Annonay (or, in the local Occitan language Anonai) is a small town in the Ardèche — part of the Rhône-Alpes region in southern France. At the crossroads of two major historical trade routes, it has a long history as a site for pilgrims. By the mid 1400s, it reportedly had 14 churches and 5 monasteries for only 2000 inhabitants — half of which were clergy! In the 20th century, Annonay developed as an important industrial town: with one of the largest Renault car factories in France. Tracing paper was also invented here — a fact which town residents are still very proud of!
Today, Annonay has about 17,000 people, and a struggling economy, with a higher-than-average unemployment rate. In many ways, it’s typical of many smaller towns in France, confronting issues such as an aging population, and deindustrialization and competition from abroad.
So, what are French children eating in Annonay this week?
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 (eaten plain) and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought!
Note: all of the bread served at every meal and some of the vegetables in the following menus are organic.
Monday April 30th
Leeks with vinaigrette
Beef bourguignon with gratin dauphinois (scalloped potatoes baked in a béchamel (white) sauce – a French classic!)
Cheese: Whipped fromage blanc — an even lighter version of the French classic
Tuesday, May 1st
Holiday (Labour Day)
No school French children typically have Wednesdays off for sports, arts or other activities that North Americans would usually do after school. They compensate by having a longer school day the remaining four days of the week. Children either stay at home or go to a full-day ‘recreation centre’, where lessons and outings are offered (free or at low prices).
Thursday, May 2nd
Green salad, radishes, and butter (sounds strange, but it’s the classic combination; the butter goes on the baguette, which is otherwise eaten plain)
Roast porc and pureed courgette (that’s zucchini in ‘American’!)
Cheese: Saint paulin
Dessert: Apricots in fruit syrup
Friday, May 3rd
Green beans with vinaigrette
Salmon paupiette with tarragon sauce (typically, a ‘paupiette’ is rolled and may be stuffed with delicious tidbits – likely another kind of fish and/or a cream sauce)
Cheese: Chanteneige – a whipped form of ‘fromage frais’ (sort of like ricotta), lightly salted
Dessert: An apple
How much do these meals cost, you might be wondering? As is typical in France, parents pay according to their income. The French believe that all children have the same right to the same healthy meal–and that higher-income families should pay more than lower-income families. The lowest price is 1.26 € (Euros, or about $1.65 US), and the highest price is 4.17 € (Euros, or about $5.50 US). For the poorest families, the meals are provided for free. Food for thought, n’est-ce pas?
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.