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Reporter heads back to school to test out new school dinners
Hot lunches are being cooked in a Chase Side primary school for the very first time after a new kitchen and dining room were built.
Reporter Hermione Wright begrudgingly went back to school to try the meals for herself.
The very thought of school dinners fills me with dread.
Sorry Jamie, but I’m very much part of the Turkey Twizzler generation. Although I’m not proud to admit it, when I was at school the questionable twisted ‘meat’ would fill my school dinner plate at least once a week.
Insipid coconut sponge dressed in gloopy ‘custard’ is another food no-no I’ve tried my very best to forget.
So, when I was asked to take a trip back to my childhood this afternoon and trial the new school dinners on offer at Chase Side Primary School in Trinity Street, you may not be surprised to hear – the idea did not exactly whet my appetite.
For the first time in its 100-year history, hot meals are being cooked at the school thanks to an all-new kitchen and dining room. Up until last month, food was delivered to hungry children’s plates from Enfield County Secondary School, more than a mile away in Chapel Street.
As I queued up with the Year 1s, I eyed up the options. Puff parcels filled with spinach and ricotta, chicken sausages, baked potatoes, or aubergine ragout with mash (no lumps) and peas. A rather sophisticated side salad was also on offer, boasting kidney beans, purple cabbage, feta cheese and an assortment of salad vegetables that I can’t even fit into my word-count.
What’s more, when it came to dessert, there was not a tasteless sponge in sight, but fresh fruit, yoghurt, and even cheese and crackers.
More than anything, I would like to ‘do a Greg Wallace’ and dismiss my free lunch as nothing but another school lunch students have to stomach. But I can't - it was just far too tasty. The food was fresh, filling, and what’s more – it was healthy.
Perhaps I’m easy to please in my post-student days, so I thought the best way forward was to consult the pupils. Children can be tough critics (I certainly was), and surely they’d be willing to share some gruesome school-dinner tales.
Tia, six, was tucking into a plate of chicken sausages, mashed potato and peas. She said sausages are her favourite food, and these ones are "delicious." She was also ready to dive into a fudge-flavoured yoghurt which she’d carefully chosen for desert.
Six-year-old Lila, who also opted for the sausage option, said last week’s spaghetti bolognaise was “really tasty.”
Finn, nine, was eating a packed lunch today, but said he normally chooses school dinners. He remembered his curry lunch on Thursday, the “iced cake” for desert was “delicious.”
I admit it, one student, who perhaps should remain nameless (I'd hate to get him in trouble with his parents), said he would not be eating his peas as he had some with his dinner yesterday. According to this character, it was a ludicrous idea to eat peas two days in a row!
Headteacher Sally Quartson said: “The thing is here, lunches used to be shipped in and they weren’t as good.
“The amount of pupils choosing school lunches has just rocketed now and we have made sure to choose lots of different options to cater for different cultures.
“The food is wonderful, it’s just been transformed.”
Next step is for pupils to to grow their own vegetables at school to be used in lunch and cooking classes come September.
I never thought I’d say it, but I know for a fact I’ll be heading back for a second helping.