Barjac is a small village (population 1500) nestled just next to the Cévennes national park in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon.
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.
So, what will children be eating this week in Barjac?
Monday, October 31st
Grated carrots ‘mimosa’ style (which means hard-boiled, chopped eggs have been added, together with a tasty vinaigrette dressing)
Cauliflower gratin (a casserole with white sauce)
Sweet couscous cake (nicer than it sounds!)
Tuesday, November 1st
Pork cutlet with herbs
Salsify (a root vegetable commonly eaten in southern France) with parsley
Wednesday, November 2nd
Stewed vegetable cream soup
Lasagna bolognaise (organic beef)
Thursday, November 3rd
Greens salad with gomashio (Japanese seasoning made from unhulled sesame seeds)
Tartiflette savoyarde (a rich dish made with potatoes, lardons (cubed bacon), and cheese)
Yogurt with Rapadura (unprocessed sugar from sugarcane juice, a Brazilian sweetener)
Friday, November 4th
Tarte flambée (A flambeed type of quiche…the mind boggles!)
Aïoli (rich, garlicky mayonnaise)
Now, I know what you’re thinking (or at least, what I was thinking when I read this menu). This food is even more sophisticated than the one from Paris a few weeks ago. Do French kids all over France, even in tiny villages, eat like this every single day? This adventurous, healthy, and diverse? The answer, as surprising as it may seem to us, is ‘yes’.
But Barjac is also a little special. You see, a few years ago the mayor noticed that kids in the village were starting to eat a lot of junk food. So he launched his own campaign in support of local, organic, and freshly made food. The result was a mini-‘food revolution’ in the village (as captured in the wonderful documentary “Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution”), which is typical of a broader ‘back to basics’ food movement which has swept through France over the past decade or so. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, this movie is a great way to discover more about French family food culture.