I have spent the past month attending school with my children to assist in their adaptation to their new school. Class is taught mainly in Catalan with a bit of Castellano and some songs in French and English. I completely underestimated how attending a school in a foreign language can be stressing for a child. I am thankful to be able to participate in my children's school. In addition to helping them feel comfortable at school, I also get to meet their future friends, to lend a hand to the teachers and to learn firsthand about the local culture.
My most revealing sociological research takes place during lunch time. Our school offers a "menu," which is a prepared ecological and vegetarian hot lunch served family style. Children may also bring their own packed lunch from home. About half of the children bring their own lunch and has by far been the most interesting to me. Back in California, on my school work days, I watched the children eat lunch as well. This year and a half provides a great reference for a "compare and contrast" essay (my favorite exam question!).
My children also bring their lunch. On Day Two of school, I realized I needed to adapt their American-style lunches to help them fit in with the Spanish-style lunches of their peers. Forget about a sliced-bread sandwich with a side of trail mix and yogurt - no more easy lunch making days for me! I have yet to see one sandwich in the class, except for the ones my kids brought on their first day! On the streets of Barcelona, I have seen people eating bocadillos on the go (think baguette w/cheese, salami or jamon serrano). I wonder if children ever bring these foil-wrapped sandwiches to school?
These local kids and the adapted expats (there are german, french, guatamalan and british children in our class) eat three courses for lunch. Yes, three real courses. Just like what their parents are probably doing at a three hour lunch during work. And the best part, is that the storage containers used to pack a lunch are designed for multiple course lunches. The most popular is the one pictured above by Valira. The stainless steel container holds the main course and a small container for the first course. Postres, the third course, also known as desserts are brought in another small container in their insulated lunch bag, usually the Nomad also by Valira. Some children also use containers by Aladdin (see below; I think that is the manufacturer) that contain a tower of several internal containers. I swear one boy has a lunch pail that is nearly as big as him.
So... What are they eating?
Salad or soup (lately a gazpacho, cold garbanzo puree, or some kind of cold cream soup). Of course salads are dressed with olive oil from a miniature bottle of olive oil. Would you expect anything less from the children of a country where the average Spaniard consumes 14 kilograms of olive oil???
- Quinoa mixed with veggies with either a veggie/chicken stock and olive oil or tomato sauce.
- Rice or Cous Cous mixed with veggies and/or beans, often with a fried or hard-boiled egg mixed throughout, with either a veggie/chicken stock and olive oil or tomato sauce.
- Chopped potatoes with veggies served similar to the Quinoa or Rice above.
- Garbanzos cooked several ways - 1. with hard boiled eggs and olive oil; 2. with tomato, garlic and olive oil; 3. with veggie or chicken stock, chopped zucchini and carrot. One day at lunch, I saw these three versions of garbanzos.
- Corn mixed with beans, tomatoes and avocados.
- Spanish Tortilla cut into pieces with green beans. If you aren't familiar with a Spanish Tortilla, check out this recipe, it has nothing to do with the Mexican and Central American tortillas.
- Lentils cooked with sausage, carrots, onion and tomatoes. On Thursday, at lunch my kids devoured the lentils I made that morning. At the lunch table there was a discussion between at least five children about how great lentils taste. First, I sautéed chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Next I added chopped carrots and sausage with the casing removed (break up the sausage a bit). Then, I threw in about 1/4 of a bottle of rioja from the night before. After the mixture didn't smell like alcohol, I added about 4-5 cups of veggie stock and 2 cups of lentils. I seasoned with sea salt, a couple bay leaves and thyme. I cooked until the lentils were tender, yet firm.
Third Course, El Postre
- Fruit - whatever is in season. Since starting school, after dinner my son carries an apple and banana into the dining room chanting, "Here comes dessert. Here comes dessert."
- Yogurt - you can even find yogurt on the dessert menu at many restaurants.
UPDATE: Here is an example of a school lunch menu for a local public elementary school.CEIP Collserola Lunch Menu: It is in Catalan, but you will be able to decipher it. Looks like sugary treats like pastries or ice cream are only once a week. Pizza only once a month. I see lots of healthy and appetizing options - veggie soups, lentils, rice, pasta, pork with mushrooms, chicken, potatoes, fruit... real food - not boxed, premade junk. So, it looks pretty much the same as our Waldorf school and similar to the other private English-language schools we considered.