Friday, October 22, 2010

Cheese Sandwich Strategies

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

I'm always captivated by the different ingenious approaches kids routinely take toward the food their served in school. Some things, for instance, simply do not lend themselves to being eaten by a plastic spork. Other foods inspire the most creative improvisation, sometimes involving a complete deconstruction of what the menu writer and kitchen cooks intended.

In this case we have what Chartwells at its menu webiste called "whole wheat toasted cheese triangles, tomato dipping sauce, seasoned fresh vegetable medley with locally grown zucchini, chilled pineapple cup."

Is a cheese sandwich by any other name still a cheese sandwich? Basically, this is two slices of whole wheat bread warmed in the oven with grated mozzarella cheese.

Some of the kids took this as a challenge. As you see here, one girl who described the bread as "nasty" pulled the sandwich apart and dove for the cheese. I watched this become quite a project as the girl attempted to separate the melted cheese as much as possible from the bread, to which it was determined to adhere.

But she was largely successful. And here's where the "tomato dipping sauce" entered the picture for her. She dipped the cheese in it. Perhaps this was vaguely reminiscent of pizza for her.

And here's one fifth-grade boy's solution. He opened the sandwich and spread the tomato sauce over the cheese. Suddenly, things are beginning to look a whole lot more like pizza.
And in case you're wondering, the vegetables were fresh and delicious. Unfortunately, kids don't go for vegetables much. Some were picking at the zucchini, while others bargained with their table mates for the broccoli. Still, it sure beats the cooked-to-death broccoli we've seen in the past.


  1. Ed: Thank you so much for doing all that you do. I read your blog and am grateful for your insights into food being served to our children. Why don't they just hire you? Who takes the pictures?

  2. You're welcome. Sometimes the kids take the photos, but most of the time I do.

  3. My question is this -- if the kids keep throwing out the fresh, delicious veggies as you say they do, the problem is not with what is being offered, but what is being taught outside the lunchroom.

    I'd love to see you get after the admin about nutrition education -- maybe then they would actually eat the veggies!

  4. I'm glad you made that point and recognize that I am only reporting that the kids (usually) don't eat the vegetables, not criticizing. It does pose a dilemma: Why are we going to so much trouble to source, pay for, prepare and serve these vegetables if the kids don't eat them? Shouldn't we be looking harder and that? Perhaps, as you say, the answer is more nutrition education. Maybe it's having parents or other volunteers in the cafeteria coaching the kids on better eating habits. Or maybe there's another approach I haven't thought of. In any case, a certain amount vegetables are required by the USDA as part of the federally subsidized meal program, and the schools get extra money if they source produce locally.

  5. Would it be possible for an adult (maybe a teacher, maybe not) to eat with the students and model good eats? Do teachers have raw vegetables in classrooms for kids who are hungry? Are candy, cupcakes and pizza still major motivators in classrooms? Seems like we need help outside of the lunchroom.