I wasn’t going to write anything about National School Meals Week. It’s a bit of a cliché to drone on about the awfulness of the grey gristly stews and Dunlopillow spotty dicks of my childhood.
Anyway, the fact is that some of the school dinners in the seventies and eighties weren’t bad at all! I know, because my mother was a dinner lady.
She was an ace cook at home and got a part-time job helping out with the cooking at Brockworth Comprehensive School in Gloucestershire – where new Star Trek Scotty Simon Pegg is probably the most famous ex-pupil.
The women wielding the ladles worked very hard in hot conditions using fresh ingredients to dish up dinners that were very popular. At least 60% of the kids sat down to t school dinners in those days.
While I DID get grey gristly stews and Dunlopillow spotty dicks, mater and co were turning out battered fish and chips, shepherds pies and beans, fresh quiches, salad and chips and a mouth-watering array of desserts.
The head cook was born in Bavaria so the kids were treated to baked Bavarian cheesecake. It was absolutely delicious. I know this because mater brought the recipe and cooked it for us at home.
She was also a dab hand at chocolate crunch with raspberry custard and the delicious lemon curd tart, which was a kind of a crumbled shortbread with tangy lemon right through the middle.
The secret of the extra-creamy tasting custard served at the school was that it was made with full cream milk – with generous sprinklings of powdered dried milk added.
By the time my own boys went to school, the dinners were no longer made on the spot with fresh ingredients but delivered daily in airline-type trays. It was pretty grim, in a wholly different way. My kids never ate them – they preferred lunch-box sandwiches.,which was fine because their main meal was always in the evening.
Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school dinners was a good one. He has his heart in the right place even if is often an uphill battle. I hope some of his good influence has made a difference – especially to those in families where the school dinner might be the only decent meal of the day.
There have been big improvements. School meals now have to meet nutritional standards – high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, at least two portions of fruit and veg with every meal along with bread, cereals and potatoes. There aren’t more than two portions of deep-friend food per week.
I bet they don’t serve Bavarian baked cheesecake though!