School Lunch

18 Sep

School lunch, I’m told, varies across America. Some private schools in my area when I was a child offered lunches that had never been frozen and included fresh fruit and vegetables.  Schools in some parts of California, I’m told, offer a variety of choices each day.  In my home school district in childhood, all the school lunches were pre-packaged frozen items that usually thawed to an unintelligible mush of meat or vegetable, processed, yellowish, and entirely unappetizing.  Needless to say, my mommy packed my lunches in grade school.

I’ve been told that school lunches vary across Japan as well, but school lunches in Kiryu are not even comparable to the school lunches of my childhood.  Recognizable, cooked at school, and mostly appetizing, I can honestly say that I look forward to school lunch every day.

ImageMany school lunches are Japanese style lunches, as might be expected in… you know, Japan.  Every lunch comes with a major starch, which, most days, is rice.  There’s also always a soup of some sort with both vegetable and meat, a veggie side dish, and then the main dish.  There is also often a small sweet item or fruit of some sort, like a packaged kiwi or pineapple piece or else a container of fruit jelly.  All lunches come with a carton of whole milk, also, unless someone requests otherwise (in the case of allergy or simply disliking milk, though I don’t know if students are allowed to opt out this way).

We started off the year with curry this year, one of my favourites.  Despite it being labeled as vegetable curry, I believe it had chicken in it, which was delicious, as well as regional vegetables like pumpkin, potato, carrot, and more.  The salad was also, I think, made of vegetables from the area, as well as strips of konnyaku (an unfortunate looking but relatively tasteless grey gelatin made from the konjac plant).  After hearing some unfortunate stories about what comes in school lunches at Tokyo orientation (knock on wood, I haven’t had any strange fish incarnations yet) I was thrilled to see this beautiful bowl of curry waiting for me on the first day!

ImageA lot of school lunches seem to be an odd mix of cultures, particularly Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.  For example, another lunch we had seemed completely Japanese… except the random side dish of kimchi.  I’m not the hugest fan of kimchi or anything pickled, but I managed to choke down the pickled cucumber bites, and the miso soup, fried fish, and rice were, of course, all delicious! Most of the time, though, school lunch is almost too big for me, so while I felt bad throwing out the kimchi bits (I almost never throw out any of my lunch) I definitely didn’t go hungry.  I did, however, enjoy my half of a kiwi~

ImageWhile most school lunches are at least Asian themed, every so often, a Western lunch will crop up, like this penne with meat sauce lunch.  I’m not sure why, instead of a vegetable, we got an omelette with this meal, but… there you have it, a delicious Western lunch of pasta and omelette.  Honestly, this is probably less odd than some of the things that are taken as “Chinese” food in America, and it was perfectly tasty!  Additionally, I enjoy the days with bread, since there’s usually extra bread to be brought home at the end of the day!  The soup with whole sausages in it was a bit bizarre, but still tasted pretty good, too~

ImageWhile the curry on the first day was a perfectly Japanese meal to me, if you’ll recall from one of my previous posts, curry is actually
yoshoku or a Western meal to Japanese people, because curry was brought to Japan in the Meiji period from Britain. Another meal in this same vein is tonkatsu, or battered and fried pork cutlet.  Tonkatsu with sauce is apparently a Kiryu specialty, and the school lunch version was pretty good, too! I was less of a fan of the pear jelly for desert, however.

ImageAnd then, today’s school lunch was particularly… special.  The main dish was a hotdog wrapped in egg (?) and the soup was some odd tomato-based soup with cabbage in it.  All in all, it was very odd, but the bread, the first wheat bread that I’ve encountered in Japan, was delicious, and I have my eye on the huge basket of bread sitting off to the side in the teachers’ room… hopefully I can steal some after this!


2 Responses to “School Lunch”

  1. Mary Roth September 19, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    An, hot dog wrapped in egg. I believe that was the delicacy I experienced while sitting on the back porch of a restaurant adjacent to Universal studios with Dad’s uncle Herbert. Well, maybe they were hotdog and egg sandwiches…. Perhaps hotdog and egg is a “panasian” staple.

    • jetsetjoshu September 19, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Haha, perhaps… It’s “a taste of the orient.”

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