Sunday, 21 July 2013

School Dinners - Ruth Symes / Megan Rix

 The other day three of us were talking about our favourite primary school puddings and butterscotch tart was right at the top, along with pink custard and jelly and ice cream. 

We'd all gone up for seconds on butterscotch tart days although other aspects of our school dinner-times weren't quite so enjoyable. My poor husband was made to stand on a chair in the middle of the dining hall when he refused to eat his peas. My sister-in-law (actually this is disgusting) refused to eat her fish one day and when she lined up for her dinner the next day she was told to leave the queue and go and sit at her class table. When she did she was served up the fish from the day before, now dried and congealed, on the same plate, and told to eat it. She's still not sure if she'd been singled out because she was the only black child in the school. But thank goodness she didn't eat it and end up getting really sick.

In my own school dinner horror story I'm not quite as blameless as the other two, and it's possible that the dinner ladies were right not to admire the creative salt mountain I'd poured over my vividly green peas in the hope of disguising them. I too was told to sit there and eat them up, I too, did not.

As adults the three of us laughed about those long ago days but none of us had even once thought of telling our parents what had happened at the time. I hope nowadays no one's ever forced to eat congealed meals at school or humiliated in front of everyone and if they were they'd tell someone who'd stop it.

But I know children don't always think that they can speak out or be listened to if they do and that worries me.

Amazingly butterscotch tart is still being served in schools today and currently enjoyed by my six-year-old niece. 

I made it the favourite pudding of witchling Bella Donna in my Bella Donna books. The fifth in the series 'Witch Camp', has just been published and sees Bella heading off to camp and feeling homesick. 

I can remember going off to camp myself at about her age, not a wild magical camp of course, although the Isle of Wight can be very exciting. I didn't like being away from home and phoned my lovely step-grandfather to tell him so (we didn't have a phone in our own house). 

He told me just what I needed to hear: 'I'll come right now if you want me to but why don't you give it another two days and if you still want to come home then I promise I'll drive down from London and come over on the ferry and bring you home.' I never had a moment's doubt that he would do exactly what he said and once I'd spoken to him I started to feel much better and lasted to the end of the camp.

In 'Witch Camp' Bella Donna has to face everyone else's nightmare creations chasing her. So she's a bit too busy to have time to feel homesick for long! 

Anyone else remember butterscotch tart? And what on earth did they put in those peas to make them such an un-natural colour?

Ruth Symes' website is She also writes as Megan Rix.


Sue Purkiss said...

Our school dinners were quite good. But one day, we were served jam roly poly and someone had had an accident with the salt pot - it was disgusting. Unfortunately the teacher on our table was Miss H., a bitter and twisted martinet, and she made us eat it. Before that it had been one of my favourite puddings, but I never touched it again!Goodness, the memory's vivid - I'm right there, sitting in the hall at that hexagonal pale grey table...

catdownunder said...

I actually had a number of school dinners in special schools while I was doing research in England. I can remember sausages and mash and those peas! I can also remember tinned pears and pink custard.
The meals were better than the meals we got in our university hall of residence.

Carole Anne Carr said...

How very odd, I've just been posting about pink custard on my The Cake and Custard Bookshop blog! Wonder if you remember frogspawn - sago pud.

June said...

School meals... what a great subject!
I hated having to clear the plates of cold gravy and leftovers, and then stack them. And the plastic mugs always smelt stale and had chewed rims.
I can also remember one girl refusing to eat her salad as there was a caterpillar crawling through the lettuce!
And later, in secondary school, the teacher on our table would count the baked beans to see if we had more than she did!
But I did like 'spotted dick' pudding :)

sewa mobil said...

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Penny said...

At the age of 6, my husband threw up all over a teacher when she made eat him a really horrible (thick and gluggy) rice pudding.

He has never forgotten this and to this day he still dislikes rice pudding (even if nicely made).