Many a school dinner has passed my lips (and plenty of breakfasts and suppers too). I was nine when I went to boarding school. We sat to eat at long tables - four down each side and a prefect at the head, who served the food. In my case, this was Jael Johnson and my first meal there was tinned ravioli in tomato sauce. Each table had a plate stacked high with Mothers Pride sliced white - I suppose providing copious quantities of bread was a sure way of making sure children were full by the end of each meal. I took a slice and mopped up the sauce, unaware that her eagle eyes were upon me. "What do you think you're doing? We're not Spanish here you know".
A somewhat brutal, but effective lesson learned - to keep your head down and watch how other people do things first. To conform for an easy life. To speedily dispatch whatever happened to present itself on your plate. It wasn't how things were at home, but it was clear that certain adjustments would need to be made.
Before boarding school I had never encountered tinned ravioli, or Findus crispy pancakes. Even Arctic roll was unchartered waters. My mother cooked from scratch - that was the way it was done. And coming home for the holidays was such a blessed dietary relief. Because food really is love, especially if it doesn't come out of a cardboard box.
Pip over at Meet Me at Mikes is running a School lunches writing challenge, and this post is my way of joining in. Hey, it worked for Eliza Beynon, author of The Vicar's Wife's Cook Book. She got a book deal out of a Waitrose Food Illustrated competition.
And I found a copy of her book in the library this morning (a fresh, new, first borrower copy no less). Wow, that woman can write a good meal. Something from it's pages will be landing on our table very soon.