Paëlla and polenta, cauliflower and cordon bleu: What French Kids are eating, this week in the French village of Mougins

Just 15 minutes from Cannes, Mougins is a small medieval village in Provence, long frequented by artists. The quiet lanes and streets (shaded by pine, cypress, and olive trees) are a contrast to the hectic pace of life on the coast, where endless traffic jams (particularly in summer) and a concrete jungle have ruined much of the charm of this stretch of the Cote d’Azur. Mougins is, in fact, arguably more chic than Cannes, in a style the French call ‘bohemian-bourgeois’ (or, simply, ‘bo-bo’): Pablo Picasso spent over a decade living here, Yves Saint Laurent was a regular, the famed chef Alain Ducasse ran a restaurant in the village, and the new socialist prime minister, Francois Hollande, has a vacation home here. It’s perhaps no surprise that Mougins hosts an annual ‘gastronomy festival’, and attracts some of the top chefs from around the world each year.

So, what are French kids eating this week in Mougins? All of the meat served is organic, as is the bread, and one of the meals served every week is entirely organic. The average price is 2.92 Euros ($3.60 US) per child per meal, which is the non-subsidised rate (low income families pay less). Not a bad deal, in my opinion!

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, usually one piece per child!) and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought!

Monday June 25th
Paëlla (as this includes vegetables, seafood, and rice, it is considered substantial enough to be a starter and main course)
Dairy: Goat’s cheese
Fresh fruit

Tuesday, June 26th
Seafood salad
Turkey, with cauliflower and ‘sauce agrumes’ (a citrus-based sauce)
Dairy: Fromage blanc
Fresh fruit

Wednesday, June 27th
no school

Thursday, June 28th
Tomato/grapefruit salad
Cordon bleu and green peas
Cheese: Tomme (a firm, aged yet relatively mild cheese from the Alps)
Fresh fruit

Friday, June 29th
Green salad
Roasted fish with roasted tomatoes and polenta gratinée (a baked casserole, with a savory crust)
Dairy: Yogurt
Fresh fruit

For those of you who have read other menus, you’ll note that the food served in Mougins isn’t very different than that served in lots of other French villages. This village may be a bit wealthier than average, but an effort is still made to keep prices low. That allows everyone to have access to the cantine if they need it. This ‘solidarity’ (as the French term it) is an important part of the philosophy of the French school system. Food for thought!

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.

9 thoughts on “Paëlla and polenta, cauliflower and cordon bleu: What French Kids are eating, this week in the French village of Mougins

  1. Thanks so much for your comments – delighted you’re enjoying the book! I don’t have any menu plans on the website as yet, but it is something I am planning to work on this fall, so please do check back. In fact, it will be one element of the new book I will be publishing in 2013, so keep your eyes peeled! And I’d love to hear any requests you might have re: specific veggies, dishes, or approaches.


  2. These lunch menus are helpful in planning my own meals at home. Some would be ambitious for my kitchen, but some seem really workable.

    I am only part way through your book, so I don’t know if you have more French home-cooking menu ideas. But I would love to find some. Cookbooks always just list a bunch of recipes, and I find it extremely difficult to put them together into a meal that is easy enough for a work night. I have to examine like 20 recipes to choose two or three, shop for a bunch of ingredients and then start cooking only to find my “simple” recipes actually are too complicated when prepared simultaneously. My kitchen ends up trashed, the food ends up cold or burned or wilted, and I end up crying. My husband has taken over cooking because I fill the house with stress. 😦

    Do you know of any resources for everyday French family menu planning? All the resources I see are single-item recipes or maybe a menu for a big, gourmet spread. American meal-plan cookbooks tend to neglect vegetables.


  3. Many thanks for your comments – I am so glad that the book inspired you to try some new things that worked for your family!

    Regarding breakfast, here’s a link to a post I wrote on French breakfasts a while back:

    You’ll see that I don’t necessarily recommend the French way of eating at breakfast! French kids have their biggest meal at lunch, which is why they can have smaller breakfasts. Hard to manage in many North American families, given the way that school lunches are organized.

    One website I love is “100 Days of Real Food”: here is a link to some of their breakfast ideas. Let me know how it goes!


  4. Karen, I enjoyed your book and the principals of eating outlined. As a mother of 3 young children, who also practiced Attachment Parenting, breastfeeding on demand, not to mention ‘healthy grazing’ and lots of choices; I’ve recently found myself angry and resentful at the constant demand for short order cooking. Too many choices! Some are forced because I am a vegetarian, and my husband a staunch meat and potatoes man. Therefore, there are always at least 2 options – even though I try to build upon the menu so that I can add meat to the vegetarian option and keep it more simple. However, add the “I only want butter noodles” requests and you can easily understand how it spirals out of control for me. And we always had a 10 am snack, 2pm snack and bedtime snack. All I do is clean up dishes and prepare different requested meals as everyone’s snacks were different as well as all the meals different! As I only make scratch food and never pre packaged, I was / am frazzled. So reading your book threw me a little tiny life line and I tried it this past weekend. We had 4 meals (3 for the adults). It worked surprisingly well. I pushed dinner to 7pm and therefore there was no call for a snack at bed. I made sure to server a healthier choice for dessert (fresh berries with whipped cream and a small grating of dark chocolate). The kids did not feel jipped out of their bedtime snack and I did not feel guilty.

    I used your book as inspiration for recipes and my kids were willing to try everything. Karen, I honestly need to say the issue is me. As the vegetarian – I’m not willing to try the dishes I prepare!!! I was able to do my usual make dishes I could add meat to select items, such as quiche. So, knowing my lack of interest in tasting meat will continue to be an issue to setting a good example will make me work hard to come up with menu options that I can share the new tasting experiences with my kids.

    I’d love some other ideas about what to serve for breakfast and supper. Today I’m making little peach turnovers for breakfast to get away from our norm of pancakes, muffins, oatmeal or eggs. But what do french children eat for breakfast?

    I love the school lunch menu’s you are sharing, and love the inspiration.


  5. Yes, they attend school from the beginning of September through to the first week of July, from 9 to 5 each day. The ‘after school care’ program in each school also has a full day program on Wednesdays for parents who work. Usually, the children do extracurriculuar activities (e.g. sports, or even music) through the after school care program.

    So glad you enjoyed those menus! Totally agree with you about the need to teach our children that ‘good for you foods’ actually do taste good!


  6. The children attend school in June? What comprises a school year for the French? What are the hours of a school day? And if there is no school on Wednesdays, what do working parents do with their children on those days?

    I love seeing these menus. So often people excuse feeding children terrible food by insisting, “that’s how kids eat.” Yes, but only if the adults have trained them to!


  7. Thank you for all the efforts you are making to teach people about this issue! I found your “French food rules” on Pinterest and I was excited to see that somebody was talking about these food issues in the US. I grew up with a French mother, and all these rules were implemented (well except for the “taste” rule since I actually had to eat at least a small portion). I currently live in France and go to university here… The cantine is approximately like you describe it, although ketchup, mayo and olive oil are self-serve.

    I hope something can be done in the US but some things are just too ingrained in the culture to change overnight. I can only imagine what would happen if you served “grown-up” food at schools.


  8. Great question! The French use the word ‘vegetarian’ to refer to someone who doesn’t eat red meat (i.e. ‘fish’ is a ‘vegetarian’ alternative), which shows how different their views on this topic are! My sense is that France is one of the most difficult countries in which to be vegetarian or vegan–in part because of the high degree of conformity on all matters cultural (and eating is above all else a cultural act!). This is slowly changing, but only very slowly. In fact, there was a debate last year on this issue in school cantines: Would love your thoughts!


  9. Now, I am hungry.

    That is an amazing menu. What is the French view on Vegans/Vegetarians? I bet vegans are few and far between with all that amazing cheese!


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