There is no time like adolescence. Young people go through physical changes. They discover and begin to develop their latent talents. They learn to be comfortable with who they are. They are also subject to the whims of the bureaucracy responsible for supplying them with meals that meet specific nutritional guidelines and the budgetary restrictions of the calendar year imposed by legislative authority. Or they bring a packed lunch. Either way, a certain type of meal is sure to be in store for adolescents, one that will etch itself into memory.
Perhaps you recently graduated from secondary school, or maybe you are an adult with children who are now having a culinary experience similar to that of your school days. Or perhaps you're a lunch lady who really needs to study up because some of the ingredients that arrived in today's shipment aren't easily recognizable. Whatever the reason, you will be able to relate to this subject. Many of us have clear memories of the school cafeteria, time with friends, or people who turned out not to be friends at all. What do you remember better, the pupils or the food? Time to test your memories of your educational and culinary Venn diagram with this quiz!
Eggs mayonnaise is a high protein way of filling two slices of bread, and the sort of food that does not look out of place at lunch or at tea. Most likely, this is something a parent would put in a packed lunch.
How many letters does it take you to name this iconic lunch?
How do you spell delicious? B-L-T. The holy trinity of bacon, lettuce and tomato has been entertaining taste buds for generations. Though the proportions of the three main fillings change from chef to chef, diners can all agree that there is never enough bacon.
What do you think lurks between these slices of bread?
Chicken mayonnaise is to tuna mayonnaise as an Aston Martin SUV is to an Aston Martin sports coupe — a compromise. To some, mayonnaise is delightful, but tuna is awful. For those picky eaters, there is chicken mayonnaise.
What delights await the pupils whose pupils are focused on this food?
Hot dogs in puff pastry
Not-dogs in puff pastry
In the early 20th century, schools served foods which, for the most part, qualified as "British classics." These included toad-in-the-hole, which sadly, seems an unlikely inclusion in today's health-conscious menu.
Pupils would want a slice of this, after learning about π. What do you think it is?
Steak and kidney pie with greens
Apple pie with greens
Chicken pot pie with greens
Shepherd's pie with greens
A common "treat" in both the early 20th century and the period of post-war rationing, shepherd's pie was a firm staple in the food firmament. Given the heating in those schools, this was likely a welcome treat. Some cafeterias still serve this today.
This meal presents a heaping helping for any child. What is it called?
Pastrami pie and roasties
Cold veal and ham pie with potatoes
Considered a deluxe lunch item in the '50s and '60s, this veal meal would not only be far too expensive to make a regular menu item today, but it would also surely enrage certain quarters of the population who deem all veal cruel. Don't hold your breath.
Another "deluxe" item from the mid-century menu, fish au gratin would often be accompanied by peas and mashed potatoes. If one were so inclined, one could have it with its traditional pudding: apple pie.
This food seems almost like a euphemism. What could it be?
The target of national rage (or at least that of Jamie Oliver) in 2005, Turkey Twizzlers are a classic, unbelievably unhealthy cafeteria food. It contains three sweeteners, pork fat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and 35 other ingredients.
A creation of food writer Lorraine Pascale, this wrap is intended for parents low on time, enthusiastic about healthy packed lunches. It's low fat, low in sugars, and has plenty of healthy, green veg. Will the lunch ladies adopt it? Only cafeteria diners can tell.
A delicious item is before you, but can you name it?
Chicken Caesar wrap
Smoked turkey wrap
Shredded pork wrap
Hummus and chicken wrap
While not for everyone, this invention of food writer Lorraine Pascale consists of a couple of tablespoons of hummus, some shredded lettuce, shredded chicken, salt and pepper. Tasty, portable and inexpensive? We hope this is seen in school cafeterias as an offering, not just a packed lunch.
An object beautiful, aromatic and delicious. What is it?
Vegetable lo mein
Spaghetti with vinegar reduction
Hoi sin vegetable noodles
Hoi sin vegetable noodles are a fairly recent addition to secondary school lunch menus, as in this globalised world, the food of many cultures filters into the school cafeteria. This example was taken from the menu published by the Hampshire County Council.
This dynamic duo is seen in many a cafeteria. Do you know its secret identity?
Minced beef and onion pie with mashed potato
This item published by the Hampshire County Council is a savory meal that combines protein, carbs, and vitamins from the onion. In moderation, this is healthy. We think we'd fall asleep after a serving!
Vegetarianism and veganism have transformed school lunch menus. As school cafeterias must be able to accommodate any student, they have had to improvise to create lunch items for students who subsist on an all-vegetable diet.
Chicken tikka masala is the most popular dish in the UK, and for a good reason. It is only natural that it should appear in school cafeterias. It isn't particularly difficult to produce at scale, has inexpensive ingredients, and everyone loves it. Ring the dinner bell!
Is this meal a national treasure or national torture? Can you name it?
Barbecued beef ribs
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is the quintessential winter meal. It is warm, filling and delicious. The combination of roast beef with the flaky joy that is Yorkshire pudding, married with gravy, is a dream come true.
This meal's name is not Rumplestiltskin. What is it though?
Pork tikka masala
Chicken tikka masala
Roasted vegetable open pie
Vegetable tikka masala
Chicken tikka masala may be the most popular food in the nation, but what about vegeterians who crave its flavours and aromas? The answer is vegetable tikka masala; all the same spices and flavours, but no chicken.
This meal may be a bit of a stereotype for British food, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Fish and chips isn't the healthiest food, as it is deep-fried, but it does have fish and peas, which are at least somewhat healthy. You cut corners where you can! At least it isn't a deep-fried Mars bar.
Chilli isn't a British food per se, but its presence in school cafeterias makes sense. It involves spices that can be overpowering if one wants, minced meat, and beans. What could be more British than this?
What for the poor children who cannot have fish and chips, because they have dietary restrictions? The answer is in vegetarian sausage and chips. Vegetarian sausage is an easy alternative to fried fish, and as long as the chips aren't fried in animal fat, it's all vegetarian.
Barbecue is an ancient preparation coming from Central America that uses indirect heat to cook food. Originally pronounced "bar-ba-COE-ah," this method has infiltrated many other kinds of food: wraps in this case.
The "Margherita" pizza is said to be the original of the modern breed of pizza, using the traditional round crust, cheese, tomatoes and basil. It was allegedly created for and named after an Italian princess, one who would no doubt be honored to know her name is written on walls in cafeterias all over the world.
Vegetarianism and veganism are not quite the same, and this meal is an example of the difference. Including cheese, which is verboten to vegans, it is offered as a vegetarian option, combining cheese and onion in the pasty, perhaps the most British of all foods.
Just looking at this makes us hungry, but hungry for what?
Spaghetti fra diavolo
Angel hair pesto
Rigatoni alla vodka
Spaghetti Bolognese is an easy food to make in large quantities and serve to children. The sauce is simple and has vegetables and protein, and the spaghetti itself only requires boiling in a little prepared water. What could be easier?
What is cheaper than fish and chips, and, without a distinct serving size, can thus be served in smaller helpings? Fish fingers and chips with tomato sauce! This no doubt saved many a local council a few quid on the food keeping their children alive.
This mountain of calories has a name. Do you know it?
Jacket potato with Swiss cheese
Jacket potato with cheddar cheese
Don't jacket potatoes sound as if they are headed out to a black-tie dinner? Jacket potatoes made with cheddar cheese, when combined with vegetables, can be a healthy meal for many a pupil, but on their own, they aren't exactly a nutritionist's dream.
Doesn't this image make you want a portion? What is it?
Chicken rogan josh
A classic Kashmiri dish, rogan josh is usually made with red meat, but the substitution of chicken is both healthier and less expensive. Made with chilies and alkanet root, this curry is a delight to all the senses.
For vegan children who cannot or do not want to have chicken goujons, vegetable goujons fill an important role. Often served with chips, this delightful meal is both tasty and moderately healthy ... ish.
This looks interesting. Which interesting name does it have?
Sweet potato and lentil curry
Sweet potatoes are not potatoes, but a kind of yam filled with healthy vitamins as well as the carbs one would expect from something named a potato. Combine this sweet treat with a savoury lentil curry, and you have one very healthy, tasty meal.
With so many Britons vacationing or even retiring to Spain, it should come as no surprise that Spanish cuisine is a hit in the UK. Vegetable paella is both interesting and free of animal products, making it a tasty addition to any school cafeteria.
Few foods have found a home in the hearts of Britons, both literally and figuratively, as sausages. To pair the humble sausage with a sidekick means to find one worthy of such a perfect food, and mash gets the job done for many a school cafeteria.
Roasted vegetables are lovely and delicious, but to give them some carbohydrates, and to make them easier to divide into servings, having them arranged in an open pie is a smart route. Enjoy this at your local school cafeteria!