discover new foods, to taste new tastes, to explore new cultures. An excellent occasion at home or in school to open your child’s eyes to tasting and discovering. Excellent opportunity to embrace new foods from different cultures, to increase nutritional awareness by encouraging balanced meals and reaching the goal of “5 a day” fruits and vegetables. It is a very important week for food in France, so important and fun too that I will write about it soon to give you and your family ideas about using some of these “Semaine du Gout” activities at home. Now onto discovering Day 18, school lunch menus from Toms River, New Jersey and Pau, France.
Toms River, NJ
Choice of 1 main dish, 2 sides and served with a half pint of milk
Baked Ziti with Meatballs or Macaroni and Cheese
Potato Wedges and Applesauce
Served with slices of baguette and water
Turkey Pieces with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Rice with Diced Vegetables “Brunoise” (1)
Creamy Sheep Cheese(2) and an Apple
(1) Brunoise means in French cooking, diced in squares, such as squares of onions, carrots, etc. Although the menu doesn’t specify it, we can assume in this case that Riz Brunoise (French) means Rice with Diced Vegetables.
(2) Sheep cheese or Fromage Brebis is very common in the South West part of France, where we live. It is similar to cheese made with cow’s milk except that the taste is just slightly different. In this case, Creamy Sheep Cheese is a soft cream cheese made from sheep’s milk, usually smeared on pieces of baguette bread at the end of a meal.
For the menus…too much starch in the Toms River menu, don’t you think? Why serve potato wedges as the vegetable when you are already serving pasta (either as the bake ziti or macaroni)? Are you aware readers, that potatoes served in the school lunch menu are counted as a vegetable serving, even though the human body uses potatoes (and even corn and peas) as a starch? I know this is a bit critical, but it seems unappetizing to have a nice plate of pasta and then as the side potato wedges. Why not a green salad? Or even peas? Or sliced cucumbers? Why? Probably because potato wedges are less labor intense than salad or other vegetable options. For the French school lunch, the menu appears balanced especially starting with grapefruit as the first course. We can get Florida grapefruits in the supermarket here in France, so yummy and just naturally sweet, even the Frenchies know that Florida grapefruit is delicious! My daughter says that when they serve the grapefruits in the school cafeteria a lot of the kids put sugar on top of them. We have never done that here at our house…and so my sweet daughter tells her friends to try it without sugar on their grapefruits as they are already sweetened naturally. She’s right, I think! Good habits start early as they say. However same rule for the fruit as is for the vegetables: better to eat fruit with some sugar on top than to not eat them at all…too important of a food group to miss! Do your kids love fruit? Most kids do…and with the wide spectrum of available fruits from around the world, how can kids not like to eat some fruits? “5 a day” is important, and even if you or your child meets this 5 a Day goal with all fruits, this is still meeting this important goal!