Friday, August 28, 2015

School Dinners, 1913.

I don’t believe that I have given much blog space in the past to the phenomenon of meals provided by educational institutions, but I recently found a lovely short piece on English girls’ school dinners - in of all things, an American book on food and health. I feel sure I will find some more snippets to share with you from the temptingly titled Food and flavor, a gastronomic guide to health and good living, (New York, 1913) by Henry T. Finck, but for today, here is the promised extract:

"Of recent years more and more attention has been paid to the dietary in schools, and the general teaching of cookery will help on an improvement in a department of social life in which we are behind our Continental neighbors. Happily, there are a considerable number of schools in which the menus are drawn up on well-ascertained principles, including the element of variety. Here is an example of dinners served at a large school at 8d. each to over 100 children. It is chosen from those used from May 13 to May 17:

Boiled Beef and Carrots.          Roast Mutton.
Greens and Potatoes.
Cake Pudding.                              Milk Pudding.

Veal and Ham.              Beefsteak Pie.
Greens and Potatoes.

Jam Roly-Poly.               Milk Pudding.


Roast Beef.       Haricot Mutton.           Rissoles.
Greens and Potatoes.
Fruit Salad and Sponge Cake.                             Milk Pudding.


Roast Mutton.               Stewed Steak.                Potato Pie.
Greens and Potatoes.
Ginger Pudding.            Milk Pudding.


Fish.     Roast Beef.       Liver and Bacon.
Greens and Potatoes.
Rhubarb Tart.                Cabinet Pudding.

"If these menus reappear in the same order or connection it will be at a very distant date. The aim is to supply all the kinds of food necessary, and in a form the girls like. Pies, stews, and rissoles are great favorites, stews being the chief. This is fortunate, because a dish of stew of any kind is rich in fat and proteid, and if vegetables are added it becomes rich in salts too. The girls state each day at dinner which meat they wish for, and they help themselves to greens and potatoes. If they want a second helping of meat they can have it, but it is an unwritten law that they must finish all they take. It is also understood that if a girl does not eat her dinner she is not fit for afternoon school. This rule prevents elder girls getting the foolish notion that it is not 'nice' to have a good appetite.

"Cookery is part of the curriculum, so that sooner or later every girl learns the importance of food, and that it is useless to try to 'make bricks without straw' — in fact, the dinners are a practical illustration of the teaching in the cookery room."

The notion that it is not "nice" for a girl to have a good appetite is not so common as it used to be. Now that we know the importance of appetite to proper digestion this notion seems criminal as well as silly, and should be denounced as such in all schools where it may seem necessary.

As the recipe for the day, here is a very English steamed ginger pudding:

Ginger Pudding.
Six tablespoonsful flour, two tablespoonsful breadcrumbs, three tablespoonsful treacle, ¼ lb. suet,half cupful warm milk, one teaspoonful ginger, half teaspoonful baking powder. Mix all dry ingredients, then syrup and lastly milk. Steam from two to three hours. Serve with hot custard sauce. – “A Yorkshire Cookery Book.”

London Evening News, September 30, 1916


Roger Bridgman said...

Dinners exactly like these were still being served in my British boys' school in the 1950s. And very nice too, when properly done.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks for your memory, Roger. I love it when a story strikes a personal chord for someone.