Yummy French School lunches…What pre-schoolers are eating this week in Versailles!

Versailles is one of my favorite spots in France. Yes, the Château de Versailles is touristy. But it still has a majestic charm, despite the hordes of visitors. My husband and I love to visit in winter, when you can have the glorious ‘salles de réceptions‘ almost to yourself.

Many of the towns closer to Paris seem to have slightly more sophisticated menus than in the French countryside, and Versailles is no exception. (It’s no surprise, as it is the place where many of the traditions of France’s aristocratic Ancien Régime cuisine were developed.) In fact, this pre-schooler’s menu has 4 amazing courses! Good thing they get 2 hours off at lunch time — for eating, and then playing (and digesting) outside. I’m going to blog next week about what the kids in primary school eat (an even more amazing menu!).

As you read through the delicious menus, you’ll probably be wondering about the cost. Middle-income families pay around $3 (not much more than the average cost of a school lunch in the US). Cross-subsidies and rebates are used to enable all families to participate; the cost per meal for the lowest-income families is under $1.

Monday, January 9th
Sliced radish and corn salad with vinaigrette dressing, and black olive garnish
Roast guinea fowl (commonly eaten in France instead of chicken)
Sauteed provencal vegetables and wheat berries
Cheese: Saint Paulin (a semi-soft, buttery cheese originally made by Trappist monks)
Dessert: Vanilla flan and “Cat’s Tongue” cookies

Tuesday, January 10th
Grapefruit and lettuce salad, basil vinaigrette dressing
Sauteed porc with curry coconut sauce and white navy beans
Plain ‘bulgar-style’ (thick) yogurt, with optional sugar
Dessert: Organic apple and peach compote

Wednesday, January 11th
Squash soup, with crouton garnish
Salmon in lemon roux sauce, with couscous
Fresh fruit and fromage blanc (a delicious cheese with the consistency of yogurt)
Dessert: Clementines

Thursday, January 12th
Grated cabbage salad, with hard-boiled egg garnish and shallot dressing
Roast beef with sauce provençale, green peas
Cheese: Goat cheese buchette (shaped like small logs or ‘buches‘)
Dessert: Apple cake

Friday, January 13th
Rice salad ‘Niçoise’ (rice, chives, shallots, tomatoes, green beans, olives, tuna)
Hake filet with sauce meunière & lemon garnish
Zucchini and potatoes sauteed with garlic
Cheese: Tomme noire (made in the Pyrenees, the mountains in the extreme south of France)
Dessert: Pear

Bon Appétit!

This blog post is part of my French Kids School Lunch Project. Every week, I post the school lunch menus from a different village or town in France, where three-course, freshly-prepared hot lunches are provided to over 6 million children in the public school system every day. These meals cost, on average, $3 per child per day (and prices for low-income families are subsidised). My hope is that these menus (together with my other blog posts about the French approach to kid’s food) will spark a conversation about what children CAN eat, and how we can do better at educating them to eat well.

16 thoughts on “Yummy French School lunches…What pre-schoolers are eating this week in Versailles!

  1. I haven’t read your book yet but am planning on getting it. I love the school lunches in France and lament our lunches here in the U.S. I am a teacher and see first-hand the lack of nutritious food offered. I have two daughters, ages 3 and 1 years old, and they eat pretty much everything. I have had a fairly liberal approach to offering food and started with making my own purees but moved quickly to self-feeding. They have both eaten whatever we ate for dinner, whether pureed or not. I attribute their healthy eating habits to this food philosophy and our parenting style. As a preschool special education Teacher I have seen first-hand what picky-eaters not only look like but what strategies I can use to help expand their palettes. I think promoting healthy eating is as much about what food is offered as how you parent your child. It doesn’t have to be a battle but my girls definitely know that what I make at meals is all that is being offered. Whether they eat it or not is up to them but they surely will be hungry by the next meal if they don’t eat what is offered. Anyways, looking forward to reading how the French nourish their children!

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  2. Good question. See my post on the French approach to school lunches for more information. In summary, it’s not easy to be vegetarian–many schools will substitute fish or chicken for beef, but they aren’t yet geared up for 100% vegetarian options. France is not a country that is friendly to vegetarians, in general. Things are changing, but slowly.

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  3. Pingback: Is your child eating celery salad, roasted endive, and grilled fish at school this week? That’s what French kids are eating…. | Karen Le Billon

  4. So glad you’re enjoying it. Yes, I think there is an unspoken tradition re: meat on Fridays, although France is now very secular as well as multicultural (they don’t collect census data, but the estimate is between 5 and 8% Muslim).

    Recipes – great idea! It is something I hope to work on in the future. Keep checking back! The recipe for cauliflower casserole is in my book, by the way…and is so easy to make!

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  5. In browsing around among the menus, I noticed that meat does not appear on Friday menus. I know that France by tradition is a Catholic country, even if that is not actually today’s reality in fact. Is this just custom and its what parents expect? Also, would LOOOOVE some recipes for some of these things!! Some I think I could figure out, or at least get close but although things like cauliflower casserole sound intriguing, more details are necessary to try.

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  6. Help! My 3 year old son will not eat anything except crackers, fries and chicken nuggets (like your daughter and pasta) He threw a fit because he accidentally bit into a peanut and it took me 2 hours to calm him down. He will hold the food in his mouth and not spit it out or swallow if he doesnt like it. How do I overcome this obstacle?

    Its just me and him in the house and cooking for just 2 after working all day was not working out so I started hitting the drive thru every night. I am starting ch. 7 of your book and I think once I really try to implement “the rules” and change the way we both eat I might be able to save him. Thank you!

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  7. So glad you are enjoying the blog. Keep me posted about any inspirations you get about dishes and menus! It’s always fun to hear what people end up experimenting with!

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  8. Pingback: Amazing French kids school lunches….this week in Denain! « Karen Le Billon

  9. Pingback: Yummy French Kids School Lunches…this week in Paris! « Karen Le Billon

  10. Great question! The rate of food allergies in France is around 3 to 4% (entire population), and by some estimates between 5 and 8% for children.

    When a child has an allergy, the usual approach is for the kitchen to prepare a special meal. In the town of Nice, for example, the central kitchen makes meals for over 100 preschool and primary schools. Approximately 350 kids have food allergies or need special meals for other reasons; these children get specially prepared meals, which are delivered to the schools just like all of the other meals. So everyone is included if they want to be. It’s really important for the French that everyone eats together; it’s a key social ritual, and even a form of ‘citizenship training’ (if you believe the French Ministry of Education)! So the schools make the effort to include the kids.

    See my post on French Kids School Lunches in Nice for more information. I’d love your thoughts!

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  11. So, I have just stumbled upon your blog, and I am thoroughly astounded. I have seen Jamie Oliver’s FR a few times, and it just renders me speechless, I can’t help but watch it, it’s like a train wreck. I try my best to prepare fresh, varied foods for my kids (3.5y and 19m), and they do pretty well. The oldest even likes roasted kale chips.

    I do believe that school food in the US needs to be WAY better, but frankly, at least my oldest child will very unlikely be eating school lunches–he is dairy- and egg-allergic. Surely the French have allergic kids too. What do they do for those special populations?

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  12. Thanks for your comments Isabelle! It was so interesting to hear about the way you fed your daughter. It sounds like she was raised like most French kids – who end up eating pretty much everything by the time they’re 2 years old. And I think your idea of never giving her food that you wouldn’t eat (and enjoy) is a great starting point.

    What are some of your favorite recipes for her/favorite foods that she eats now?

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  13. I just discovered your blog. Very interesting! I’m French but live in the UK…and I have a two year old child. I was brought up to believe that babies taste the mummy’s food even before they’re born and can prepare their tastebuds by tasting different things through breastmilk. I weaned my daughter at 6 months, by offering her food she could see, touch, taste, never pureed. So I had to ensure the food was not too soft, not too hard, and I always always supervised her. At 22 months, she eats pretty much everything including most vegetables (although she refused to try watercress last night), raw or steamed. I made a promise never to give her food I wouln’t eat…who would actually enjoy eating a shop-bought jar of yellow baby food?

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