Cordon Bleu and Cauliflower Casserole: French Kids' School Lunches…this week in Cannes

Ah, Cannes. The beaches may be tiny (and crowded, and artificial), but still draw a crowd. The coast might be more beautiful elsewhere, and the buildings more charming, but Cannes is still Cannes. I prefer northern France’s windswept (and admittedly chillier) beaches, but I think I’m in the minority.

So, what are French kids eating this week for school lunch in Cannes? Well, they’re not actually in school – it’s their spring break. In fact, they get two weeks off three times during the school year (yup, six weeks off in total for holidays during the school year). But their school hours are longer – typically from 8:30 to 4:30 (although they get an hour and a half off for lunch). It’s all part of that lovely French philosophy: work hard, play hard! So here’s a menu from March. Bon Appétit!

Fresh baguette (eaten plain) and water are served with every meal. No flavoured milk. No vending machines. No fast food. Food for thought.

Monday April 2nd
Cucumber vinaigrette salad
Pork sautee with curry (fish and turkey options proposed as alternates) and couscous
Cheese: Camembert
Dessert: Apple puree, unsweetened

Tuesday April 3rd
Vegetable potage soup, locally grown ingredients
Bolognaise of Charolais (high quality) French beef (meatless option: tuna with tomato & basil sauce)
Organic spaghetti with grated emmental cheese
Dairy: Plain yogurt
Dessert: Organic fresh fruit

Wednesday April 4th
Goat’s cheese on toasted crackers
Roast ‘Red Label’ (quality designation) veal (meatless option: omelette)
Green peas and carrots (stewed with onions – yum!)
Dairy: Tartare (a white, soft cheese)
Dessert: Organic fresh fruit

Thursday April 5th
Tabouleh salad
Cordon bleu scallop (meatless option: Fish filet, sauce meunière)
Cauliflower casserole
Dairy: Petit suisse (a yogourt style dairy product)
Dessert: fresh fruit

Friday April 6th
Grated organic carrot salad
Fish filet with sauce niçoise (think: tomatoes and olives)
Organic rice
Cheese: Emmental
Dessert: Vanilla cream

Cannes is one of the French towns that have chosen to have a private company (in this case, French company Sogeres) provide school meals. They’re a snazzy company: partnering with top French chef Alain Ducasse to showcase menus, and billing the fact that they cater lunches to private companies, hospitals, and government offices as well as schools. Many of the top French companies (including Air France and France Telecom) have contracts with Sogeres.

Supporters of private companies argue that they provide more professional service, and better training in France’s extremely rigorous food safety standards (for example, they freeze a sample of every dish served, just in case of a food poisoning outbreak–so it can be tested later on if need be). But opponents argue that private companies charge more, cut out local suppliers, and are under pressure to cut costs on ingredients. It’s hard to tell from this distance who’s right. One thing is for sure: a company like Sogeres is under close scrutiny from teachers, kids, and their parents.

The kids’ food philosophy espoused on the Sogeres website is interesting. Kids’ curiosity should be awakened, in an atmosphere of discovery and fun. Meals are prepared in consultation with France’s famous ‘Institute of Taste’, by a two-star Michelin chef. Classic French strategies designed to teach kids to love new foods are used: for example, squash will be served in different ways over the course of a month: as soup, puree, casserole, or pie. Featured ingredients (like basil, or liquorice) and ‘mystery products’ (not at all like ‘mystery meat’, I hope) are also introduced to kids, to get them excited about learning to love food. It sounds good, at least in theory!

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.

4 thoughts on “Cordon Bleu and Cauliflower Casserole: French Kids' School Lunches…this week in Cannes

  1. I loved your book. It has been an incredible inspiration. I am making progress with my kids – and enjoying time with them and better meals in general in the process! In your book, you mentioned a cookbook with recipes from which you asked your children to choose their gouter. Can you tell me the name of that book? I speak French, so it’s okay if it’s only available in French.

  2. So glad you enjoyed the book! The baguette is typically sliced in advance, and the slices are about one-half to one inch thick (and two inches across). So they are fairly small servings of bread. The baguettes in France tend to be thinner than in the US, and are judged by how ‘croustillant’ (crusty) they are; even little children love gnawing on the crust, which they consider a real treat, as funny as that sounds!

  3. Loved your book! What is the size of the baguette that is served with the lunch? I am curious since they come in many different sizes in the US.

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