Spinach, creamed chestnuts, and turkey 'cordon bleu': Amazing French School Lunches, this week in the tiny town of Canet

This week we’re in the tiny town of Canet, in Languedoc-Roussillon (the less well-known but equally beautiful region east of Provence, in southern France). Residents are known as Canétois–very cute, as this sounds (particularly with the twanging southern French accent) a bit like ‘caneton’, the French word for duckling.

Canet is a retirees’ haven: on the Mediterranean, calm, warm, and sunny. Most of the population is older; out of 10,000 residents, less than 1000 are under the age of 18.

I was curious to find out what will meals might be like in a smaller place like Canet. To my pleasant surprise, they look wonderful. A colorful online menu is posted every week. Lots of yummy veggies, and a few new dishes I hadn’t come across yet. Read on!

As usual, the meals follow a four course structure: vegetable starter; main dish with vegetable side; cheese course; dessert. All meals are served with fresh baguette and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought.

Monday, April 23rd
Tabouleh salad
Turkey cordon blue and spinach à la crème (much nicer than creamed spinach, trust me)
Emmental cheese – much like mild cheddar, a French classic

Tuesday, April 24th
Grated carrots
Cassolette de poisson (seafood casserole, often with a breadcrumb topping)
St Bricet cheese
Ice cream

Wednesday, April 25th
Friand à la viande (somewhat like a Chinese vegetable roll, with vegetables and meat inside)
Roast chicken and Poêlée bretonne (sauteed vegetables)
Petit Louis – A popular (processed) dairy product for kids
Strawberries with sugar

Thursday, April 26th
Tomato salad
Beef Mironton (a sort of casserole) with green peas
Fromage blanc (Yum – somewhat like cottage cheese, but creamier)
Crème de marrons (Chestnut conserve): a traditional, delicious dessert with the consistency of custard, made with the ‘flesh’ of chestnuts, flavoured with vanilla. Typically, it is served with fromage blanc, so perhaps in this case the ‘dairy’ and ‘dessert’ courses were combined!

Friday, April 27th Italian-themed menu
Green salad
Pasta Coquillettes (tiny macaroni style pasta) with carbonara sauce
Fruit yogurt
Exotic fruit salad

The menu also offers a ‘Choice of the Week’: Beet salad with parsley (as the starter) and Pureed Squash (as the vegetable side dish)–for kids to sample or substitute.

And the menu also informs parents them of the origin of the meat (all European–important given ‘mad cow’ and other scares in England and North America).

And (this is not the first time I’ve seen this) the menu also provides some historical information on the origins of ‘carbonera’ sauce–all in the spirit of educating kids about all aspects of food. Turns out ‘carbonera’ means ‘charbonnière’ (coal miner); was this a sauce originally eaten by Italian coal miners in the Alps? Va savoir!

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.

3 thoughts on “Spinach, creamed chestnuts, and turkey 'cordon bleu': Amazing French School Lunches, this week in the tiny town of Canet

  1. And I forgot to say that I am quite jealous that you are, (or were?), able to give your children that experience of French school food. Can’t wait to read your book and congrats!!


  2. Thrilled to hear from you! I’m a huge fan of Two Angry Moms, and had no idea you had a French connection! So thanks very much for reaching out. I agree: the French teach their children how to eat, and how to appreciate all food. And I loved what you had to say about eating as an inherently social act: learning to eat together is, indeed, about culture and civility. I hope we’re at a tipping point where people begin to realize that teaching our children to eat well is one of the most important life lessons we could give them. Eating isn’t, in other words, an interruption in the school day – but a highlight, full of lots of ‘teachable moments’.

    So thanks for your message, and also for your inspiring book and documentary–I discovered them early on when writing the book, and they were highly motivating for me, as I didn’t feel so alone!


  3. Je suis une fan. My husband is French and my French family was the inspiration for my film, Two Angry Moms, and my book, Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health. Americans find it difficult to believe that French kids actually enjoy that cassolette de poisson and even beet salad! The French teach food, and they believe that developing a child’s taste buds is an important way to impart not only good health but also culture and civility. Here is the US school food is seen as an intrusion on the school day. We need to make real food an intrinsic part of our kids’ education – at home and at school – their very survival depends upon it!


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