Apr 24, 2014

4 Star School Lunch: Edam Français

Four stars for the school lunch may be an exaggeration, but four courses is not. I'm not talking about four components to the meal; I mean four actual, sit down, successive courses, served to them at their tables. Très français.

  • Mon: Grated carrots, raw beets in a honey vinaigrette, Veal in cream, Creole rice, Saint Paulin cheese, and Galette des rois (almond paste pastry)
  • Tues: Potato salad, Sauté of beef Bordelaise, Garden vegetables, Plain yogurt, Seasonal fruit
  • Thurs: Minced grapefruit & endives, Roasted chicken thighs, Roasted potatoes, French country cheese, Vanilla pudding
  • Fri: Lentil cumin soup, Hake fish filets in Normande sauce, Parslied carrots, Vache Qui Rit cheese, Fruit]
When we first moved here, Pippa was just 6 years old. At that time, she wrote:
Thar is a lunch lati that srvs as a mile. we era asposto it evrithing. sumtims we get a tret fordrsrte. she ses that i am wel behavd in the conten. we have 4 coresis.  the 1st corse is vegetable, like genbenzs. the 2st cors is met. sume of it is cre.wons i thot it testid like dog food. thane coms bred and chees.
it is awlwes baget.so then we have apol soos bote sumtins we have a tret.

[Ed translation: "There is a lunch lady that serves us a meal.  We are supposed to (pronounced "a-s'posed-to") eat everything.  Sometimes we get a treat for dessert.  She says that I am well-behaved in the cantine We have 4 courses.  The 1st course is vegetables, like green beans.  The 2nd course is meat.  Some of it is curry.  Once I thought it tasted like dog food.  Then comes bread and cheese.  It is always baguette.  So then we have applesauce, but sometimes we have a treat.]

Gigi, then 8, further explained:
There are 2 people at the cantine serving us: Giselle and "Madame Mangia Mangia". We call her "Madame Mangia Mangia" because she is Italian and always says "Allez mangia mangia" wich meens "comme on eat eat." They serve us family styll but you don't get to pick what you want. There is 1 thing that is funny about the cantine: they put everything on your plate even if your not going to eat it, and at the end of the cantine they just throw the things you didn't eat and put it in the trash in stead of giving it to the CM1 and CM2 (4th grade and 5th grade). These are 2 of my favorite things so far at the cantine: cous-cous and curry chicken.

The menus are varied, mature, and not, at first glance, terribly kid-friendly. School lunches in France are very purposefully seen as part of the education of the child. In this case, children should learn how to sit down for a "real" meal, which they share politely with others at the table. And they should learn to eat a variety of foods. And how will children ever learn that if they are only served pizza and chicken nuggets? So the French serve their school children veal, fish, and "weird" salads. Does it work? Indisputably, yes. In general, French children are significantly less picky eaters than American kids. And did you notice that there is a cheese course? Mais, bien sûr!

  • Mon; Salad greens, corn, grated cauliflower with herbs, Beef sauté in pepper sauce, Sautéed potatoes, yogurt, fruit
  • Tues: Beet salad, Hard-boiled eggs in Aurore sauce, Broccoli, Emmenthal, Fruit
  • Thurs: Grated endives and red cabbage in herb vinaigrette, Colombo of pork, Vegetable cous-cous, Mimolette, Pear compote
  • Fri: Coleslaw, Fish cubes in curry sauce, Flat beans, Brie points, Chocolate Mousse]
We have some American friends living in Israel, where they go to school six days per week. When they hear from the girls about the lunches and the fact that there is no primary school on Wednesdays, their eight year old exclaims, "I want to live in Paris, too, so that I can go to school 4 days a week and get served lunch like kings and queens!"  Um, yeah, me too!
THE CHEESE: Edam Français
Most people think of Edam as a Dutch cheese, and of course the best Edams really do come from the Netherlands. But Boule d'Or (meaning "Golden Ball") makes an industrial version of Edam in Bretagne called, understandably Edam Français, or French Edam.
Like the original Edams, the French version is a big ball of cow's milk cheese that comes wrapped in red wax. This industrial cheese is a young, mellow Edam, with -- frankly -- very little taste or smell. The texture is moist and rubbery, and we find it's a fine cheese for kids to put on a ham-and-veggie sandwich, but it's not going to blow anybody's mind.
What does blow my mind is just how much information there is about Edam. It turns out it was the world's most popular cheese between the 14th and 18th century. What we're eating is not exactly the same cheese as it was then; it used to be made from full milk and now is made from skim. The French also make a cousin of Edam called Mimolette that is aged for months till it's hard and orange and much saltier and more flavorful.

One of the cheeses on a menu I copy is Edam Français, and thus, this cheese connection. It's not a gourmet cheese, nor a very traditionally French one, but, frankly, I don't give edam. 


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