Friday, 16 March 2012

Going back to school (dinners)

Photo credit - edgardg
Today, I'm going to do something I have not done in a very long time. I'm going to have a school dinner.

The children's school  does a lot to try and encourage children to have school dinners. They often run theme days, known as  Favourite Fridays, when children who usually take a packed lunch can have a school dinner for just one day. Some children start to have school dinners on the strength of these days alone. Tomorrow is just such a day, but it is a Mother's Day theme so mums can come along and have either a roast beef dinner or cheese and onion flan, followed by raspberry royale. No, I don't know what that is. When I find out, I'll let you know.

I enjoyed school dinners, although one nasty dinner lady used to force us to eat up everything, even if it was something we really hated. When Monkey started school, I really wanted him to have a hot meal at lunchtime. The only problem is that he is such a pasta monster, he was having it nearly every day at one stage and it never seems to fill him up as much as other foods - we tend to get after-school meltdowns when he does. Gradually, we've weaned him off that by talking about the menu, and discussing what they are going to choose before school. It's fair to say that the variety of the menus has expanded their range of favourite foods - both Monkey and Missy Woo love roast dinners (a Thursday regular) and fish and chips (Fridays usually, so traditional) - because of school dinners. Even though they are not generally fussy, their lunchtime diet is more varied than having a packed lunch every day - and that's what I like about it.

I am guessing this Mother's Day lunch is another way to encourage parents to put their children on school dinners - because I know that my children are in minority; most children have packed lunches, either on the ground of cost (school dinners cost me £20 a week), or because the children are quite fussy eaters. Still, I know that a couple of children have followed mine onto school dinners. My children have tried the same tactic in reverse - because they think that the packed lunch children are "lucky" because they can finish their food and go out to play quicker than they do (no queueing, see?) but we did try it last summer term and it was an unmitigated disaster as they didn't finish anything and ate pretty much the same thing three days in a row.

I think it is going to be fun. The children are rather excited at the prospect of Mummy coming into lunch with them although I have no idea how it will work. I'm assuming I'll get to sit with them, but please not on the really tiny chairs, they are so uncomfortable! As the children rave about the roast dinners, I think I'll be trying the roast beef, so I had better get there early so they don't run out.

As I step into the hall to have my school dinner, I'll be stepping back about thirty years in time. Little did I know the last time I had a school dinner that I would be back one day joining that queue, but this time as a mother, sharing a lunchtime with my children.

Do you remember school dinners fondly or did you hate them? What do your own children have at lunchtime - and how is that shaped by your own experience of school canteens? Do share your thoughts in the comments below. 
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