I visited my children’s cafeteria again on Friday. Here’s what was served:
In case you can’t tell, the entree is a breaded chicken parmigiana cutlet served atop whole grain spaghetti, along with roasted potatoes, orange slices and a brownie.
The kids I spoke with loved the roasted potatoes and urged me to try one. They were good, and it was great to see a potato on a lunch tray in something other than a french fry or tater tot form. Unfortunately, though, the kids also reported that the pasta was served too cold, and none of the kids I spoke to seemed to know what the chicken parmigiana was, although some of them were eating it anyway.
Later in the day, my lunch room “eyes and ears,” Cheryl Sorak (a dedicated cafeteria volunteer at our school), reported that many of the little kids found the cutlet too hard to cut with their plastic spork — it was tender enough, but still hard to manage without a knife. (I’m reminded of the episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in which he’s appalled to learn that in this country, kids are not given proper silverware.) Cheryl also reported that because there was only a smear of sauce on the cutlet and none on the pasta, many kids were adding ketchup to the pasta. Yum.
One question I have is, why potatoes with pasta? Obviously there’s no rule against eating these items together, but it does seem like a very high carb load for one meal, especially when you throw in a brownie to boot. I know the meal needs a vegetable, but wouldn’t a pasta dish be an ideal place to squeeze in some green or orange vegetables in an unobtrusive way — carrots chopped very fine and mixed into the sauce for the chicken, for example? (I wonder whether the district fears that if a stand-alone vegetable doesn’t appear on menus, parents will be upset? Maybe a descriptor like “vegetable-enhanced sauce” would calm everyone down?)
But I do give credit to the district for what it got right: sliced fruit (versus whole fruit that invariably gets thrown out), some whole grains in the pasta and brownie (although I don’t know what percentage), and roasted vs. fried potatoes.
I’ll be back in the cafeteria next week with more Notes From the Field.