Eating at school was a big shock compared with mum’s lunchtime meals at home.
Some school meals were OK, some were even nice but others were vile.
Although not a Catholic School, in fact firmly Anglican in background, there was no meat on Fridays. Apart from luncheon meat occasionally. Perhaps that didn’t count.
I used to dread Fridays. I didn’t like fish fingers. In fact I’d never eaten them before going to school. The actual fish meals were some sort of boiled or baked white fish, cod I guess. Tasteless. And we only ever ate haddock (or halibut or salmon or Dover sole or plaice) at home. For some reason, this horrid fish was served with tinned sliced carrots, and either greasy chips or boiled (tinned) potatoes.
The only decent option, probably once a month, was egg and cheese salad. Obviously with yet more tinned boiled potatoes and grated raw carrot, (Friday was clearly carrot day), and/or shredded cabbage or beetroot.
Sometimes there were unpleasant sausages, invariably served with tinned toms or baked beans.
And one of the worst meals was bacon and egg pie. Strange pieces of chopped up pink in a mess of yellow with the least worst bit being the pastry. It made me feel sick. Or there would be liver and bacon. The bacon (as with the bits in the pie) was salty and fried to a crisp, and the liver was tough. Served with tinned toms and potatoes because everything was served with potatoes.
Moving up, there was a tolerable mince sort of stew with carrots and peas. The shepherd’s pie was OK.
My favourite was the meat pie. It bore no resemblance to mum’s steak and kidney pie, but it had nice tender bits of meat in and was juicy with decent pastry. It didn’t turn up very often.
Then there was the obligatory dessert. We didn’t have dessert at home apart from once in a blue moon. At school there was ice cream, that came in little cylinders wrapped in paper and was served with vile chocolate sauce or some equally vile red sauce. Occasionally we had arctic roll. Semolina or rice pudding was served with jam which everyone stirred round to make a disgusting looking pink mess. Rhubarb was decent unlike the accompanying lumpy custard. But gooseberry pie was the absolute pits. It was such a mix of too much sugar to counteract the tart fruit. Plus the usual lumpy custard. I was so jealous of Nicky whose mother sent a note for her to be excused from eating it. My mother refused to send notes for anything.
About the only decent desserts were – tinned, of course – fruit salad, and some type of shortbread served with tinned peaches or pears. That also involved lumpy custard.
Christmas involved roast something. Turkey or pork, can’t remember which. Otherwise we didn’t have any roasts, no chops, no chicken, no seafood, no rice, no pasta, no casseroles apart from the mince stew thing.
Meals at home
Little roughseas grew up with Yorkshire pudding or pancakes for starters at lunchtime, a meat main course, fresh veg (at least two) and sometimes but not always potatoes.
At home, meals followed the traditional working week pattern. Often a roast on Sunday with the leftovers used up for Monday lunch. Cold roast beef or shepherd’s pie. Tuesday could vary, maybe liver (lambs’) and onions, pork or lamb chops, steak and kidney pie. Wednesday we ate in the evening. Sometimes chicken, sometimes lamb. Thursday lunch tended to be a cheaper type meal, ox tail stew (too many bits of bone for me) or neck of lamb stew (more bone), or much better, corned beef hash.
Friday evening meal could be a roast, or lamb chops. Saturday evening meal could often be fish, either fish and chips fried by mum, or a haddock, mushroom, prawn gratin, or cold meat – ham, tongue, brisket, boiled bacon, or the cold meat from Fridays’s roast, and chips.
Today’s school meals
But looking at my school’s website, I might have been happier with the food offered now than I was forty or fifty years ago.
Naturally there is a (somewhat boring) vegetarian option offered for all meals. But gone is the luncheon meat, the mince stew, the bacon and egg pie, although shepherd’s pie remains.
Instead, girls dine on chicken chasseur, gammon steak, ribbon pasta with salmon, tenderloin pork schnitzel, fish pie with dill flavoured mash, beef enchilada with salsa sauce, Chinese pork curry with fried rice and prawn crackers, slow cooked beef with rustic veg and spiced herb dumpling, beef chilli con carne, chicken pie, roast pork, roast beef, steak and ale pie, chicken korma curry, and smoked haddock with couscous. There is still always a fish dish of some type on Friday.
No longer are the veg out of tins and limited to carrots or whatever else plus boiled potatoes. Girls now have broccoli florets, turnip, parsnips, sweetcorn, garden peas, mushy peas, French beans and a variety of potatoes – roasted, wedges, mashed, Lyonnaise, aloo, Dauphinoise, garlic, savoury, parslied.
There’s a pasta or noodle dish every day, plus a salad bar, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, fruit, cheese and biscuits, yoghurt … the menu amazes me.
School dinners were always an extra cost, so I was wondering how much this gourmet dining is costing on top of the current £12K a year fees. But good on them for providing fruit, salad, and a vegetarian option daily. And checking out the fees, it seems the haute cuisine is included in the annual cost.
Plus, the menus are published in advance so I’ve just read the selection up to 16 Dec. A big change to sneaking into the kitchens to ask what was for lunch that day. And wondering who to give my bacon and egg pie to when the teachers or prefects on dinner duty weren’t looking.
All photos taken from school website (hence crappy quality).
Just a quick reminder. If you haven’t voted in my poll about which books you like/dislike please do so, and remember it’s multi option so you can vote for as many as you want. Then I’ll be summarising the results and comparing them with last year’s. Many thanks to everyone for taking part.