Re: "Healthier" School Lunches Aren't Actually Healthier If They Taste Disgusting

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"roughly $27 billion a year, plus a one-time investment in real kitchens" is like "the rental price is only $300 a month utilities, plus rent." Waters' Edible Schoolyard is a great project, but I don't think it's a solution that scales well.

E.g., my elementary school had a multipurpose room that was the cafeteria, the gym, and the assembly room. The kitchen area, iirc, was mostly a line of trays with warmers, and some refrigerators. If there was cooking going on there, it certainly wasn't a lot; the school principal was usually helping to serve lunch. And that was in a reasonably affluent district that wasn't under a budget crunch.

We spend something like $2.50 on lunches now; $5 + a one-time investment is a big jump. I'd be curious to see what we could get for an extra quarter per kid, first.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:39 AM
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Thing is, I think Waters is right that jacking the quality of the ingredients a little won't do much; if you don't have facilities to do at least some cooking on site, your choices are unhealthy or unpalatable. You can make improvements around the edges -- my kids' school seems to consistently serve wheat bread rather than white -- but I don't think you can change things importantly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:44 AM
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I seem to remember there was some other story about a chef who moved to working in a school-district-wide kitchen to make healthier meals for the students, eventually sacrificing some of her principles (OK, fine, some frozen food, and OK, fine, pizza, but with veggies in the sauce), but mostly succeeding at not raising the district's budget too high. It sounded like quite a slog, teaching the individual school lunch workers to prepare fresher foods, and getting the kids used to the new menu. But over time, it seemed like the kids were throwing away less and less food, the lunch ladies were getting into doing more prep, and the slight shift from cardboard-style frozen cheese pizza to fresh-baked (if frozen at the district kitchen) veggie-sauce pizza was having somewhat of a difference.

Waters is envisioning a project that is way, way too ambitious, given even things like the skill of the lunch ladies in preparing the food. But I disagree that you can't mass-produce (and even prep and freeze ahead) pre-portioned healthy meals. If prepared on a weekly basis, they could, at a central location, prep, say, lasagnas and even just refrigerate them until baking them on-site. No prep work for the lunch ladies is key. Or they could send each of the schools big buckets of chopped fresh potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots with instructions for how to drizzle them with a little oil, salt, and pepper to roast for half an hour.

Lunch ladies are not chefs, but if they can microwave shit, they can throw something in an oven. And there's no reason why some things should have to be frozen if they're being prepped on a weekly basis.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:54 AM
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I seem to remember there was some other story about a chef who moved to working in a school-district-wide kitchen to make healthier meals for the students, eventually sacrificing some of her principles (OK, fine, some frozen food, and OK, fine, pizza, but with veggies in the sauce), but mostly succeeding at not raising the district's budget too high.

I think I read that same story, or maybe it was a different one. In the story I read, there were a lot of obstacles to do with the way that the schools were constrained in their buying (they had to commit to a bunch of purchases a year ahead, they had to buy from the government where possible, or maybe they had to accept weird crummy government surplus donations?) and also I seem to remember thinking that the person's criteria for healthiness struck me as ill-conceived; lots of emphasis on low-fat cheese, for example. Yuck!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:59 AM
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Also, Waters's figure of $5 per child seems ridiculously high to me. If I buy a really nice lunch for myself at a price that makes a profit for someone, I pay $5, and I'm an adult. At my own (priced for profit) school cafeteria, I can get a full plate of roasted eggplant, vegetable curry and rice, and green-bean salad for $5. It should not cost $5 per student to make a child's lunch.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:01 AM
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Sure; 'mass production' is an equivocal term. You don't necessarily have to scrub the dirt off the potatoes in each school, and I'm sure you could make respectably palatable healthy food in central kitches that served a number of schools with mostly prepared foods to be heated onsite. But I don't believe you can make healthy, palatable food that can be stored for long periods of time after it's ready-to-eat, which is what our current setup contemplates.

(Is the idea of hiring 'lunch ladies' who can cook, or can learn to cook, really implausible?)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:02 AM
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2: Pwned by AWB, but I'd add that in addition to cooking *better* things off-site, nibbling around the edges isn't a bad place to start given that the baseline of school lunches (chicken nuggets & tater tots) is so low.

I brown-bagged my lunch (peanut butter sandwich, macintosh apple, baggie full of pretzels... for eternity...) for years due to cost but I remember that often that was a good option because the school lunch was just objectively nasty.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:03 AM
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5: Yeah, I have no idea how to evaluate that number -- to what extent it incorporates school-specific issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:03 AM
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4: Yeah, I remember there were problems, but overall it sounded at least marginally better than the cafeteria food I had growing up. (Seriously, that shit was not food, and I seem to recall way too many students vomiting on the classroom floor after lunch.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:04 AM
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I remember that often that was a good option because the school lunch was just objectively nasty.

This. Exactly this. No school lunch is effectively healthy if it's objectively nasty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:04 AM
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Right. But that means there's a lot of room between Salisbury Steak Day and "There is only one moment in summer to eat a perfect peach, children, mind the arugula sprouts." You could replace the school lunch program with what I ate every day and get a net health increase and that was portable. (Not that I'm suggesting this, because a hot lunch is a crucial component of all of this.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:08 AM
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There's room, but what I'm arguing is that you can't make a smooth transition from current hotlunches to the perfect peach -- if the food is going to be industrially produced, it's going to be starchy/fatty/unhealthy or it's going to taste foul, or both -- it's very, very, very hard to industrially produce healthy food that isn't gross. So nibbling around the edges to make the food healthier is going to make the hot lunches even fouler than they are now, from a palatability point of view.

To get healthy and palatable, I really do think that Waters is right at least to the extent that the food has to be prepared reasonably close to the time it's eaten.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:15 AM
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Soups and stews are very cheap to make, easy to store, easy to reheat, nutritious, delicious, etc. It shouldn't cost more than a dollar's worth of ingredients to feed one child a veggie enchilada (also easy to prep, store, reheat), a cup of chicken soup, and a small brownie.

And yes, I do think it's too much to ask lunch ladies to do actual cooking.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:16 AM
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Ohhh, I have a great idea!

Let's spend an amount equivalent to the entire budget of the NIH on really expensive school lunches!


Posted by: Adam | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:21 AM
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if the food is going to be industrially produced, it's going to be starchy/fatty/unhealthy or it's going to taste foul, or both

This simply isn't true. (a) One of the reasons McDonald's food contains so many artificial flavors is not only that they are using the absolute worst ingredients they can find and freezing the shit out of them, but also to produce a repeatable flavor experience internationally. You can walk into a McD in Taiwan and have the same experience you had in Indianapolis when you were four. Re-flavoring and re-coloring food is about consistency, not just unfreshness. (FFN talks about this.) (b) Amy's is delicious, as are a number of other industrial frozen-food makers. Frozen ravioli, frozen soups, frozen enchiladas, frozen lasagna, etc., can all be quite yummy. I wouldn't choose them over fresh ever, but it's not shit, even if it doesn't contain flavorings and preservatives.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:21 AM
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Depending on the other constraints. Reheated from scratch spaghetti sauce? Pretty tasty. Soups? It would be a mistake to try to improve the taste of the Salisbury Steak(TM) by upgrading the cut of meat, or to decide that grilled cheese would be improved by low-fat cheese. So you'd need a menu change. There are hot bars at the delis all around here, and they tend not to serve things that don't reheat well or that taste nasty. (They may not be the most healthy things ever, but they're probably beating government cheese.)

I just figure that if the proposal to a school district is double your day-to-day expense AND build a kitchen and hire a chef for each school, it's not going to get off the ground even if everyone thinks it would be a good idea. (Another potential problem: if you double the cost of school lunch, does that price get passed on to the kids? Do the free lunch caps change, too? They better! We could not have done $5 per kid per day at my house (well, $2 was a stretch, hence the peanutbuttersandwichofeternity.))


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:24 AM
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Here's the abstract of the story we all read.

New Yorker


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:36 AM
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Most of the institutional and restaurant cooks that I've met, not just the foodies, would prefer to cook "from scratch", and most of them are able to. Of course, they're 60 year old farm girls (working for $7/hr.). I think one of the things about microwave food is that you use less labor and pay less. (Of course they're already paying less around here).

I'm not into the diet purism / locally grown / organic aspect of all this but cooking from mostly-fresh ingredients would be labor-intensives, which is a good thing. maybe calling it "home cooking" instead of whatever they do call it, it would sell better.

You could also have ethnic cooking in ethnic areas without passing a state law, just by hiring the aunts and grandmothers of the kids.

And uncles and grandfathers too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:47 AM
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Amy's is delicious, as are a number of other industrial frozen-food makers.

Once, to my surprise and delight, I got an Amy's enchilada thing as my vegetarian meal on a trans-Atlantic flight. The difference in tastiness between that and what one normally gets was tremendous.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:49 AM
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It's perfectly possible to make palatable mass produced food. There's plenty of good tasting supermarket pre-prepared food out there. A mixture of fresh stuff that's prepared on-site but doesn't need substantial cooking equipment -- salads, etc. -- and some meals produced in central kitchens, or mass-produced and then reheated, ought to be able to produce perfectly good healthy food.

And, for what it's worth, many many many restaurants buy a substantial percentage of their stuff pre-prepared.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:57 AM
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I am most eager to see how the "kids grow the food" idea works. Will children in the northeast and midwest really come to love lots of root vegetables in winter? Will they really love spending their recesses weeding? Plow under the playgrounds and let 1000 potatoes bloom! Learning and Labor!


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:57 AM
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My own dear mom makes dinner for 200 people once a week on a budget of roughly $2 per adult, $1 per child, which includes a modest paycheck for herself, though she has volunteer helpers for service and clean-up. It's not organic, for sure, but she manages to get out an interesting meat main course, fresh cooked vegetables, a salad, bread, and desert. What I feel is being overlooked is that, with proper cooking equipment and better-trained cooking staff, a school kitchen could *save* a lot of money by buying fresh ingredients in bulk, rather than pre-prepped frozen foods. The trick is being good at guessing how much of something you'll actually need in a given week, and not ordering too much, which is a skill in itself. Surely we all have realized at some point that making certain foods from scratch is cheaper than buying heat-and-serve. It could basically be an almost even trade, financially, to use fresh ingredients, but hire skilled central cooking staff.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:58 AM
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volunteer helpers for service and clean-up

To be fair, I suspect this makes a substantial difference.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:00 AM
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Yeah, the main problem with hiring "dinner ladies" who can prepare fresh food from scratch?

You have to pay them more. That by itself puts the costs up, and in a direction a lot of people see as pointless; "dinner ladies" are meant to be cheap, unskilled labor...


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:03 AM
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Also, Jamie Oliver has been campaigning on this in the UK for years. Including two major TV series with all the attendant PR/publicity. So the UK newspapers probably have a couple of million words rehashing ALL of these debates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamie%27s_School_Dinners


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:03 AM
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My French ex-boyfriend talked sometimes about the school lunches he ate growing up, and they all seemed to include a hefty amount of local produce. Yes, the kids ended up eating weird things like parsnips, and in later years, they even kvetch about how nasty parsnip day was, but they also grew up expecting a damned sight more vegetables in their daily diet than do even most American foodies. I don't know exactly how the French school meal system was funded----centrally, I presume, given the rest of the school system.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:14 AM
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Our school lunches at primary school were pretty 'institutional' in a very British way. Mince and mashed potato with overcooked carrots and peas; steamed puddings, that sort of thing. Not nice.

High school, on the other hand, was pretty decent. There was a fair bit of green produce, veg, salads, etc mixed in with burgers, and other things that kids might want to eat. It wasn't especially cheap, though.

Our high school had huge kitchens, though, and a dedicated dining hall [behind a set of curtains at the rear of the main assembly hall] so I presume a fair bit of the food was cooked on-site.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:19 AM
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Reheated from scratch spaghetti sauce? Pretty tasty.

Sure, but you've got to be able to boil the pasta onsite -- cooked pasta reheated in sauce is nasty. And so on. I'm not disagreeing with you about some level of preprepared food, but most of what you and AWB are talking about still involves having a kitchen in each school, and someone onsite doing something that, if you did it it at home, you'd call cooking.

And that's a real discontinuity from most school lunch programs now; what you're talking about is on a continuum with Alice Waters' perfect-peach lunches (albeit pretty far away from her on that continuum), but very distinct (both conceptually and in terms of the facilities necessary) from the current model as I understand it, where nothing but reheating of completed meals happens onsite.

I don't mean to suggest that it's a good idea to hold a hard-line policy of "prepare everything from scratch from whole raw ingredients on school grounds". But I do think it'll be really hard to make healthier, more palatable lunches without some greater level of onsite cooking.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:22 AM
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Baked pasta dishes, however, are delicious, and easily cooked from frozen/refrigerated.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:26 AM
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I'd assume that the kitchens have SOME kind of cooking equipment if they are reheating.

Even assuming nothing more than ovens, you can do a lot with pre-prepared [but fresh] meals coming in from central kitchens [or outside contractors, or whatever].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:29 AM
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My French ex-boyfriend talked sometimes about the school lunches he ate growing up, and they all seemed to include a hefty amount of local produce.

I can't speak to French primary education, but when I was doing my semester abroad the cafeterias I went to were so much better than the ones back home it wasn't even funny. (One served rabbit on a regular basis. Trying to imagine the cafeteria at my alma mater serving rabbit makes my head hurt.)

Of course, this was Alsace in the winter, so the produce consisted mainly of cabbage.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:32 AM
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Plow under the playgrounds and let 1000 potatoes bloom! Learning and Labor!
we had something like that in our school, a summer camp like establishment at the sovkhoz we had a contract with and they supplied our school kitchen i guess, don't know the details, i used to buy dried apples and prunes kompots and tarts there mostly, but for the classes from the 1th to 3d grades the lunch was free, but not that a lot in quantity as i recall and compare to here, but i compare wrong, i don't know school cafeterias here
here cafeteria portions are huge, half of it gets thrown away, pity, but adults eat of course more
so summer 3 months the classes from the 7th to 9th grades were rotating to spend a month there, i went there in my 7th grade, all our 7th graders together, have only the best memories, our discos and day work in the fields to pull out weeds or build the fences and the soc competition results announcements, rotations in the kitchen etc
some vegetable's weeds looked very alike so you look behind you and see nothing green, coz they are that similar looking
there was a large tree on the top of the hill which grew apart from the forest and looked like a headless rider at sunsets, so we called the tree that
i wish to revisit the place again, though maybe everything has changed by now, all this transition occurred and havoc, sovkhozes are all gone for sure


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:33 AM
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From various points of view (not including the free-marketer and neoliberal points of view), spending more money on labor on-site (neighborhood people) is a good thing. I really should check what they do here now, but I suspect they still do it the way they did when was a kid. When the owner of the best local restaurant (home cooking, non-gourmet, mostly from scratch) retired recently, she went to work part time at the school lunch. The school lunch ladies are almost always local moms, and they're known and affectionately remembered as such.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:44 AM
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Data point: There was only one chef for all the schools in the commune, and so there were a fair amount of precooked stuff in the schools of my childhood.

I think the schools all had complete kitchens but they were underutilized since the commune had crappy finances due to some bad property deals in the 80s or something. That, and the crisis years, the ones where we nationalized those banks.

The food was sorta meh, but certainly not nasty. I think it could have been better if we'd lucked out with one of the presumably badly paid chefs.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:45 AM
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Nothing wrong with cabbage.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:47 AM
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but the school system is different here of course we had the classes from the 1th to 10th grades, a 6 storey building arranged like the first two floors for the grades from 1 to 3, and up and the school programs also of course were age appropriate coz after the 10th grade one goes to the university
i recalled i got asked in Japan how that many grades could be in one school and whether schoolchildren of different ages learn the same material, i was like shocked by luck of imagination of the asker


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:47 AM
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lack


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:47 AM
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Eat no other vegetable for months at a time and tell me that again, w-lfs-n.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:48 AM
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I got pretty damn sick of cabbage when I lived in Germany. Mind you, I got pretty damn sick of almost all of the food on offer there---except for the white asparagus.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:51 AM
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I am skeptical that it was the only vegetable.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:52 AM
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I doubt having kitchen in every school and one chef per municipality would cost that much once you've built those kitchens and storage facilities. They could have put it in the stimulus.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:52 AM
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Cheese and bread, cheese and bread! Change it up with a little slice of cucumber!

So far as I can tell, they don't even have cafeterias at German schools. All the kids bring bread with cheese. Their school days are much shorter, though.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:53 AM
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It's always interesting to reflect on what it was that our northern European ancestors ate (for those of us with northern European ancestors).

Few fruits, few spices, not much wheat, and no sugar, peanuts, tomatoes, corn, rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, olives, or melons.

Root crops, milk, meat, fish, barley, rye, oats, cabbages and greens.... Onions? Garlic? Beans? Squash?

Plus various artisanal shit that normal people wouldn't eat today, like spelt oramaranth or whatever.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:56 AM
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Mind you, I got pretty damn sick of almost all of the food on offer there---except for the white asparagus.

Not me. One of the other cafeterias in Strasbourg served tarte flambée. Between that and the döner shop, I was set for food for the entire semester.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:57 AM
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"Their school days are much shorter, though."

That's interesting. How long are normal German and American school days?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:57 AM
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More hearty soups seems like the way to go. Those seem to do well pre-prepared, in a bag. You could get lots of veggies in them. And broccoli in pre-made broccoli-cheese soup is going to be a lot more palatable to kids than frozen broccoli by itself in a little pile in one of the squares of the sectioned tray-plate.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:58 AM
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The school lunches I got were pure poison -- and the portions: so tiny!

But seriously folx, I can't believe it would be that hard to get lunch ladies cooking instead of reheating. The Food Not Bombs model has groups of 22-year-old stoners cooking healthy, frequently tasty, occasionally organic meals from mainstream society's surplus all over the country. And they do it for free!

I do think an emphasis on urban farming/student-produced food would be positive too. It's not like there's some big technological hurdle to overcome here. Rather, it's that we have a system of standardized, mass education that admits no alterations based on local conditions. In a free, democratic society, making some big changes to the way school lunches are produced wouldn't be an insurmountable challenge. Unfortunately, we live in an unfree, undemocratic society, where these kinds of decisions are made in the boardrooms of Conagra, Cargill, General Mills and Archer Daniels Midland.

I do occasionally hanker for one of the violently yellow school lunch burritos that we used to get once or twice a week. You wouldn't think it to look at them, but they were pretty tasty, and chocolate milk served to bring out the flavor in a way that made this tiny aesthete quiver with excitement.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:00 AM
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45: My American high school started at 8:45am and ended at 3:15pm. German schools tend to start around 8am and be let out by early afternoon, or even late morning for the young kids. Some of the older kids might have electives later in the afternoon, but that's an exception.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:03 AM
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My Scottish high school started around 8.45 and finished around 3.45.

I recall from the last time that this came up, that a lot of US schools start at stupid-o-clock in the morning.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:06 AM
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The school cook we'd had all through my elementary school days quit when I was in 5th grade, because she was told that she was no longer allowed to use any extra ingredients at the end of the month to make donuts.

Before that, she would make donuts on the last Friday afternoon of the month. She would hand them out from the backdoor of the kitchen during afternoon recess.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:08 AM
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re: 43

They'd have had fruit. Apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, strawberries, etc all grow in Northern Europe. The only fruit I can think of that they wouldn't have had would be some citrus fruits.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:09 AM
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"Few fruits, few spices, not much wheat, and no sugar, peanuts, tomatoes, corn, rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, olives, or melons."

And no mushrooms, unless you were a nobleman. The peasants ate bark before they ate mushrooms. There was a big campaign in the late 19th century to persuade people to eat them, but it took two generations and urbanization.

"Root crops, milk, meat, fish, barley, rye, oats, cabbages and greens.... Onions? Garlic? Beans? Squash?"

No squash. That's tropical, isn't it? Beans were only given to cattle and maybe thralls in medieval times.

"Plus various artisanal shit that normal people wouldn't eat today, like spelt oramaranth or whatever."

Plus various artisanal shit that normal people wouldn't eat today, like spelt oramaranth or whatever. "

Spelt's just oldschool wheat, though. If you talk about Romans or medieval types growing wheat, you mean something like spelt.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:10 AM
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49: stupid-o-clock

Yeah, the other thing is they frequently change the schedules due to budget issues or transportation costs. I think the earliest our HS ever started was 7:15, which meant that if you were busing across town, as I was, you pretty much had to be out the door by 6:20 or even a little earlier. Luckily, I've always been a morning person.

To tie it back to the post, it's a little absurd to think that groggy, rushed teenagers are going to be making great food choices when lunchtime rolls around at 10:45. I know I only got through the day based on several cans of Coke and lots of sweets.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:11 AM
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our school started at 8am, and the classes were 45 min each with 10 min breaks to walk to the other classroom and usually 5-6 classes a day, the younger grades 3-4/5, so around 1:30 -2 pm longest the schoolday was over, and one could attend some facultatives


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:14 AM
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Amaranth comes in little flour sacks at the co-op. It also grows wild at the margins of farm fields, in which case it is called "pigweed."


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:14 AM
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I didn't know that about mushrooms. How far east did it extend? Did Russian peasants eat mushrooms?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:15 AM
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7.15 is just sickening. Who can function?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:16 AM
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There was a big campaign in the late 19th century to persuade people to eat them, but it took two generations and urbanization.

Weren't the old limestone quarries around Paris used for mushroom cultivation as far back as 1800 or further?

As for university cafeteria lunches in Germany, OH GOD. The central cafeteria had a million varieties of sloppy overcooked egg noodles, and the peripheral cafeterias had bread rolls with cheese. I ended up eating a salad bowl (which was actually quite good) every single day, for a year. The only time in my life I've eaten the same thing every day.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:18 AM
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Where I grew up, middle and high schools went from 7:45am to 2:20pm, and elementary schools were something like 9:00am to 3:45pm. They had to be offset by a little more than an hour because the same school buses would first pick up the older kids and take them to school, then pick up the elementary schoolers and take them to their schools. I'm curious about how places with later schooldays get around that problem.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:20 AM
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Our university cafeteria in Glasgow was good.* There were freshly made pizzas, usually a pasta dish, a couple of traditional main courses, a big salad bar [which was really excellent], usually some sort of curry, various sandwiches, etc. Plenty of veggie/vegan options, and everything was quite reasonably priced.

I think they also served food in the bar, but the choice was a bit more limited. Chips and hotdogs and things.

* strictly speaking, there were two. One run by each of the student unions [the historical "men's" and "women's" unions].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:21 AM
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51: Berries aren't fruit, and I don't know how far north pears grow.

No mangos, bananas, pineapples, peaches, kiwi, papaya, amngosteens, carambolas, guavas, avacados, apricots.

Cherries? Grapes?

But I forgot honey.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:22 AM
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in Russian folktales people always go to forest po gribu (to collect mushrooms), so they sure ate mushrooms and there are a lot of Russian mushroom recipes, solyanka for example
talun tsagaan moog (white steppe mushroom, it grows in circles and was believed to help with postnatal mother fever) and oin shar moog (yellow forest mushroom) are our popular mushrooms, others we don't eat


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:23 AM
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re: 59

In Scotland they get around it by having dense populations and relatively mild weather. I lived about 2 miles from my school. Most of the kids in my area walked to school. The only people who were taken by bus were kids who lived in the outlying 'mining' villages, and places like that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:23 AM
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They ate mushrooms in Finland, which culinarily is somewhere between Norden and Russia.

Swedish peasants wouldn't eat shellfish either, or any fishes that looked ugly or weird.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:24 AM
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re: 61

Why do you say that berries aren't fruit?

All the 'fruit' you list are tropical fruit. If you are defining fruit as tropical fruit then of course no fruit grows in Northern Europe. But it's tautological.

Pears grow in Scotland.*

* basically f'cking everything except tropical fruit grows in Scotland. That's what having the Gulf stream does for you.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:26 AM
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In Russian they're not.

I confess that when I think about fruit, I forget that Northern Europe is not Minnesota. Here we only grow apples, some berries, and maybe plums though I very rarely see them. "America's Siberia"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:31 AM
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Nordic people don't count berries as fruit. We also use 1066 as the starting date for the middle ages.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:31 AM
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65: Did you know there are peach varieties that will grow in the upper midwest? I would not have believed it until I saw pictures of the trees in Wisconsin.

I have to assume, based on general knowledge, that the main criterion for what to grow as a pre-industrial European peasant was not weather per se, but calories created per calories expended. Hence, the potato. (As soon as it was introduced.) It would be interesting to try to figure out what percentage of pre-industrial peasant diets were based on foraging rather than farming. Like gathering wild greens, or mushrooms or herbs.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:34 AM
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Berries are fruit.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:35 AM
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Solyanka
mushrooms


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:36 AM
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I don't think we had any actually tasty non-berry fruits back in the old days, though maybe they liked them back then. Even today Nordic apples are relatively bitter.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:37 AM
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58: Hm, I know the kind of 'sloppy noodle' dishes you mean. The chunk of meat/fish dishes with a giant helping of some potato side aren't much for keeping you awake in the afternoons, either. But the German university cafeterias I've been to always have a stew option, too. Big bowl of lentil soup with mint for €2? Yes please!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:37 AM
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Since 1066 the Nordic people have been going downhill. If Harold Hardrada had become King of England, everything would be much better today.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:39 AM
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So the Elders of Zion would have you believe. And pork is unclean. Sure.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:40 AM
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A Chinese student of mine spent a year or two in Germany, and he liked the food generally, but couldn't accept potatoes as "a substitute for rice".

Potatoes produce more calories per acre, and probably per unit of work, than anything. According to Needham, the arrival of potatoes and yams made possible a doubling or tripling of the Chinese population over a century or two,above all as a backup when the rice crop failed. Perhaps for that reason, people in Taiwan, anyway, thought of potatoes as poverty food. There's some of that sentiment in the US too, often connected to anti-Irish prejudice.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:44 AM
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I understated the Swedish peasants loathing of mushrooms. Starving to death was a popular pasttime at the time, and apart from barkbread you'd eat grass and leaves, earth, anything but mushrooms.

People in Britain or most of Germany didn't eat mushrooms either. The Slavs did, and French cooking popuöarized in noble homes all over Western Europe.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:52 AM
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I've never liked potatoes much, and was brought up to think it was really healthy, which it isn't at all, we now know.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:54 AM
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I don't know if this already got linked here, but on the topic of school lunches, Sybil Vane over at Dr. B's has commentary on an awful story (italics are Sybil):

Faced with mounting unpaid lunch charges, Albuquerque Public Schools last month instituted a "cheese sandwich policy," serving a cold cheese sandwich, fruit and a milk carton to children whose parents are supposed to pay for some or all of their regular meals but fail to pick up the tab.
Such policies have become a necessity for schools seeking to keep budgets in the black while ensuring children don't go hungry. School districts in Chula Vista, Calif.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; and Lynnwood, Wash. have similar policies.


"have become a necessity" is a telling rhetorical choice; always be suspicious of passive voice of formulations that absent the agent in sentences about policy decisions. We are to believe there are no other ways to make up budget shortfall than to single out poor children in the most storied location of school-aged social hierarchies - the lunchroom?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:00 PM
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To tie it back to the post, it's a little absurd to think that groggy, rushed teenagers are going to be making great food choices when lunchtime rolls around at 10:45.

This is very true. When I was a junior, our school switched to "tracks" to deal with overcrowding. If you were an AP student or an athlete, you had to be on the early track. So, school started at 6:55 and let out at 1:15. There was no lunch for us. There was a break, around 10:30 or so. You had about 10 minutes to get something if you wanted it and there were generally very long lines at the snack carts/cafeteria thing. Generally, I skipped eating then, but if I did, it was always something awesomely unhealthy (bagel with a huge amount of cream cheese, for example). By the time 1:15 rolled around, we were starving and would head straight to whatever fast food or restaurant was closest and eat way too much. It should be of no surprise to anyone that since this also corresponded with no more PE and driving back and forth to school, I immediately gained about 20 pounds, if not a bit more, over the course of the years. I was probably the only person who lost weight the freshman year of college, rather than putting on the freshman 15.

So, I suppose what I want to say is that I think fucking with schedules and cutting PE makes just as much a difference in student's healthiness/weight as does the school lunches available to them and it should be considered as a package deal.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:13 PM
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And, an addendum: It's probably obvious, but I also wasn't eating anything in the morning, because, I was already up around 5:45 and eating breakfast would have added on much more time to the morning ritual. I know that this was the norm among my peers. Also, I'm someone who did in fact "know better" about what to eat and how to eat, and was eating very healthily at home - but the school schedule really overrode a lot of my good sense on that. (Well, that and that I'm always weak in the face of fat).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:20 PM
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61: Berries grow in Maine which is not known for its pleasant weather, and you can get local peaches in New England in the summer, cherries as far north as BC, etc. Pears grow in PA. You don't get tropical fruits, and you have to do things like make preserves or freeze a lot if you want to eat locally year-round*, but the biggest problem isn't that stuff doesn't grow, it's that the growing season for fun stuff isn't when the kids are in school.

Is there a good reason for a hot entree requirement, as opposed to a large and filling meal requirement?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:30 PM
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I was probably the only person who lost weight the freshman year of college, rather than putting on the freshman 15.

My understanding was that the "freshman 15" refers either to a gain or a loss. I certainly lost about 15 pounds---cooking incompetence meeting a latent eating disorder---and I don't think it's entirely uncommon.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:36 PM
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82: Oh, I'd never heard that formulation; at my college where the dining halls were plentiful and actually decent and all freshman/sophomores lived on campus and had meal plans, it was about gain. And yes, of course I was being far too facile.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:39 PM
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81: Is there a good reason for a hot entree requirement, as opposed to a large and filling meal requirement?

That is what I have been thinking the whole thread as well. Also see Blume's suggestion of bread and cheese. And also agree with her that if you do want something hot, soups are a good relatively easy way to go plus they lend themselves to pre-preparation in large quantities and relatively easy transport and storage.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:40 PM
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77: Except that this week lots of potassium is good for you and potatoes have a great deal of it.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:41 PM
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BC is tropical. "Lotusland" Screw those bastards.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:43 PM
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I don't think Blume recommended bread and cheese, which would be pretty unhealthy, she was describing german schools.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:46 PM
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Wiki says: "The USDA lists tomato paste, orange juice, beet greens, white beans, bananas, and many other good dietary sources of potassium, ranked according to potassium content per measure shown." They're all better for you than potatoes.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:48 PM
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87: I'll let her say, I read her as saying that would be fine supplemented with a vegetable. And I agree. And unhealthy? I know I am a culinary barbarian by the standards of the blog, by Jesus Fucking Christ, there is nothing intrinsically unhealthy about those as staples of a motherfucking lunch.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 12:56 PM
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76: I first heard of "barkbread" when I heard Sibelius's 4th Symphony which was described as the Barkbread Symphony. And it was rather stark, It is harmonically adventurous; full of dissonance and uncertainty of key because of the pervasive influence of the tritone, a chord long held to be 'The Devil in Music'. Remarkably he came to England to conduct its première at the 1911 Birmingham Music Festival, to the great dismay of most of his audience.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:01 PM
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Bread and cheese wouldn't be terribly unhealthy if we were talking about good bread (Fitnessbrot!) and tasty whole-milk cheese, accompanied by, say, an apple on the side. I eat that for lunch pretty regularly. But that same meal with crappy ingredients = poor people's food, as Sybil's post points out.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:02 PM
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The devil tritone took over classical music about 1890-1900. Sibelius was not the only one.

My son loved and still loves mac and cheese, and he's right!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:05 PM
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But yeah, I was describing what German schoolkids eat for lunch. (With a thick layer of butter!) I can't imagine that going over well as the suggestion for the new national school lunch plan. Even if, as Stormcrow says, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:06 PM
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Right, sorry. But I don't think Amercan kids would appreciate bread that wasn't at least 90% wheat, they're not accustomed to it. And that would be unhealthy to eat every weekday, even if it would be good quality bread.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:08 PM
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Now I'm really curious about the hot food requirement. It makes less sense the more I think about it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:08 PM
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Why wouldn't you eat hot meals? The OP seems to say it's not money's that's the problem.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:11 PM
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94: You know, I'm not sure about this. It's not good *diet* food, but we're not putting kids on diets (and they're not adults), and if the bread is fresh, and they're eating a normal portion size, what's wrong with it?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:11 PM
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Yeah, I'm talking about that bread that's basically seeds and whole grains glued together by a teeny bit of flour and water. That stuff that comes in a brick.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:12 PM
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OK, sorry to be so hot about it. And there is a wide variation of course with grilled white bread/velveeta sandwiches at one end of the spectrum. I was imagining something like a small baguette, cheese, vegetable (maybe in a soup) and a fruit. Strikes me as healthier than what most school kids eat.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:13 PM
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96: Because given that most schools don't have kitchens, a hot meal is almost assuredly nasty because they're trying to do things like keep burgers warm in warming trays. Better a hearty sandwich than a slimy steamed burger. And no need to worry about whether it can be reheated or prepared on site if it's not an item meant to be hot.

If school lunch comprised options of soups (travel well) or chilis or stews, baked noodley dishs (ziti, lasagna, also travel well), with a bunch of sandwich and raw fruit and veggie options, that doesn't sound bad.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:15 PM
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Wheat just isn't very healthy, unless everything I know is wrong. High GI, no fibers. Spelt's better, granted, but rye and barley's way better.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:16 PM
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"Because given that most schools don't have kitchens"

The OP says you should give them kitchens, and the op ed woman implies it's not a money issue. Though I don't know if that's true.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:19 PM
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High GI, no fibers.

Still better than the french fries and tater tots, GI-wise.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:20 PM
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Oh, certainly, but it's still far from ideal.

Is that normal US school cafeteria food?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:23 PM
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102: Without the kitchens, she's doubling the food budget. Perhaps it isn't a money issue, but I'd have to be convinced. If cooking can be done on site, hot food is excellent.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:24 PM
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or Mountain Dew, Ho-hos and swedish fish.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:24 PM
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Everything most people know is wrong. Don't wallow in self-piity, Weman.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:24 PM
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A Chinese student of mine spent a year or two in Germany, and he liked the food generally, but couldn't accept potatoes as "a substitute for rice".

Potatoes produce more calories per acre, and probably per unit of work, than anything. According to Needham, the arrival of potatoes and yams made possible a doubling or tripling of the Chinese population over a century or two,above all as a backup when the rice crop failed.

Yes, I remember someone telling me that during the Cultural Revolution, his family was relocalized and given a ration of all sweet potatoes and no rice. They were sure they would die of starvation. It was a great surprise when instead they turned out to flourish exceedingly. They live in the US now, but this guy said that they all still hold the sweet potato in very high esteem.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:26 PM
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106 -> 103, though it works to 105 for some people.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:27 PM
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To me, just cooking from scratch in a labor-intensive way with local cooks paid local wages would be about as good as it could get. That would just be ripping out all of the neoliberal efficiency-expert fake rationality that's been imposed in the last half-century or so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:32 PM
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If school lunch comprised options of soups (travel well) or chilis or stews, baked noodley dishs (ziti, lasagna, also travel well), with a bunch of sandwich and raw fruit and veggie options, that doesn't sound bad.

One of the things to keep in mind is that not all schools on the West Coast actually have sit-down cafeterias. We ate outside, rain or shine (the teachers would sometimes open up classrooms) in both high school and junior high. It's really hard to eat soup when it's balanced on your knees and you don't have a table. So, sandwiches are good things!

And yes, I think this it is dumb not to have a cafeteria that can fit the school's population, but there you have it. We had one sit down place that fit maybe 300 out of a 3,000 student school.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:32 PM
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I'm torn on all of this, because for many poor kids, this is their one good meal of the day, so make it healthy (and most sad are stories of kids splitting up their burgers to eat the meat for lunch and the buns for dinner). I was not that poor growing up, but I did eat free lunches from elementary to middle school. For some reason, they didn't provide lunch at high school, so I had to bring it (also healthier choice, as Cala says). But I remember those lunches being terrible tasting and unhealthy to boot--canned vegetables (which I would never eat), and oily pizza and refried bean burritos. Oily sloppy joes day was a good day! And yet I was still told by mom to bring home whatever I didn't eat. I don't know how to fix the system, honestly, or how much it would cost. I have a friend who's an assistant principal, and her school gets money based on how many poor kids she has attending. They also get subsidized for providing food, but they have to go through certain suppliers, and they have to make it as cheap as possible. Honestly, I don't know if there's a way to provide more fruit and vegetables in a mass way that is tasty and healthy (and not canned!), especially considering all the constraints schools and districts are bound by.


Posted by: belle lettre | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:39 PM
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111 gets it exactly right. We never ate inside. Probably explains why my high school didn't serve food.


Posted by: belle lettre | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:41 PM
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111: Good point.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 1:43 PM
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Bread and cheese wouldn't be terribly unhealthy if we were talking about good bread (Fitnessbrot!) and tasty whole-milk cheese, accompanied by, say, an apple on the side. I eat that for lunch pretty regularly. But that same meal with crappy ingredients = poor people's food, as Sybil's post points out.

Ploughman's lunch!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:01 PM
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||

I never noticed it on the old days, but domestic cats patrol the neighborhood here down to zero at least. I've never thought of them as hardy. I don't think that they can live outside entirely here, but they're defintiely happy to go out.

They have definite routes and make cat highways in the snow.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:11 PM
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Almost anything furry manages outdoors to quite cold, doesn't it? I bet a feral cat could make it through a Minnesota winter. Maybe not without any shelter, but without heat, sure.

In other news, it's apparently mating season. I went for a run and nearly tripped over a pair of squirrels engaged in vigorous coitus in the middle of the footpath. Jesus, guys, you're in a several-hundred acre park that's mostly wooded -- try preserving a little mystery around your mating habits.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:16 PM
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Does being feral give the cat extra strength, or something?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:26 PM
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I did find one frozen feral cat last year. It was half-grown, though. People here do feed the wild felines.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:31 PM
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117.2: I am now hearing the Chipmunks singing "Let's do it in the road" in my mind's ear. I don't blaming you for this, exactly, but...


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:36 PM
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s/blaming/blame/


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:37 PM
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118: No, just that only a feral cat would have occasion to spend the winter outdoors. A cat that wasn't feral would have a heated house to shelter in.

But seriously, there are rabbits in Minnesota, right? What about a rabbit would make it able to survive cold a cat couldn't?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:39 PM
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I'm trying to fathom Weman's jihad against potatoes and (wheat) bread. A potato with milk poured over it is more or less nutritionally complete, and comprised 95% of an Irish peasant's diet 1600-1840. Obviously, Irish peasants of that era weren't exactly sterling specimens, but nor were they staggeringly unhealthy.

More significantly, modern Americans consume more wheat bread and potatoes (and refined-wheat pasta) than any other form of carbs; they don't seem to be wasting away. And since the premise of the OP is that more fresh fruit/veg should be in meals, I don't see a problem at all.

Shorter This Comment: If American schoolchildren ate a chunk of 20% whole wheat bread, a chunk of non-process cheese, and some form of fresh fruit/veg every day, that would represent a vast improvement over their current diets.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:41 PM
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Back to the school lunch discussion; if one route to healthier school lunches involves hiring more, and more skilled, cooks in the schools, I'm with Emerson that creating skilled (or at least not precisely skill-free) jobs is a plus in itself.

I know money's an issue, but we're not poorer than France. This sort of thing is doable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:43 PM
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What about a rabbit would make it able to survive cold a cat couldn't?

They turn into ducks and fly south.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:44 PM
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What about a rabbit would make it able to survive cold a cat couldn't?

They're too stupid to freeze.

Also, they have rabbit holes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:44 PM
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I'm glad Ben and I are being equally helpful.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:45 PM
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I like W-lfs-n's answer better.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:45 PM
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Welcome to the rabbit hole.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:51 PM
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You're linking to furry porn now?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:53 PM
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More generally, I'm hearing a lot of "just give them pasta casserole and soup - those reheat great." Aside from boredom and seasonality (yum! Stew in August!), there's only so often you can give kids these things. Part of Waters' premise - and I think that, regardless of the rightness of her prescription, she's right about this - is that, if you want kids to eat healthy, they have to like it. And giving them lasagna or soup every day for 9 months/12 years isn't a recipe for that.

I agree that Waters puts too much emphasis on fresh/local/organic (although fresh, good fruit covers a lot of sins), I agree with the idea that, unless you have some sort of cooking capacity in the schools, you can't reach your goal. Think of it this way: weddings at nice hotels tend to serve reheated food, and it tends to suck. I've known lots of people (not foodies) who literally don't eat at weddings, because they don't think it's worth it to choke down rubber chicken. How are schools going to exceed that quality when the food is trucked in and microwaved onsite?

And John is right - the underlying requirements for this (better-trained, better-paid staff) are things that are good on their own.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 2:58 PM
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Also:

Let's spend an amount equivalent to the entire budget of the NIH on really expensive school lunches!

Yes, what could be more wasteful than ensuring that schoolchildren are healthy and attentive? We're trying to create worker bees, not free citizens, after all.

Christ.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:00 PM
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More significantly, modern Americans consume more wheat bread and potatoes (and refined-wheat pasta) than any other form of carbs; they don't seem to be wasting away.

Yes, but we're bombing the shit out of places for no justifiable reason, to say nothing of torture.

Wheat + potatoes: American imperialism :: Wagner: The Holocaust.

Others say that the German noun declensions caused The Holocaust. Equifinality and overdetermination, obvs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:02 PM
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I don't really think that you'd need better-trained cooks. In many or most cases, you'd just need to let the existing cooks do what they do best. There've been a bunch of times that I've heard institutional and restaurant cooks complaining about the cost-cutting and "modernization" that was imposed on them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:07 PM
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Modern Americans do not eat well.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:07 PM
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Someone who spent a year in Norway was asking what they do with their fat people, because you never see them. In Taiwan fat people were very rare, and were thought of somewhat as we think of hopeless alcoholics. There was a sort of stereotype that they were all the spoiled, worthless sons of rich fathers.

Chinese society is food obsessed, but they really despise gluttons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:11 PM
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Helping feral cats survive winters. (No pr0n involved.)

Sifu is actually right in 126; burrows make a big difference.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:14 PM
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Sifu is actually right in 126

Had to happen sometime.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:15 PM
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Rabbit's don't hibernate, though (except for snowshoe hares) they become less active. I'm pretty sure that they store fat in good weather, though.

The smaller a creature is the harder it is to retain heat, and I've always wondered about the tiny birds around here. I researched chickadees on the net, and as I remember they do have some pretty impressive adaptations to cold.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:23 PM
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Cats manage to find shelter, nonetheless.

Also, skunks, porcupines, and other smallish furry beasties.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:30 PM
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kyuushoku


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:32 PM
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131: Of course, we have the boredom problem now. The lunch menu at my elementary school was surprisingly regular: sloppy joe day, pizza day, spaghetti day, etc. A variety of pastas and soups is still repetitive, but might be more healthy depending on how it is prepared. So I'm seeing the tradeoff as healthy-boredom vs. unhealthy boredom.

I really like the idea of the edible schoolyard and cooking on site, and I think it's best, but I'm really worried it doesn't scale well (perhaps it's overdramatized, but the #1 problem with this and, say, Oliver's approach is that they end up overbudget very quickly.) How much would it cost to renovate an elementary school to put in a kitchen?

Far more annoying to me are the sodas and packaged snacks being sold as "lunch." Pump the kids full of sugar and then wonder why they can't sit still...


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:50 PM
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140: the smaller mammals, like skunks and porcupines, tend to dig burrows (or build nests, like squirrels), though, which make their bad surface/volume ratio less of a problem. I have a vague memory that the wild ancestors/cousins of domestic cats are somewhat bigger, and will dig as well, but that we mostly bred it out of them.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:55 PM
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The digging I'm not sure about, but there are wildcats in Scotland, which is pretty far north, that are (I think) ancestral to domestic cats or at least pretty close cousins, and aren't significantly bigger. Admittedly, Scotland is warm enough that the locals never invented pants, so who can tell.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 3:57 PM
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I will never learn to google before, rather than after, I spout off. According to the Daily Mail, Scottish wildcats are half again as big as a domestic cat. And cute as anything, although probably dangerous to pet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:00 PM
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In the wilds maybe cats would have problems. In a quasi built environment, they find nests and burrows.


Posted by: Tj | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:02 PM
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I am warming to the idea of bands of cats evicting rabbits from their burrows in the winter.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:03 PM
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147: driving the rabbits into the waiting arms of school cooks.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:15 PM
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Marching one problem through another!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:19 PM
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There are lynxes and bobcats in arctic or at least subarctic regions, but they're both heavier and chunkier than house cats.

It's funny, but I once knew the answer to the chickadee question, but I forgot it and it's bugging me again. They're amazing birds though. IIRC, Minnesota is too warm for some of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:19 PM
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A healthy lunch can be incredibly cheap, as Read sort of showed. A Taiwan family I briefly stayed with had lunches at home that consisted of rice, tofu, a thin broth, and boiled greens. They were well off.

Chinese restaurant food is like having Christmas every day. Everyday food in Taiwan is recognizably Chinese, but very frugal.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:24 PM
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Here's a link that describes chickadees overwintering. One of the tricks mentioned is that it drops its body temperature significantly each night in something of a min-hibernation. They, and other birds, also can make their bodies nearly spherical. Finally, for most birds, the arteries and veins going to the legs pass right along side of each other, thus the blood is cooled going to the legs and re-heated coming back, this makes a smaller differential temperature differential with he outside air while it is in the legs leading to lower temperature loss.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:31 PM
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150.1: I know bobcats have burrows and I think lynxes do too, though I'm not sure. Snow leopards have dens in rocks and caves, which they are supposed to line with their own fur for the benefit of their kittens.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:34 PM
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Bobcats and lynxes are almost exactly the same animal, except that the lynx has some adaptations for snow -- bigger, furrier feet, a thicker coat, and so on. And their ranges overlap -- you get bobcats in snowy areas where you also get lynx.

I once saw this incredibly funny nature show with a bobcat trying to fight with a lynx in deep snow. The lynx was standing easily on the surface of the snow, and the bobcat kept on falling through and floundering. I never saw an animal look so frustrated (or another animal look so superciliously amused) in my life.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:38 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:39 PM
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Is that you, ToS? What's with the standard spelling?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:42 PM
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156: He has shown up a few times recently at Bérubé's place with more, um, conventionally written comments, most notably a five paragraph response to a post on diversity and bias in academia (comment #25 to this post).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:54 PM
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145: That is cuteness overlord. My gawd.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:58 PM
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158: Um, I meant overload. But they could be my cat's overlords.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 4:58 PM
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||

The Olympic curling trials are on right now. Live. Universal Sports.

|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:05 PM
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154: And their ranges overlap -- you get bobcats in snowy areas where you also get lynx.

It looks to be a complicated dynamic, however.

Bobcats closely resemble lynx, though they tend to be shorter legged and more reddish than gray. Most importantly, they lack the huge feet of the lynx, which means that they cannot move efficiently over snow. But bobcats, much more aggressive than lynx, tend to drive their big-footed relatives away from habitat where the two meet.
Bobcats and lynx do not overlap in most of their range (see map). Why they do not is clearly demonstrated in Maine. In the early 1900s, when wolves were wiped out in the state, bobcats moved in, fed on the large deer population and pushed lynx northward. In the 1930s and 1940s, says biologist Bill Krohn, bobcat numbers burgeoned in northern Maine. But during the spruce budworm outbreak in the 1980s, when trees died off and large areas were clear-cut, deer numbers dropped. In areas with deep snow, bobcats could not find sufficient food in winter and could not compete against lynx for snowshoe hares. Bobcat range ebbed southward, and the lynx again took over much of northern Maine.

And further north, lynx and snowshoe hare have a famous boom/bust predator-prey relationship.

Here in P'burgh we are right on the line where John's Black-capped Chickadees are replaced over a narrow band by Carolina Chickadees. They are nearly indistinguishable (most reliably by song) and sometimes interbreed (as do lynx and bobcats) leading to anxiety among novice birders (i.e. my daughter and me). But to my knowledge no critical adaptational difference has been identified.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:16 PM
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Wheat + potatoes: American imperialism :: Wagner: The Holocaust

Wagner made the tritone a big deal, via the Tristan chord, before Sibelius was even born. It's all beginning to make sense now.

There's not much fat on Sibelius' last three symphonies, but taken together they may be the greatest three symphonies ever.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:23 PM
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They, and other birds, also can make their bodies nearly spherical.

"Assume a spherical cow...."

So they just assumed the wrong species.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:26 PM
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I hate to say it, but the idea that we should have warm, organic lunches is pure SWPL. As Adam pointed out way back in 14, clearly organic lunch is more important than health research.

Count me in the "What's wrong with a cold sandwich/bread and hunk of cheese with some veggies" camp. More accurately, count me in the "what's wrong with bringing your own" camp, unless you're making the argument that this is a particularly cheap and effective form of welfare. I'd be sympathetic to that argument.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:26 PM
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They, and other birds, also can make their bodies nearly spherical.

Imagine a perfectly spherical songbird...


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:27 PM
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I, for one, welcome our new/old feline overlords.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:28 PM
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More accurately, count me in the "what's wrong with bringing your own" camp

That works perfectly well for the middle-class kids from stable households; not so well for a lot of others....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:30 PM
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There's not much fat on Sibelius' last three symphonies, but taken together they may be the greatest three symphonies ever.

I still want to have a few Belgian beers with you when I get to Portland, but.... but.... but.... I'm still processing the Sibelius comment..... *sob*

A Wisconsin-Minnesota mongrel team is trying to steal the Olympic berth from its rightful Minnesota owners.

My Canadian brother will probably be watching and second-guessing everyone. He's really gone native up there. I hope my niece stays away from the bears.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:32 PM
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Minnesota is generally too warm for these, though the hardier ones sometimes stop by.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:34 PM
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That works perfectly well for the middle-class kids from stable households; not so well for a lot of others...

My son had a friend who literally had no food in the house. He had a route of friends' houses that he stopped by from time to time, without burning anyone out.

He was the tallest and strongest kid in the class, so maybe a bit of hunger is good for you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:38 PM
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unless you're making the argument that this is a particularly cheap and effective form of welfare

This is in fact the origin of school lunches, as far as I know.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:48 PM
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166: Works for lower-class stable households as well. It's cheaper for us to pack lunches for our daughters than to buy lunch tickets, and they eat better. I need to shop around for lunch boxes with compartments, so they're not locked into the sandwich routine all the time.

I'm still processing the Sibelius comment..... *sob*

Maybe you'll appreciate Sibelius when you're older, John. Beethoven would have wept over the genius of the Seventh. Here's some gateway Sibelius for n00bs: the finale of the Fifth, with Essa-Pekka Salonen conducting. So great.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 5:49 PM
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So, we're all agreed: hire some bobcats to be the new lunch ladies, and feed the kids chickadee sandwiches with a chaser of Sibelius.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:01 PM
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Further to 172.1: Found one! That looks like exactly what I had in mind.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:02 PM
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hire some bobcats cougars to be the new lunch ladies

Hijinks ensue!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:03 PM
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and feed the kids chickadee sandwiches braised swan of Tuonela with a chaser of Sibelius


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:04 PM
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What I find most impressive about Sibelius is his decades-long dominance of F1 racing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:04 PM
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Unless you're making the argument that this is a particularly cheap and effective form of welfare

American politics has been distorted forever by the hatred of welfare and various twisted attempts to pretend that welfare isn't welfare. Social Security and unemployment compensations were specifically tweaked to tie welfare to previous earnings and to ensure that as few black Americans as possible got benefits.

The Lundeen Bill, introduced by Minnesota's Communist-Nazi liberal Senator Lundeen*, was written to be colorblind and to help everyone who needed help, but it didn't have a chance.

*Lundeen would have been Jonah Goldberg's poster child if Goldberg had a brain in his head. "Communist-Nazi" is not just a joke; he was accuse dof both at different stages of his career.

America is just fucked, you know? It goes a long ways back.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:04 PM
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172.3: Subject for further discussion.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:06 PM
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And Tapiola pudding!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:07 PM
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But yes, the whole point of having a nutritious meal available at school is that there are some kids not getting fed properly at home -- the origin (IIRC) is a reaction to the discovery in the WWI draft that some ridiculous percentage of prospective draftees were malnourished.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:10 PM
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174: I was gonna say, sounds like the Mr./Ms. Bento is exactly what you want.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:11 PM
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182: That looks good, too. Off to the local Japanese super-mart to comparison shop.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:17 PM
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Sibelius gives good monument too. The figurative element was an unfortunate addition requested by the committee which selected the winning design. Reminiscent of what ultimately happened with the Vietnam War Memorial.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:24 PM
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More accurately, count me in the "what's wrong with bringing your own" camp, unless you're making the argument that this is a particularly cheap and effective form of welfare.

I think this is the basic idea. For a nontrivial number of kids, school lunch is a significant (if not only) meal. Nowadays, while there's still a need for basic calories (sloppy joes and nasty pizza), part of the problem is getting the kids proper nutrition (which sloppy joes and nasty pizza don't accomplish.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:26 PM
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This is not a happy lynx. And I don't know why it's in this person's house.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:35 PM
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American politics has been distorted forever by the hatred of welfare and various twisted attempts to pretend that welfare isn't welfare. Social Security and unemployment compensations were specifically tweaked to tie welfare to previous earnings and to ensure that as few black Americans as possible got benefits.

The stunning thing to me is how many people will admit outright that this is their motivation. Holy smokes, folks, can you muster no shame?

I know I've talked here before about the advocacy effort in LA 10-15 years ago to try to get the government to substitute something else on the dairy (especially milk) in free lunches. The kids in the district (it might even have been New Orleans) were mostly black and/or Hispanic, and the argument was that milk was NOT a healthy food for lactose-intolerant people.

My memory is cloudy, but I believe the counter-argument was But we get it at a discount, with a strong undertone of Truly moral people would be able to digest milk.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:41 PM
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for the dairy, not on.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:42 PM
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186: aah! While I may wish that everybody who owned an exotic pet would suffer the indignity of being mauled by it, that video reaffirms that I wouldn't want to see it happening.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:42 PM
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I had a fantasy when I moved to NYC that I would make extra money by running a bento subscription service. I never got my act together, but it would have been cool. See, every customer would enter the service by giving me money to buy them a bento box/jar. I'd make delicious beautiful lunches and pack them. They'd bring me the washed jar at the end of the day, and the next morning, they'd pick it up full of food for the day. And they'd pay, like, weekly.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:43 PM
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In all honesty, regardless of what you think about Communism, the United States would be a better place today if American Communists had been more successful during the Thirties.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:44 PM
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189: Yeah, I love how like half the comments on that video are all "OMG, I want one! How do I get one!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:45 PM
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I've mentioned my snow leopard problem before, haven't I? If I worked at a zoo, I'd be dead meat -- one day, probably in my first few months there, I'd be unable to resist sneaking in and petting the big kitties. And then they'd eat me. I know it's not rational, but I look at a snow leopard, and it just looks like something I want to play with.

(Oddly, tropical big cats don't have this effect. Lions, leopards, tigers -- they're beautiful, but I have no desire to be on the other side of the bars. But lynxes and snow leopards I have a problem with.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:54 PM
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If you only felt that way about bears, Liz. It was downright easy for Timothy Treadwell to fulfill his heart's desire-- though in point of fact he and his gf were only partly eaten. But snow leopards are just too rare.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:57 PM
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193: see, I watch that video, and I think "Aah! This is an animal that I should keep well clear of. Fair enough!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:58 PM
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I hate to say it, but the idea that we should have warm, organic lunches is pure SWPL.

Organic lunches cooked on-site with locally grown food = pure SWPL, I agree. But school lunches (and breakfasts) are a very good idea (I guess it's a form of "welfare," but I think that's okay).

I think the goal should be to make the food healthier, but not too health-foodier. Eliminate the pure junk (soft drinks, Twinkies, chocolate bars, etc ... which I think a lot of school districts have already done), offer milk instead of fruit drinks, fruit and fruit salad for dessert and etc, but also stick with some of the kid-friendly basics that children will actually eat (pasta, eg, is cheap and filling, and it does offer nutritional value, and most kids will happily eat it). Sloppy joes and pizza are not great, but...I think it's not a bad idea to serve something like that one day out of five, because I think it would make kids more open to the healthier stuff on the other four days of the week.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:59 PM
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Yeah, I look at it and think, "Well, golly, of course you're upset. No one's scratching under your chin." On the veldt, I would have got et.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:59 PM
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Don't watch this, LB. It could be fatal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 6:59 PM
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Just read Witt's 187 (on dairy substitutes). So maybe milk instead of fruit drinks is not such a great idea? What is a good substitute? I think most fruit drinks are bad news: full of corn syrup and empty calories.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:02 PM
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198: That cat seems drugged.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:04 PM
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They do have the capacity to charm you. (Young bobcats in this one.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:05 PM
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The thing about the SWPLiness, is that if you're going to make healthy food appealing, you need to get at least a little SWPLly. Like, fruit. Mealy Red Delicious apples are foul. Eating one of those things is a penalty. Eating a reasonably fresh local apple is a pleasure. It may sound precious worrying about that sort of thing, but it's the difference between what will get eaten, and what will get tossed into the trash.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:07 PM
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Snow leopards are completely harmless unless they're hungry or have been disturbed. They won't just kill you for no good reason, and if a snow leopard could talk, he'd tell you his reasons.

But you wouldn't understand him. You'd think "I don't know what that guy's trying to say, but he seems to be terribly upset about something."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:09 PM
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Maybe I just feel humorless because I got to spend the last 48 hours cooking delicious, nutritious food for guests I love, but the issue I see here is not whether we can afford to put new kitchens in thousands of schools or whether organic locally grown food has to be the gold standard for kids' lunches.

The issue how horribly far many children are from a gold standard now. Here's firsthand report:

The burgers and assorted side almost always arrive warm or cold, never fresh. Our school has no kitchen. Our lunches are provided by a local high school, so a representative is sent over to pick them all up. By the time he arrives back with the lunches, most of them are not hot anymore.
It has even been found that sometimes burgers were green, or not fully cooked, or that the bun was moldy. Complaints to the school of origin got us nowhere. Even when a call was placed to school dietician for the school district, she assured us that the lunches were healthy and beneficial to our students. Yeah, what lunch are her kids eating?
I'm still waiting to receive the nutritional fact sheet about the lunch. Burgers and fries everyday? Healthy? And French fries are considered the vegetable side dish? It's unbelievable. And 75% of my students are African American and many of them are lactose-intolerant, yet they are given milk everyday. The juice says on the box that it is only 5% real juice, and the rest is sugar and artificial colors and flavors.

If a kooky and slightly wrongheaded op-ed from a foodie can get people talking about this issue, it's not out of the question that some benefits could trickle down, a decade or two hence.*

*I'm weirdly optimistic about this because of a couple of recent personal experiences of matter-of-fact environmentalism that I literally cannot imagine having occurred in the this state in the 1980s, and a firsthand report of Biden's big roll-out yesterday of the federal Green Jobs initiative. (Related to me as an astonishingly substantive, with clear momentum and a careful game plan.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:10 PM
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When I was eight, I spent the night with a litter of bobcat kittens in my room while we visited a friend of my mom's who breeds them. Let me just say: bobcat kittens might act like they're just going to curl up with you and sleep and be adorable, but then, they wake you up several times during the night by ripping off your skin.

Less fun than it sounds!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:12 PM
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The key to befriending large cats is keeping them satiated. Before scratching their chins, fill them up by feeding them someone else.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:18 PM
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AWB, you're more than welcome to make me a bento every day. I hate making lunch, but I love things that go in cute containers.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 7:32 PM
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This is reminding me that during my junior-high years, lunch usually consisted of the $0.50 soft-serve chocolate maybe-marginally-dairy dessert, served in a styrofoam cup. If I raced from the class before lunch and got to the cafeteria early, it would still have a soft-serve frozen consistency, rather then the soupy consistency it developed later in the hour. Occasionally I would buy the $1.50 "chicken patties" from the a la carte side of the food service; I never bought the full lunch. In high school there was no option as appealing as either the chicken patty or the soft-serve, so on the 4 days out of 5 I forgot to pack a lunch, I just didn't eat.

This habit was the result of a mix of pathological unwillingness to ask my parents for money, incipient habits of self-denial, and the fact that none of the food was very good. It also probably goes some ways to explaining why the Red Cross told me I was to skinny to donate blood my first couple of years of college.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:01 PM
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I do think an emphasis on urban farming/student-produced food would be positive too.

For once, tinycanuckville comes through.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:12 PM
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In high school, my lunches consisted of a can of soda and a candy bar. That is, when I spent my lunch money on food instead of saving up for a nickel bag.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:12 PM
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well, my lunch consisted of one slice of day-old bread, and I sold it to buy heroin.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:14 PM
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Not only did I get no lunch in high school, I'd vomit up my breakfast and sell it to pay for adrenochrome.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:22 PM
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Occasionally I would buy the $1.50 "chicken patties" from the a la carte side of the food service;

My high school cafeteria served those chicken patties, along with soggy chips smothered in fake gravy. If you didn't want gravy, you had to speak up quickly, before the lunch lady poured it all over your fries.

I almost always brought my lunch to school, and I actually (and in retrospect, quite ridiculously) envied those who had the money to buy the awful lunch. However, once I started babysitting, I did have the pocket money to sometimes buy a Vachon cake for dessert. My favourite was the caramel: a vanilla sponge cake with liquid caramel goo in the centre, all covered in a faux chocolate shell. Totally disgusting, but I thought it was quite delicious at the time.

The stuff described in 204 is horrible, and no question more money should be devoted to supplying much higher quality food. I guess my problem with some of the foodie proposals is that they have an ideal of what everyone should be eating everyday at home in the first place, and then want to produce that wholesome, home-cooked ideal at the institutional level. I just don't think that's realistic, frankly, though I do think it's possible and do-able and worthy of doing to make some real improvements in taste and nutrition.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:26 PM
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"Cow cake"? It sounds totally tasty to me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:30 PM
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The Vachon caramel cake (they call it "Ah Caramel!" but we just called it "the caramel").


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:35 PM
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So it's Francophone Twinky.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 8:55 PM
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203: Actually, I think that there are no recorded attacks of human beings by snow leopards (and plenty the other way around...). So, LB, you might've survived on the veldt after all, provided that by "veldt" you meant "the mountains of central Asia".


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:00 PM
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Are snow leopards sexually responsive, in your experience?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:03 PM
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196 is reasonable. My biggest objection to the whole thing is basically "Why isn't good enough, you know, good enough?" I realize the current food is awful (and is therefore not good enough), and can certainly be improved, but the solution is not to provide gourmet meals in schools. There seems to be a bit of the fallacy of the excluded middle going on here.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:03 PM
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A proper school lunch program would teach children how to pair wine and food to advantage.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:12 PM
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So it's Francophone Twinky.

Pretty much, yeah. In fact, I think Vachon now distribute (or perhaps make and distribute their own licensed version of?) the Hostess Twinkie. I'm not sure how far into English Canada the Vachon cake empire extends, actually. You can buy Vachon cakes at any convenience store in Ottawa, but as an anglo city, Ottawa is a bit of an outlier (about 25 percent francophone, and only two hours from Montreal).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:25 PM
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Back in the day Vachon products, or some of them, were available in New England. I miss Flaky Puffs.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:46 PM
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I miss Flaky Puffs.

My adolescent acne could have done without Flaky Puffs.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 9:49 PM
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Here's a question: Were you required to take a term of Home Ec? What did you learn to do in Home Ec? What foods did you make? Did you learn to sew?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:36 PM
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224: I wasn't required, but as an elective one year I took a course called "Creative Cooking" or something along those lines. We made everything from tempura to pork adobo. It was fun, but I was already cooking at home and I'm not sure I learned anything beyond how to set a formal table properly. And I learned to sew in Girl Scouts, but not any formal school.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:39 PM
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We made everything from tempura to pork adobo.

That sounds pretty useful.

In 7th grade we had to take home ec for one term, split between cooking and sewing (boys too). The sewing part was pretty useful because we were allowed to use a few of the patterns for alternate gym uniforms if we wanted. The cooking part was abysmal, though. We learned how to make everything with canned biscuit dough. It was gross, and not useful for learning basic cooking skills.

I liked the sewing part enough that I took a full-semester elective and ended up making a really cute stuffed dragon doll (green, winged, with pink horns and scales and a double-breasted belly) and a few shirts I actually wore. It made me sad that the cooking part was so useless.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:44 PM
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In my junior high cooking class (part of a rotation through a number of vocational/home ec topics) we made sugar cookies decorated with Kool-Aid powder, and pancakes cooked in a thick layer of bacon grease. There was no sewing class.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:48 PM
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226: It was - they emphasized quick meals for the most part, because of time constraints, but also lots of healthy ingredients and some days would just be prep for the next, allowing for more complex dishes. Knife skills! We also spent a lot of time learning how to plan for meals - shopping lists, weekly menus, learning to decode recipes, and that sort of thing.

The healthy side sort of fell out of it when my cooking partner (one of the few boys in the class and a notorious stoner) discovered that we had a deep fryer and we quickly set about trying to figure out what we could fry (tempura being one of those things, though I think the class hit were the donuts).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:53 PM
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discovered that we had a deep fryer and we quickly set about trying to figure out what we could fry

Mars bars!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:57 PM
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My high school lunch was generally, I think, pizza, either at school or at a nearby pizza place. That is, until I moved close enough to school to go home during lunch, at which point lunch was ramen noodles and beer.

If there's one thing high school students intuitively understand, it's nutrition.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 10:59 PM
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Mars bars!

The Mars bar, dipped generously in batter and then generously deep-fried, is, I'm sorry to say, quite shockingly delicious. The Mars bar fritter! Scotland's answer to the chocolate crêpe...


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:13 PM
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I had a deep-fried Snickers bar once. I couldn't shake the feeling that it was a form of deep-fried candy turd. So hot, so brown, so oblong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:15 PM
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Deep-fried Reese's cup was the best of the fried-candy family I've tried. Couldn't eat more than a bite of any of them, but the Reese's cup I was tempted to.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:17 PM
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231: I agree. Granted, I couldn't eat more than two bites before feeling like my arteries were seizing up, but my god. So yummy.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:18 PM
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So hot, so brown, so dedicated to Allah.

You know, with the "so brown" in there that doesn't read very well. But I was only thinking of "Shall I Alarm Islamic Owls?"


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-28-09 11:42 PM
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I took "Foods" in junior high and it was worthless. I have used nothing I learned in that class.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 12:01 AM
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"the biggest problem isn't that stuff doesn't grow, it's that the growing season for fun stuff isn't when the kids are in school."

Isn't our school year still basically on the don't-interfere-with-farmwork calendar? It will never be convenient to combine that with gardening in school (except in the warmest parts of the country; or, I suppose, in greenhouses in the cold parts. That would be attractive.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 1:08 AM
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235: You mean "I Will Alarm Islamic Owls". Who are you, and what have you done with w-lfs-n?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 1:23 AM
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My name is death; the last best friend am I.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 1:27 AM
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USING OTHERS' PSEUDS IS DEPRECATED


Posted by: OPINIONATED ROBERT SOUTHEY | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 1:32 AM
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This is the menu (3 week rotation, lasts for half a school year) that our local primary schools get. The cost to the parent is £1.70 per child, and that's subsidised by the local authority. Apparently my daughter's school is on the same contract, but with the menu tailored to their specifications. Other secondary schools make their own arrangements. It looks pretty good to me. My daughter takes a packed lunch though, as she's fairly picky and would rather eat the same thing every day.

I think all secondary schools here do Food Tech and Textiles (otherwise known as cooking and sewing) - my daughter gets an hour a fortnight of each, and I think that's for 3 years. She also gets an hour of Product Design (making other stuff - plastic, wood, etc). She thinks it's crazy that she gets an hour a week of Art - can't believe that it's twice as important to learn to draw than to learn to cook.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 4:24 AM
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Doh, would help if I actually included the link. There's a halal option too.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 4:27 AM
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I always had a packed lunch or went home when I was at school, because back then the school lunch menu could not quite cope with vegetarians, but I looked up what current-day standards are for school lunches here. It looks pretty good, though I have no personal experience how well the schools follow through these days.

The key struggle I remember from secondary school was that schools wanted to be able to provide fries (chips) because if they didn't, their kids would just go to the nearest fast food shop and buy themselves a portion there: and if they were allowed to, which these standards recognize, they could use low-fat fries.

I think all schools in the UK have kitchens, though I don't know how well they're equipped. The presumption was when they were built, that the schools would be providing the kids with a hot meal in the middle of the day, either free or paid for by the parents - there's a novel by William Mayne, No More School, where two older girls provide lunches at a shilling a day per child.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 4:31 AM
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218: I'm going to pretend you didn't say that.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 6:13 AM
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224:
What happened in home ec:
We made something with Bisquick
We made spaghetti with canned sauce.
Sherry Kennehan put eggs in the dryer and showed us how to throw spaghetti at the ceiling to see if it was done. With sauce on it.
We all had to write an essay about menstruation as punishment.
Our poor teacher was so obviously tranquilized that we didn't even joke about it, just speculated about the brand and the dosage.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 7:06 AM
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cooked pasta reheated in sauce is nasty

I counterexample you thusly: my dinner tonight partially consisted of Trader Joe's Joe O's, which I bought because I wanted to see if they were any good, which in fact they were; though this blogger disagrees.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 10:11 PM
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All I remember from Home Ec is learning about scurvy, and also this dude drinking all the Vanilla Extract and the teacher chasing him with a knife.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 1-09 10:14 PM
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