Langue de Boeuf, Anyone? Or Why French Schools Won’t Allow Packed Lunches


A large white plate with two big floury potatoes, boiled. No butter, just a bit of gravy. The real attraction actually lies across the plate, textured and moist: a long brownish tongue, about 3 times the size of a human one. It’s a classic French delicacy: langue de boeuf (beef tongue).

When I was little, dishes like this would feature in our school canteen from time to time. Nowadays, on a lucky day, French school children might enjoy hamburgers and chips, fish, ratatouille or cassoulet. However, the reason why most French schools won’t allow packed lunches, as they do in England, still remains a mystery to me.

With so many different diets (kosher, vegetarian, halal) and the increase of food allergies and intolerances, how could modern school canteens cope and provide enough nutrients for each child? And how about expat kids: how does an English child in a new French school feel when the baked beans are replaced by choucroute?

If packed lunches were accepted in the French canteen culture, it might make life easier for many children, for the school, and it would save the French government from spending precious hours debating about religious diets and the principle of laicity.

French schools are currently making a lot of effort to improve their fare without going the packed lunch way: they do food festivals, international days like Mexican food day and some have even started offering organic food.

Organic beef tongue…mmmm, why not offer some sandwiches and cucumber sticks instead?


Photos credit and copyright C.A. 2012

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