Grated carrot salad, ratatouille, and coucous….Yummy French school lunch menus from the lovely Languedoc

This week’s menus are from Montpellier, the fastest growing (and 8th largest) city in France. Home to one of the world’s oldest medical schools (and now largest biotech research centres in the country), Montpellier lies in one of France’s most beautiful regions: Languedoc, running along the Mediterranean coast west of the Côte d’Azur. Our favourite places to visit include the walled fortress city of Carcassonne (a UNESCO world heritage site), and the ‘Côte Vermeille’, where the mountains of the Pyrenees drop dramatically into the ocean. Montpellier, with it’s beautiful medieval town centre (l’Écusson), is a delight year-round.

So, what are children eating this week in Montpellier? First of all, there are three days of holiday (yes, the French do take lots of holidays, part of their ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy!). So only two (admittedly yummy) menus are an offer this week. Note the inclusion of cookies for dessert on Tuesday. Ministry of Education regulations specify fresh fruit for dessert most days of the week. However, treats are allowed too! All part of the French philosophy of food: moderation, not deprivation.

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!

Monday, May 14th
Grated carrot salad (a French kids classic)
Meatballs (beef) in tomato sauce (meatless option: chickpeas) with couscous
Cheese: Fromage frais, eaten plain
Dessert: Honey

Tuesday, May 15th
Salad Gourmande
Fish filet in butter, with lemon
Ratatouille (stewed eggplant, zucchini (courgette), tomato and red pepper)
Cheese: Pavé d’Affinois brebis (a soft cheese, with a white rind, made of sheep’s milk; somewhat like Brie)
Dessert: Petit Beurre (the classic French cookie, also known as a Petit Lu)

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.

Yummy French School Lunches…this week in sunny southern France

This week’s menu is from a small town in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France on the Mediterranean coast (between better-known Provence and the Spanish border). It’s a bit off the beaten track, even for the French, who tend to head to the chic Côte d’Azur.

The town, named Gignac, has about 5000 people, living in a typical southern French village (think: winding streets too narrow to fit a car, and houses with red tiled roofs grouped around a central square where much of the village life still occurs). It’s only claim to fame? Beating back an invasion by the Sarrasins in the year 719 (yes, their memory is that long). Legend has that that a donkey named Martin woke up the villagers, warning them of the impending attack; his role is still celebrated every year by the villagers, who parade a larger-than-life papier-mâché donkey through the village. He even appeared, this year, at the ‘entertainment’ offered at school lunchtimes; like many schools in France, children are treated to a set of cultural shows at mid-day, to accompany the nearly two hour break they get at the mid-day meal. For some fun photos of what this looks like, click here.

So, what were children eating in Gignac 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!

Monday, May 7th
Green salad and croûtons
Chicken drumsticks with paprika, served with green beans and parsley
Cheese: Samos (a light, creamy cheese)
Dessert: Flan with cookies

Tuesday, May 8th
Holiday

Wednesday, May 9th
Red cabbage and celery salad with vinaigrette
Beef with carrots
Cheese: Edam
Dessert: Chocolate eclair

Thursday, May 10th
Cucumber with yogurt sauce
Fish: Hake with aïoli sauce, served with potatoes and carrots
Cheese: Camembert
Dessert: Fruit Compote
* (aïoli is a traditional sauce made with olive oil, garlic, and (typically) egg)

Friday, May 11th
Lentil salad with hard-boiled eggs
Ratatouille Provençale
Cheese: Comté
Dessert: Fresh fruit

The cost for these meals? An average of €3.34 per meal (approximately $4.30). Remember, lunch is the main meal of the day for the French (approximately 40 to 50% of caloric intake), so children are expected to eat a large meal at lunch time, and a smaller meal in the evening (just like adults). This requires more time: so children typically have at least 30 minutes (if not more) to eat, and an hour to play.

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.

Leeks, radishes, salmon and courgette: French Kids' School Lunch…this week in the tiny village of Annonay

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
Dessert: Kiwi

Tuesday, May 1st
Holiday (Labour Day)

Wednesday
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)
Pasta
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.

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
Fruit

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.

Organic celery salad and sautéed root vegetables, anyone? Amazing French Kids School Lunches…this week in Brest

Brest is one of France’s most important port cities, located on the rainy, windy tip of Brittany (in northwestern France). An important naval and military centre, it attracts few tourists; the city, heavily bombed during WW II, is a monument to 1950s modernism. But the coastline around Brest is stunning, and the ‘tall ships’ festival the largest in the world, and well worth seeing.

So, what are children eating this week in Brest? Some of the meals are three courses, and some are four, depending on how rich they are. Vegetables are served as the first course, and the main course always has a vegetable side dish. Organic food is served some days; French schools have set a target of 20% organic by 2013. Desserts are fresh fruit or yogurt most days, but there is a ‘sweet treat’ (vanilla and chocolate ice-cream ) on Friday; this is the typical pattern in French school lunches (in fact, it’s a National Ministry of Education regulation). The French approach is, after all, about moderation–not deprivation!

By the way, all meals are served with fresh baguette and water. No flavoured milk. No vending machines. No fast food. Food for thought.


Monday, April 19th

Organic celery salad
Couscous with vegetables
Vanilla yogurt


Tuesday, April 20th

Saucissons (like salami) and pickles
Roast turkey (certified) and sauteed root vegetables
Cheese: Brie
Dessert: a pear

Wednesday, April 21st
Organic green salad with corn
Fish casserole ‘marmite’ (stewed in a clay pot) with basmati rice
Cheese: Coulommiers
Dessert: Apricots in honey syrup

Thursday, April 22nd
Taboulé (bulgur with parsley, tomatoes, and onions)
Saute of beef with ‘sauce chasseur’ (certified), green and yellow beans
Organic plain yogurt
Dessert: Organic orange

Friday, April 23rd
Raw grated beet salad, with vinaigrette
Savoyard casserole with béchamel potatoes
Dessert: Vanilla and chocolate ice cream cone


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.

'Eggs Mimosa' and Mussels anyone? What French kids are eating for school lunch…this week in Barjac

I’ve blogged about Barjac once before, and love to return to look at their menus. 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.

Barjac is also well-known in France for being the subject of a hit documentary (titled ‘Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution‘ in English). Food Beware begins with a visit to Barjac, where the town’s mayor has decided to make the school lunch menu organic and locally grown. The film then shows clips from interviews with a wide variety of people– kids, parents, teachers, health care workers, farmers, elected officials, scientists, researchers and the victims of illnesses thought to be associated with pesticides and environmental pollutants. The film suggests that the French agroindustrial model is under strain–just as it is in the United States and elsewhere. France is the largest food exporter in Europe, and the agricultural sector is the largest in France. This raises interesting questions about the sustainability of the French food system. To some extent, the French have their cake and eat it too: a modern, highly efficient food system that produces relatively cheap food for consumers, while still providing farmers with a living wage. But the film-makers argue this is underwritten by massive subsidies (as in the US), and environmental damage. So the film calls for change–notably higher rates of organic production (which lag, on a per capita basis, behind other European countries, notably England and Germany).

What’s interesting is that the change in Barjac starts in the village school. The scenes of school lunches are fascinating: kids sitting at the table in typical French style, being served food, and encouraged to eat it all up, by the helpful staff (who are party waiter, part nanny). If you’re interested in French school lunches, I’d recommend checking the film out.

So, what are kids eating this week in Barjac? Interestingly, these menus are also provided to the old age home, workers at the tiny city hall, and delivered to people’s houses upon request. Everyone eats the same thing — the village is too small to make more than one type of menu per week. But with a menu this good, I don’t think I’d be complaining about a lack of choice.

By the way, all meals are served with fresh baguette and water. No flavoured milk. No vending machines. No fast food. Food for thought.

Monday, April 9th
Eggs Mimosa with green salad
Duck confite
Sauteed potatoes
Cheese
Dessert: Clafoutis (one of my favourites – like a light flan with lots of fruit)

Tuesday, April 10th
Celery salad rémoulade
Grilled sausage with lentils
Cheese
Fruit compote

Wednesday, April 11th
Green salad
Stewed organic French-sourced beef, with carrots
Cheese
Dessert: Pain perdu (the French version of French toast)

Thursday, April 12th
Puff pastry
Mushroom omelette
Spinach cooked meunière style
Fresh fruit

Friday, April 13th
Coleslaw
Mussels marinières
Sautéed Potatoes
Yogurt with cane sugar

The following two menus aren’t for the kids but I threw them in for interest sake…as the Barjac kitchen works 7 days a week to provide meals to the senior’s home, and people requiring meal deliveries at home.

Saturday, April 14th
Asparagus in vinaigrette
Chicken Sauté
Coquillettes (pasta)
Cheese
Fresh fruit

Sunday, April 15th
Mushroom salad ‘greek style’
Roast veal
Stewed green peas with onions
Cheese
Dessert: Cake (the classic ‘quatre quarts‘ French cake), and crème anglaise± (thick vanilla-flavored cream)

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.

Cordon Bleu and Cauliflower Casserole: French Kids' School Lunches…this week in Cannes

Ah, Cannes. The beaches may be tiny (and crowded, and artificial), but still draw a crowd. The coast might be more beautiful elsewhere, and the buildings more charming, but Cannes is still Cannes. I prefer northern France’s windswept (and admittedly chillier) beaches, but I think I’m in the minority.

So, what are French kids eating this week for school lunch in Cannes? Well, they’re not actually in school – it’s their spring break. In fact, they get two weeks off three times during the school year (yup, six weeks off in total for holidays during the school year). But their school hours are longer – typically from 8:30 to 4:30 (although they get an hour and a half off for lunch). It’s all part of that lovely French philosophy: work hard, play hard! So here’s a menu from March. Bon Appétit!

Fresh baguette (eaten plain) and water are served with every meal. No flavoured milk. No vending machines. No fast food. Food for thought.

Monday April 2nd
Cucumber vinaigrette salad
Pork sautee with curry (fish and turkey options proposed as alternates) and couscous
Cheese: Camembert
Dessert: Apple puree, unsweetened

Tuesday April 3rd
Vegetable potage soup, locally grown ingredients
Bolognaise of Charolais (high quality) French beef (meatless option: tuna with tomato & basil sauce)
Organic spaghetti with grated emmental cheese
Dairy: Plain yogurt
Dessert: Organic fresh fruit

Wednesday April 4th
Goat’s cheese on toasted crackers
Roast ‘Red Label’ (quality designation) veal (meatless option: omelette)
Green peas and carrots (stewed with onions – yum!)
Dairy: Tartare (a white, soft cheese)
Dessert: Organic fresh fruit

Thursday April 5th
Tabouleh salad
Cordon bleu scallop (meatless option: Fish filet, sauce meunière)
Cauliflower casserole
Dairy: Petit suisse (a yogourt style dairy product)
Dessert: fresh fruit

Friday April 6th
Grated organic carrot salad
Fish filet with sauce niçoise (think: tomatoes and olives)
Organic rice
Cheese: Emmental
Dessert: Vanilla cream

Cannes is one of the French towns that have chosen to have a private company (in this case, French company Sogeres) provide school meals. They’re a snazzy company: partnering with top French chef Alain Ducasse to showcase menus, and billing the fact that they cater lunches to private companies, hospitals, and government offices as well as schools. Many of the top French companies (including Air France and France Telecom) have contracts with Sogeres.

Supporters of private companies argue that they provide more professional service, and better training in France’s extremely rigorous food safety standards (for example, they freeze a sample of every dish served, just in case of a food poisoning outbreak–so it can be tested later on if need be). But opponents argue that private companies charge more, cut out local suppliers, and are under pressure to cut costs on ingredients. It’s hard to tell from this distance who’s right. One thing is for sure: a company like Sogeres is under close scrutiny from teachers, kids, and their parents.

The kids’ food philosophy espoused on the Sogeres website is interesting. Kids’ curiosity should be awakened, in an atmosphere of discovery and fun. Meals are prepared in consultation with France’s famous ‘Institute of Taste’, by a two-star Michelin chef. Classic French strategies designed to teach kids to love new foods are used: for example, squash will be served in different ways over the course of a month: as soup, puree, casserole, or pie. Featured ingredients (like basil, or liquorice) and ‘mystery products’ (not at all like ‘mystery meat’, I hope) are also introduced to kids, to get them excited about learning to love food. It sounds good, at least in theory!

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.