'Eggs Mimosa' and Mussels anyone? What French kids are eating for school lunch…this week in Barjac

I’ve blogged about Barjac once before, and love to return to look at their menus. The village is one of those places where I loved to spend time when (pre-kids) my husband and I used to wander southern France: Renaissance architecture (think: gorgeous stone buildings, red tile roofs, winding narrow streets), a lovely village square, a bustling cafe, a bakery, cobblestones in the streets.

In terms of food, Barjac is fairly typical of small villages in France: there is a ‘cuisine centrale’ (a central kitchen) in which meals are made for all municipal employees and schoolchildren (and also home-delivered to anyone over 65 who wants one). The cost? Just over $3.50 for a children’s meal, and $4 for retirees (2.85 €uros)–and remember that this is a freshly prepared, three or four-course meal, delivered directly to your home.

Barjac is also well-known in France for being the subject of a hit documentary (titled ‘Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution‘ in English). Food Beware begins with a visit to Barjac, where the town’s mayor has decided to make the school lunch menu organic and locally grown. The film then shows clips from interviews with a wide variety of people– kids, parents, teachers, health care workers, farmers, elected officials, scientists, researchers and the victims of illnesses thought to be associated with pesticides and environmental pollutants. The film suggests that the French agroindustrial model is under strain–just as it is in the United States and elsewhere. France is the largest food exporter in Europe, and the agricultural sector is the largest in France. This raises interesting questions about the sustainability of the French food system. To some extent, the French have their cake and eat it too: a modern, highly efficient food system that produces relatively cheap food for consumers, while still providing farmers with a living wage. But the film-makers argue this is underwritten by massive subsidies (as in the US), and environmental damage. So the film calls for change–notably higher rates of organic production (which lag, on a per capita basis, behind other European countries, notably England and Germany).

What’s interesting is that the change in Barjac starts in the village school. The scenes of school lunches are fascinating: kids sitting at the table in typical French style, being served food, and encouraged to eat it all up, by the helpful staff (who are party waiter, part nanny). If you’re interested in French school lunches, I’d recommend checking the film out.

So, what are kids eating this week in Barjac? Interestingly, these menus are also provided to the old age home, workers at the tiny city hall, and delivered to people’s houses upon request. Everyone eats the same thing — the village is too small to make more than one type of menu per week. But with a menu this good, I don’t think I’d be complaining about a lack of choice.

By the way, all meals are served with fresh baguette and water. No flavoured milk. No vending machines. No fast food. Food for thought.

Monday, April 9th
Eggs Mimosa with green salad
Duck confite
Sauteed potatoes
Cheese
Dessert: Clafoutis (one of my favourites – like a light flan with lots of fruit)

Tuesday, April 10th
Celery salad rémoulade
Grilled sausage with lentils
Cheese
Fruit compote

Wednesday, April 11th
Green salad
Stewed organic French-sourced beef, with carrots
Cheese
Dessert: Pain perdu (the French version of French toast)

Thursday, April 12th
Puff pastry
Mushroom omelette
Spinach cooked meunière style
Fresh fruit

Friday, April 13th
Coleslaw
Mussels marinières
Sautéed Potatoes
Yogurt with cane sugar

The following two menus aren’t for the kids but I threw them in for interest sake…as the Barjac kitchen works 7 days a week to provide meals to the senior’s home, and people requiring meal deliveries at home.

Saturday, April 14th
Asparagus in vinaigrette
Chicken Sauté
Coquillettes (pasta)
Cheese
Fresh fruit

Sunday, April 15th
Mushroom salad ‘greek style’
Roast veal
Stewed green peas with onions
Cheese
Dessert: Cake (the classic ‘quatre quarts‘ French cake), and crème anglaise± (thick vanilla-flavored cream)

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.

8 thoughts on “'Eggs Mimosa' and Mussels anyone? What French kids are eating for school lunch…this week in Barjac

  1. This blog is fantastic. Thanks for taking the time to post these menus. I think it is so neat that some schools give a suggested dinner menu for each day. Do you have any examples of this? Again, fascinating blog. As an American with two boys, who love ketchup on chicken, this is something I can learn from.

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  2. There is no really special menus in school lunches. If a child is allergic to some food (dairy, peanut or gluten), the parents are allowed provide their kid’s lunch, if the he is enrolled in the school lunch program. I think the school asks for document signed by the child’s pediatrician.

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  3. I finished your book a couple of days ago and it has reallly inspired me to create menus for my toddler that will introduce him to a wide range of flavors. These school menus are fantastic for ideas! I also came across a CBS news segment on YouTube that is very interesting – France’s Gourmet School Lunches:

    Thank you so much, Karen!

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  4. Miam miam !! This menu seems just so yummy and we love every item.
    Clafoutis (one of my favourites too) is a big hit at home = I threw almost any fruits we have left in the batter and voila ^_^

    Glad my daughter doesn’t know how to read right now = she would want moules marinieres right now.

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  5. Great idea! There are some recipes in the book for French kids’ favorites (like cauliflower casserole) but I will have to get myself organized and put some on the blog. Keep checking back!

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  6. I love your blog!!! I am wondering..do you have recipes that go with these menus?
    I would love to try to create these for my children.

    I was blessed with immigrant parents/grandparents from Azores. We grew just about everything on our dairy farm. Our livelihood was centered around food. I had to laugh when I read the part in your book about how the french talk about their next meal at the current meal. We did that! LOL! I still do that and it bugs my husband to no end…LOL!

    Thanks so much!
    Susan

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