It seems I got off lightly in the 1970s with just preparing governor’s teas and washing the school football shirts. In the Association of Teachers of Domestic Science book School dinners published in the 1940s, these alarming notes show what what cookery teachers had to do.
‘In schools where Housecraft is taught, it is quite common for the Housecraft mistress in addition to teaching to be given charge of all the school catering. With her knowledge of cookery and the principles of diet, she can render valuable service in this connection, but sometimes the work associated with the meals and school functions is so exacting as to cause undue strain and to reduce her efficiency as a teacher. Her timetable should be planned so there is no interference with her classes and her teaching hours comply with the regulations.’
Here are some wonderful dinner choices that cost 4d per head – that’s 2p.
- Cold salt beef, potatoes, broad beans in parsley sauce, bread and butter pudding
- Cheese and egg salad – with lettuce, tomato and beetroot, potatoes, with rice and raisin pudding
- Shepherds pie with greens, steamed apple pudding with custard
For 6d per head you get an even better choice
- Cold veal and ham pie, potatoes with a salad of lettuce, watercress, spring onions, radishes, and carrots, followed by tapioca pudding with fruit
- Roast lamb with gravy and mint sauce, new potatoes, spring cabbage, stewed gooseberries and junket
- Fish au gratin made from fish, cheese and breadcrumbs, with potatoes and peas, followed by Swiss apple pudding, and a banana
- Steak and kidney pie and gravy with potatoes and savoy cabbage, followed by baked apples and custard.
2020 choices for school dinners
The choices from one school are surprisingly good, backed up by nutritional analysis to make sure that students get enough protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Schools offer a vegetarian choice and provide food that meets different religious needs and food intolerances.
Choice 1 Cottage pie or maraconi cheese, tomato bread or creamed potatoes, carrots and peas, iced sponge and fresh fruit.
Choice 2 Mediterranean pasta, duchesse potatoes or granary bread, sweetcorn, broccoli, chocolate rice pudding and fresh fruit.
Choice 3 Fish fingers and tomato sauce or veggie sausages, chips or wholemeal bread, baked beans and sweetcorn, fruit crumble and icecream.
So not a bad comparison for eighty years.