Marseille is the largest town on France’s Mediterranean coast, and is also France’s third largest city (after Paris and Lyons). Dating back to the Greeks, the city is sited on a gorgeous bit of coastline, full of fjords and crystalline white beaches. It has undergone a renaissance in recent years: the high-speed TGV train connection (only three hours from Paris to the Med!) has helped, as has urban renewal and a relatively booming economy.
The city’s strategic location means that its port still plays an important role in shipping both goods and people. Many immigrants (especially from North Africa) enter France through Marseille, and have stayed on–making this France’s most outwardly cosmopolitan city. You wouldn’t know it from this menu, though. This is one of the sore spots in current debates over the food served in French schools. Should food reflect the diversity of French society? Or should it be a means of assimilating all children into the classic vision of French food culture (and, hence, traditional French dishes)? It’s not an either/or, of course. ‘Ethnic’ foods are slowly making an appearance on school menus. But, for now, they’re rare.
So, what are French children eating in Marseille this week? Many of the menu options below are ‘fair trade’ or ‘organic’ (and are indicated as such on the school menu). And alternatives are provided for those who don’t eat red meat: an interesting (and slightly controversial) option that doesn’t exist in all cities. Also, Marseille provides individually tailored meals for any child with allergies. That’s not an option in smaller villages, but it is increasingly the norm in large towns.
Monday, February 20th
Endive salad with ‘mimolette’
Beef Stew Estouffade (or fish (pollock) in olive oil)
Lentils with vegetables
Cheese: Rondelé au bleu–a blue cheese like a mild Roquefort
Tuesday, February 21st
Mardi Gras: Festive Lunch
Salad: Coquillettes (pasta shell) and escarole (a slightly bitter leafy salad green)
Chicken Aiguillettes (chicken breast roasted in thin strips) with rosemary sauce (or fresh herb omelette)
Parsnip and carrots, with parsley and olive oil
Cheese: Cœur de dame–a soft mild cheese a bit like Gouda
Dessert: Chocolate pastry
Wednesday, February 22nd
Thursday, February 23rd
Soup ‘potage crécy‘ (a classic French carrot soup)
Coucous with lamb (or couscous with fish)
Croc-lait (chocolate and puffed rice dessert)
Seasonal fresh fruit
Friday, February 24th
Fish ‘duo’ niçoise (pollock and salmon in tomato and black olive sauce)
Green beans with parsley
Fromage blanc (a tangy yogurt-like cheese) with sugar
For those who like details, here are some statistics on Marseille’s school lunches. For a population of nearly 900,000, in 2010/2011 there were:
-5 573 172 meals served in 314 ‘school restaurants’
-39 526 meals served per day, on average
-Full tariff per meal of 3.24 Euros ($4.30)
-24 654 children paid ‘social tariffs’ (slightly cheaper); 19 787 children paid substantially reduced tariffs (less than $2); 972 children had free meals (on a yearly basis)
Children also benefit from free lunch-time activities–both artistic and sports-related. With a two-hour break at lunch (with close to one hour spent eating), this gives them lots of time to have fun! Quite the contrast to the official 10 minutes that my 8 year old daughter is allotted for eating at her school in Vancouver (this includes unpacking her lunch, eating, and packing up; needless to say, I don’t think this is a sufficient amount of time to eat properly – even for an adult).
Food for thought this week!
Next week I’ll blog about lunches in Cayenne (one of France’s overseas territories, in South America), and we’ll see if the menus differ.
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.