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School Lunch on NY Times Page 1


Suzanne F
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I'm absolutely fascinated by the subject of school lunches, and have in fact proposed many pieces similar to the above to various newspapers and magazines (including the above) and had them rejected.

What I'd really love to do is find a media outlet willing to support a column called something like "What They're Eating." Maybe that's an awful title, or maybe it's got the exact right amount of understatement. But forget the title, the idea is this: Basically, all these newspapers and magazines have a ton of restaurant coverage and a ton of home-cooking coverage. But there's this whole other area of eating that I think is arguably the most fascinating of all: The food served in corporate cafeterias, high-school cafeterias, and private executive dining rooms; on aircraft carriers and commercial fishing boats; at church suppers and religious holiday festivals; on the Concorde and on cruise ships; in firehouses; on the night shift at the Fulton Fish Market; backstage at rock concerts.

The idea would be that every once in awhile I would get myself invited into one of these environments and report on what they're eating there. I could follow product testers at food laboratories in New Jersey, sports teams on tour when they pass through New York, or a group of chefs holding a tailgate party at Giants Stadium. I could cover everything from the most working-class (such as the fried rice and casserole dishes that the overnight cleaning crew at Gramercy Tavern cooks with the leftover food from the dinner service) to the most elite (events like billionaires' weddings, bar mitzvahs, and parties that are pushing the edge of the catering envelope). I could tag along for a special wine-tasting dinner hosted by a wine club, an extreme-eating adventure with a group of online food fanatics (hmm . . .), or a pot luck dinner hosted by a block association.

I think I mentioned on anothe thread that I recently got back in touch with my old sixth grade English teacher. He e-mailed, "You still owe me a spelling test." I invited him out to dinner and took him to Bouley when I was writing a story, and as payback he invited me to lunch at the Columbia Grammar School cafeteria. Well, unless you have kids at one of these fancy private schools, you simply won't believe what they serve at these cafeterias. It's like an upscale Midtown hotel buffet. They have a salad bar, they have sushi, they have everything. And of course the kids think it's terrible and just want to go up the block for pizza. What I think would be funny would be to talk about high-school cafeteria food using the adjectives and sentence structure of a regular restaurant review discussing food, decor and service. "An ambitious beverage program . . ." Or at least it would be cute to start the piece that way and then somewhere, after a couple of paragraphs, break in with surprise, this isn't Le Bernardin, it's a Manhattan private school cafeteria.

Yes, I've pitched this to everybody. And no, nobody is interested.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Lucky kids - I went to an extremely wealthy public school system on Long Island, where I was treated to the same parade of junk food and sodas that I would get anywhere else. Fried chicken rings were usually the culinary highlights, because they were mostly made of edible, non-gristly meat.

"Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets; all improbable, glorious miracles that I have always believed in."

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Lucky kids - I went to an extremely wealthy public school system on Long Island, where I was treated to the same parade of junk food and sodas that I would get anywhere else.  Fried chicken rings were usually the culinary highlights, because they were mostly made of edible, non-gristly meat.

I went to a fancy-pants private school in NJ, and the cafeteria food was terrible. I distinctly remember Taylor Pork rolls and some of the greasiest-looking burgers imaginable. The Tater Tots and the pizza (Elio's) was edible, but since they didn't print menus like public schools you could never figure out which days had the good stuff.

Most of us brought our lunch. If you were a senior with privileges and a car (or knew someone with a car), you were allowed to go off-campus for lunch.

Edited by BklynEats (log)
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Suzanne, what a hoot! The article doesn't mention the role of Dorothy Hamilton, founder/CEO of the French Culinary Institute, in bringing Chef Bobo to Calhoun. Dorothy's daughter is a student there.

Friends with a Calhoun kid say his culinary horizons have expanded considerably. Before Bobo arrived, the kid would only eat white food. :biggrin:

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Article in todays SF Chronicle about banning junk food in school cafeterias:

FOCUS ON OUR KIDS' HEALTH

Having attending many "lunches" at my son's public school, I would have to say that most banning junk food at school just isn't the solution. Poor eating habits begin at home...I've seen extravagent lunches that are thrown away every day after just a few bites. Boxes of TicTacs included in lunch bags. McDonalds hamburger, fries, and soda - obviously purchased that morning, now cold and soggy. The warmed up "pizza pockets" they serve out of the "kitchen" are just plain gross. What's worse, is the parents eat them too when attending a school function. I do believe even the Berkeley schools organic lunch program went down the drain because kids would rather have take-out food...

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It is nice to see that in some places school lunches are taken a turn for the better. I remember lunches at my high school (private catholic girl's school) being absolutely disgusting.

I love the school lunch sysytem in Japan.

Everyone eats the exact same food, there are no choices, if you finish everyhting on your plate you are allowed to have seconds or whatever you would like. The monthly menu is the same for the entire city, so you know what every child in Yokohama is eating and the amounts are controlled as well. The menu lists calories and protein as well as every single ingredient that goes into the making of the food. All of the food is made hot at the school and served in the classrooms by the students themselves. here is a sample of next week's menu:

Mon-- bread rolls, milk, deep fried chikuwa (a fish paste product) with sesame seeds, suiton (a soup with pork, potatoes, daikon, carrots, komatsuna- similar to spinach), peach jelly (100%) fruit

Tues-- white rice, milk, mabodofu (tofu and ground pork dish), chinese salad made with bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots and peaunts with slighly spicy dressing, mandarin orange

Weds-- raisan bread, milk, spaghetti with meat sauce (with onions, carrots, celery, and mushroms), daikon, cucumber, carrot salad, apple

Thurs-- white rice, milk, sukiyaki style braised dish with beef, shirataki, tofu, chrysanthemum (sp?), and scallions, napa cabbage ohitashi, and for dessert something called ougiage which I have never heard of before.

Fri--milk, egg salad sandwiches, vegetable soup with pork, bacon, potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, and komatsuna, ice cream

They use no instant products all of the food is made from scratch, for example the vegetable soup lists pork bones, water, soy sauce, salt and pepper in the ingredient list as well.

The parents are also invited at least once a quarter to come and "sample" the lunches, I actually found them to be quite good! But what is most important is that the kids like it and eat it.

The lunches at my second daughter's private kindergarten/preschool are even better! But those come from a private catering company.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I love the school lunch sysytem in Japan.

Everyone eats the exact same food, there are no choices, if you finish everyhting on your plate you are allowed to have seconds or whatever you would like.

Wow, I can't imagine that working in the US. Too many people on too many different diets (vegetarian, kosher, etc), and way too many kids with food allergies. I think there's something weird going on here that that is a problem, but that's a whole other topic....my point is that I just can't imagine Americans dealing well with the concept of no choices.

OTH, I almost never bought my lunch at school. I went to school with a sandwich & fruit. *Maybe* a baggie of potato chips or pretzals or such if there was an open bag at home. Even through high school. Heck, some days I still do, although now I tend to nuke it for a bit. I hate cold sandwiches. :smile:

Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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I don't agree with Kristin that the Japanese system is a plus...it seems to negate the very reality of food preferences.

Most public schools offer the traditional "composed lunch" of protein, carb and veg/fruit..and granted, in America it is way to protein carb oriented..but also offer green salads, sliced cheese, bagels, pasta, and perhaps a rice dish. I enjoy knowing there is a variety of choices my kids can make, and that their individual preferences are noted and validated by the options served.

The choices greatly improve in my son's private boarding school, but then again their cafeteria has crown molding and plush carpeting. Since ther eis a 20% international contingent, the options are not always MEAT oriented, and rather use vegs or pastas or rice as the main component, with some protein added.

FatGuy, do an article on two moms, me and Kristin, with our kids in private and public schools, and our efforts to get them not only (relatively) healthily fed , but also appreciate food. Might be interesting to get an american mom's view on school food and an American mom living in Japan's view on school food! :laugh:

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And don't even get me started on when I learned that my oldest daughters' "meal ticket" at Temple University, in the great eating town of Philly, was accepted at either the university commissaries..or neighboring McD's, BK's, etc!!! The freshman 15 lbs. turned into the freshman 20...luckily, we discussed it over the winter break, and she notched up her diet choices... I never had to think twice about anything I ate or my weight until I turned 30..and at that point, it was (is!) hard to learn new eating habits. I'm determined my kids do better!

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But there's this whole other area of eating that I think is arguably the most fascinating of all: The food served in corporate cafeterias, high-school cafeterias, and private executive dining rooms; on aircraft carriers and commercial fishing boats; at church suppers and religious holiday festivals; on the Concorde and on cruise ships; in firehouses; on the night shift at the Fulton Fish Market; backstage at rock concerts.

You left out homeless shelters and old-age homes.

I recently had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing tailgating at San Francisco's Candlestick Park for a Niners game. I haven' seen that much wine and brie since, since . . . .

I think the Japan discussion might veer into an interesting off-topic one . . . .

My 18 year-old nephew was recently in town for 4 nights. He's from New Zealand (I'm told that good-eating in Christchurch is a step above Sizzler), and I offered to take him anywhere reasonable. He chose pizza every night, but I forced him to sample other stuff. For the most part, he appreciated it.

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[i recently had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing tailgating at San Francisco's Candlestick Park for a Niners game.  I haven' seen that much wine and brie since, since . . . .

I

But, see this is where I don't get folks...wine and Brie is good...why not? Just becasue something becomes popular, its not a reason to ditch it. Every year I am responsible for hiring a caterer for a no-holes-barred very high end horse race...the premier horse event in the tri-state area. Last year, my caterer noted that, as it was my third year choosing french cut lamb chops as one of the passed hors, and EVERYONE is choosing it...well, Lamb chops are REALLY good...make em MR, change the dipping sauce ( last year was Mediterranean) and don't mess with success. If you get a good brie, temp it right, and throw out some Carr's...hey, I'd prefer that than chunks of pepperonni and port wine cheese, or even another spinach hors in puff pastry...certainly over some caterers idea of " updated" appetizers.

and Stone, this is not against you, but the idea of food becoming passe when really it deserves to be a classic.

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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I don't agree with Kristin that the Japanese system is a plus...it seems to negate the very reality of food preferences.

As a mother of three grown children, my experience is that children don't as yert have enough experience to be able to have preferences. Only obsessions and fetishes. I like the Japanese system.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I don't agree with Kristin that the Japanese system is a plus...it seems to negate the very reality of food preferences.

As a mother of three grown children, my experience is that children don't as yert have enough experience to be able to have preferences. Only obsessions and fetishes. I like the Japanese system.

But Jin, didn't you have vegetable kids and rice or past a kids and eat everything kids? Kids that love salads and kids that love burgers? I recall a very strong preference for certain food from a very early age..when kid # 3 was born, I thought I knwe how much Gerber's pears to buy..but not compared to the other kids..he ATE 3x the amount of fruit, and at age 12 yrs. 6mo continues to prefer to start his day with an orange, a banana and some seasonal fruit 9 currently into pears) ...and then, perhaps, oatmeal or slices of toast. Picky kid #2 never liked food. and continues to think any food is suspect, unless it is beige, low fat and carbo or protein ( rice, poached chix, pancakes, bagels, white rolls, turkey breast, white land o lakes cheese.) I don't know, maybe I indulg3ed them...but itseemed like their preferences were so distinct from such an early age.

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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[i recently had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing tailgating at San Francisco's Candlestick Park for a Niners game.  I haven' seen that much wine and brie since, since . . . .

I

But, see this is where I don't get folks...wine and Brie is good...why not? Just becasue something becomes popular, its not a reason to ditch it. Every year I am responsible for hiring a caterer for a no-holes-barred very high end horse race...the premier horse event in the tri-state area. Last year, my caterer noted that, as it was my third year choosing french cut lamb chops as one of the passed hors, and EVERYONE is choosing it...well, Lamb chops are REALLY good...make em MR, change the dipping sauce ( last year was Mediterranean) and don't mess with success. If you get a good brie, temp it right, and throw out some Carr's...hey, I'd prefer that than chunks of pepperonni and port wine cheese, or even another spinach hors in puff pastry...certainly over some caterers idea of " updated" appetizers.

and Stone, this is not against you, but the idea of food becoming passe when really it deserves to be a classic.

It's not a question of wine and brie becoming passe. I love wine and brie -- at dinner parties; gallery openings; intermission at the opera; baseball games and other, you know.

Football tailgating is for sausage, brisket, ham, beer, beer and, if it's cold outside, wild turkey from the bottle. (Although they do serve some damn good garlic fries at the stadium. Odd, it must kill the bouquet of the pinot.)

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Football tailgating is for sausage, brisket, ham, beer, beer and, if it's cold outside, wild turkey from the bottle.  (Although they do serve some damn good garlic fries at the stadium.  Odd, it must kill the bouquet of the pinot.)

ah. so the compaint is more that the crowd is changing, rather than the food seved?

Edited by Kim WB (log)
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Football tailgating is for sausage, brisket, ham, beer, beer and, if it's cold outside, wild turkey from the bottle.  (Although they do serve some damn good garlic fries at the stadium.  Odd, it must kill the bouquet of the pinot.)

ah. so the compaint is more that the crowd is changing, rather than the food seved?

No, the crowd is not changing. I'm certain that wine and brie has been the norm at San Francisco football games forever. (You really don't get it. But that's o.k.)

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I think I'm still alive and healthy today due to the lunches I received attending NYC grade schools in the sixties. Lunch always consisted of a thick, well-made soup, a sandwich, a container of whole milk plus a dessert. When I graduated to junior-high the cafeteria food was so bad I had no choice but to sneak out at lunchtime for pizza and fresh baked bagels. Often I didn't bother going back.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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I don't agree with Kristin that the Japanese system is a plus...it seems to negate the very reality of food preferences.

As a mother of three grown children, my experience is that children don't as yert have enough experience to be able to have preferences. Only obsessions and fetishes. I like the Japanese system.

But Jin, didn't you have vegetable kids and rice or past a kids and eat everything kids? Kids that love salads and kids that love burgers? I recall a very strong preference for certain food from a very early age..when kid # 3 was born, I thought I knwe how much Gerber's pears to buy..but not compared to the other kids..he ATE 3x the amount of fruit, and at age 12 yrs. 6mo continues to prefer to start his day with an orange, a banana and some seasonal fruit 9 currently into pears) ...and then, perhaps, oatmeal or slices of toast. Picky kid #2 never liked food. and continues to think any food is suspect, unless it is beige, low fat and carbo or protein ( rice, poached chix, pancakes, bagels, white rolls, turkey breast, white land o lakes cheese.) I don't know, maybe I indulg3ed them...but itseemed like their preferences were so distinct from such an early age.

Kim I agree with you that most kids are born with certain food habits.

I am not yet sure about my son's habits yet, he just turned two and it currently surviving on gallons of milk and a couple of bites a food a day. My two daughters on the other hand are as different as light and day. My older one (7) would survive on junk food it I would let her while the second one probably eats better than I do.

At the supermarket yesterday, my oldest daughter went straight to the snack food aisle want me to buy her various things while daughter #2 went to the fresh deli and really wanted the hijiki (type of seaweed) salad with edamame and carrots.

As a child I ate almost no vegetables, so I guess we do change.

I really like the school lunches here because, since the kids the all eat the same thing they actually eat it! I guess it is a kind of peer pressure, they don't want to be the only one not eating. My oldest daughter eats stuff at school that she would never touch at home and the only thing on the lunch menu that she won't eat is natto (fermented soybeans).

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I am not yet sure about my son's habits yet, he just turned two and it currently surviving on gallons of milk and a couple of bites a food a day. My two daughters on the other hand are as different as light and day. My older one (7) would survive on junk food it I would let her while the second one probably eats better than I do.

My two year old is 35 pounds of bananas, 1 pound boy.

As an ex-high school teacher, I can say that the public school food in California is, without a doubt, the worst standardized fare on the planet, even surpassing that of the airlines. All too often kids by-passed the cafeteria line (unless they were on free or reduced price lunch (another topic altogether)) and went straight to the snack cart for a bag of chips and a soda. Every day, 182 days a year.

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Portland, Oregon Public School lunches are unforgivably bad and couldn't possibly be better than anywhere else. By high school, at least the students are offered some choices both good and bad. In elementary and middle schools, the food and its service shows a shocking disrespect for kids. When they were in 2nd grade, my boys came home and told me that when they took their still frozen hamburgers back to the heater(I refuse to call what they do cooking), she told them she couldn't reheat theirs because all the other kids would want theirs done, too. Very few were allowed to ask. No effort is made to provide a pleasant meal time. At some schools, most of the children are on the free lunch program and this meal may be their only food of the day. The issue is more than nutrition, but whether the food is edible at all. There were other problems on a daily basis, too. Half the kids would eat lunch after playground recess without being allowed to wash their hands. Angry adults screamed at them for normal behavior. My kids are young adults now, but this still pisses me off whenever I think about it. The dining room in the admin building served much better and more varied food to their lunchees.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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I don't agree with Kristin that the Japanese system is a plus...it seems to negate the very reality of food preferences.

As a mother of three grown children, my experience is that children don't as yert have enough experience to be able to have preferences. Only obsessions and fetishes. I like the Japanese system.

But Jin, didn't you have vegetable kids and rice or past a kids and eat everything kids? Kids that love salads and kids that love burgers? I recall a very strong preference for certain food from a very early age..when kid # 3 was born, I thought I knwe how much Gerber's pears to buy..but not compared to the other kids..he ATE 3x the amount of fruit, and at age 12 yrs. 6mo continues to prefer to start his day with an orange, a banana and some seasonal fruit 9 currently into pears) ...and then, perhaps, oatmeal or slices of toast. Picky kid #2 never liked food. and continues to think any food is suspect, unless it is beige, low fat and carbo or protein ( rice, poached chix, pancakes, bagels, white rolls, turkey breast, white land o lakes cheese.) I don't know, maybe I indulg3ed them...but itseemed like their preferences were so distinct from such an early age.

Kim I agree with you that most kids are born with certain food habits.

I am not yet sure about my son's habits yet, he just turned two and it currently surviving on gallons of milk and a couple of bites a food a day. My two daughters on the other hand are as different as light and day. My older one (7) would survive on junk food it I would let her while the second one probably eats better than I do.

At the supermarket yesterday, my oldest daughter went straight to the snack food aisle want me to buy her various things while daughter #2 went to the fresh deli and really wanted the hijiki (type of seaweed) salad with edamame and carrots.

As a child I ate almost no vegetables, so I guess we do change.

I really like the school lunches here because, since the kids the all eat the same thing they actually eat it! I guess it is a kind of peer pressure, they don't want to be the only one not eating. My oldest daughter eats stuff at school that she would never touch at home and the only thing on the lunch menu that she won't eat is natto (fermented soybeans).

Habits are for nuns.

Food is for people.

Kids might have this or that predisposition. But as the truc goes, eat something ten times before saying you like or dislike something.

I would never force kids to eat anything they didn't like. Or force them to finish anything. But I wouldn't make them what they liked just because they liked it.

The vegetable kid is now a omnivore. The pasta kid is now an omnivore. The "only white foods" kid is now an omnivore.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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And the "hate spicy/hate garlicky/loathe peanut butter/dislike vegetables" kid (in other words, me) is now an omnivore.

But now, I'm mildly lactose intolerant (milk is banned -- but not other dairy), and I loathe herring and gefilte fish with a passion.

Go figure. :blink:

SA

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