Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mothers and meals at school

This post is actually a backdated one.

Where meals are concerned, Caitlin has breakfast at/from home (she eats some at home and finishes the rest in the car on the way to school), then morning break and lunch at school.

Over the past two years, she has eaten the school's canteen food all the time for lunch, while for morning break, she has alternated between bringing food from home and eating the school canteen's. To eat the canteen's food, payment has to be made before each school term starts i.e. you're committed for the entire term, as they (especially the younger ones) are discouraged from bringing cash to school.

During the last school holidays, C said she is tired of the school's lunch while she is OK with (sometimes likes)the morning break food. The morning break menu is more varied alternating between soupy noodles, fried noodles, hot dog, french toast, chee cheong fun or porridge while lunch is usually the staple Chinese mixed rice (rice with a variety of different dishes of fish, meat, vege and soup)or sometimes chicken rice. Only on Fridays they will get fried rice with nuggets/fried chicken/sausages or pasta.

So for this current term, we're trying out bringing lunch from home while she sticks to canteen food for morning break. It was no problem making morning break food for her those times when she chose not to eat canteen food since it's just a snack. I used to give her a sandwich, some cereal, or biscuits and fruit. But now that she is to bring lunch to school, I have to get up earlier in the morning to prepare her lunch. Some parents give their kids food like hot dogs, burgers or sandwiches everyday for lunch i.e. dry, easier-to-prepare, not-much-cooking involved kind of food. But I think that's not too healthy (too much processed food is not good) and soon the kid will be tired of those kind of food too.

So far I've survived packing her food that I 'assemble' or cook in the morning, mostly one-pot dishes like fried rice, noodles, pie, sandwich and pasta while on certain days (when I can't get up early!), I go to school at lunch time to deliver her homecooked rice, meat and veges or soupy noodles.

I see a few mothers who have for a few years now, go to school everyday at lunchtime (!) to give their kids lunch. Sometimes they buy food from the canteen (this allows them to choose the type and quantity of each dish compared to what is dished out by the canteen staff in each plate for the kid), sometimes they bring food from home or the famous Happy Meal from that fast food chain. They then sit with their kid(s) and eat till lunch break is over. I, however, just give her the food and leave. She doesn't want me to sit down with her and her friends, and I also don't want to hang around! After the kids return to class, the other mothers stay on in the canteen and 'network' till school dismisses two hours later.

Such kids, C included, I can say, are fortunate enough to have stay-home mothers who are able to prepare and bring them lunch. Others just have to eat cold lunch prepared in the mornings by their working mums or put up with boring canteen food year in year out. Some working mums also cook lunch in the early morning and pack them in heat-insulated food jars but I see very few of that in C's school.

The only inconvenience is that the kid has to lug a food flask (usually rather bulky)besides his heavy schoolbag, and have good manual dexterity in opening and closing the various smaller containers within the jar to unearth his/her lunch without spilling any of it. One mother told me she made her kid practise at home opening, closing and re-assembling everything for the food flask before she let her take it to school!

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