Friday, October 27, 2006

Chili and Cinnamon Rolls

In what I imagine was a ritual reserved for spoiled only children like me, my mom and I scoured the weekly elementary school lunch menu each Monday morning, choosing my hot lunch days and my cold lunch days. I rated average on the pickiness scale, willing to eat most vegetables except cauliflower, spaghetti but not sauce, and peanut butter and jelly (not jam) sandwiches. I chose hot lunch when I could anticipate burritos, turkey with mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. Hungarian goulash was my nemesis. When they served chili and cinnamon rolls, I couldn't wait for lunchtime.

Jeff and I have faithfully tuned into a rerun of the documentary series Jamie's School Dinners this past week, and besides cultivating a craving for cinnamon rolls, it got us talking about eating habits, and school, and how many times a week it is healthy to eat fries for lunch (I say three, but all portion recommendations double during pregnancy.). Jamie (yes, The Naked One), a British celebrity chef, spent almost a year working with one London borough's school district to revise their lunch menus from fried and processed foods to fresh, more flavorful and healthful meals. The project seems to have inspired momentum to improve the quality of all British school meals and to make children's nutrition a priority, which apparently also helped improved academic performance and decrease the number of kids with behavioral, gastrointestinal and allergy problems at the pilot schools.

We were riveted to the saga, including characters like Nora the dinner lady and of course the kids who were incensed that their chicken nuggets had disappeared. If you get the chance (maybe BBC America will air it?), watch it, it's high drama. And if you're a Jamie Oliver fan, it shows an interesting, more human, less elfin side to him than his jolly cooking shows do. His adorable daughters make several appearances, as does his wife, who most times looks ready to beat the cameraman with a mortar and pestle. Jamie is passionate about the project, though I could have told him that no nine-year-old was going to eschew French fries for a Spicy Thai chicken wrap willingly.

Most fascinating to me were the parents, many of whom began buying McDonald's lunches and bringing them to school for their children, and calling the school to demand the return of "proper" (ie processed and deep fried) food to the lunch room. How was I abandoned by this parental catering service during the days that Hungarian Goulash unexpectedly appeared instead of crispy tacos? Like everything does these days, the show made me wonder what sort of kid I'll have. The kind of kid who will give Lamb Tagine a try, or the kind who will politely take a ladleful and then dump it in the trash? Or, possibly, as one girl on the show did, the kind of kid who will lead a protest including chanting and signage and a hunger strike? Most likely, my kid will be the one who runs up to the guest chef and screams "I hate you and I hate your food and I want my chicken nuggets back" in his face.


Daniela said...

Recent foods tried and enjoyed by Amelia: Chicken Tandoori, pad Thai, eggplant stew thingy my mom made and her favorite snack (that she thinks is candy) is frozen peas and/or frozen blueberries.

Anonymous said...

Gianna is a gorgonzola, and coq au vin kind of girl. THANK GOODNESS. Hopefully, that won't change too much