Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School lunches

I think it's fair to say that one of the things I was dreading most about living in Japan was having to have school lunches. So far I'm pleased to say it hasn't been all bad... but when it is bad... it's really bad! Unlike back home in New Zealand all elementary and junior high school students have a school lunch provided for them each day. It's quite a major operation with all the schools in the area having the exact same menu for the month and as far as I can tell it arrives at the exact same time at each school. The minute it arrives the kids all rush outside and start bringing in all the pots and pans, trays and cutlery needed for that particular day. The desks in the classroom are then all grouped together like clock work and the kids fall into line dishing out the days food in an unbelievable orderly fashion (I'm yet to see one kid push, shove or argue for more food). The menu is set a month in advance and is never repeated within that month... which for some things is a major bonus and others is a real shame... unless of course you are like me and cover schools in two different areas, meaning they have two separate menus... meaning I was most unlucky to be dished up the same thing two days in a row... the very thing that made me gag just looking at it (I went hungry that day). Within each week there are two bread days (nothing like the bread we get at home mind you!) and three rice days. So far I have had curry (yum), bread with chocolate sauce (not so yum), cold udon noodles (not so bad), potatoes with bacon and vegetable soup (pretty good), a weird pickled salad with tiny little white fish with nasty looking eyes all through it (yuck yuck yuck) and the most disgusting congealed tofu thing that had me closing my eyes just at the sight of it (the thing I had two days in a row). Last but not least every single lunch time each kid is also given a 200ml bottle of milk... some days it warmer than I would like but on the whole it does a pretty good job of disguising the taste of whatever it is I might have just eaten.

The highlight of school lunches is most definitely sitting with the kids... they love it when I pull faces after trying something for the first time... but love it more when they get to finish off what I can't eat!