French Connection column: Kids meals, French-style

Our children, like most I suspect, are less than forthcoming about their day at school.

They never let on about what they’ve been doing and certainly never ever manage to remember what they’ve had for lunch at the school canteen.

Their inability to let me know if they’ve had a sensible, well balanced meal cooked by someone else so that I can get away with beans on toast as my culinary offering is really unhelpful.

I spend ages quizzing them, trying to tease out information by giving them a multiple-choice interrogation. “Was it fish or meat? Was the meat white or dark brown? So do you think it was beef?”

Despite my best efforts, I rarely get anywhere. Jonny just gets exasperated and ends up telling me that he does not know what they ate and he’s not sure they’ve ever had it before. I, meanwhile, heat up the baked beans.

However, this month, a copy of the canteen menu has been sent home with the boys and has explained a lot. For a start, I shouldn’t be worrying about my children’s inability to recognise what they are eating – and it would appear that the baked bean and other similar snack offerings in the evenings are perfectly fine.

Their school menu was a real surprise, including meals such as rabbit in mustard, mussels, veal pie, pigeon, guinea fowl, salmon lasagne and calamari. Definitely no burgers and chips over here – Jamie Oliver eat your heart out.

Another culinary challenge this month has been feeding an injured tawny owl. We found him dazed and soaked by the side of the road, having obviously been hit by a car, judging by the blood around his beak and swollen eye.

After keeping him in the dark and quiet for the first 24 hours, only giving him water to keep him hydrated, we moved onto a meat diet. Much to Steve’s horror, prime streak was the first dish to be consumed while we scratched our heads about finding a more natural (and essential due to owls needing fur and bones in their food) diet.

Bella, the Kelpie, stepped up to the mark and did a fantastic job as chief rat catcher, leaving me the job as rat butcher – not a job I’d like every week!

While Todd, the lurcher, also helped by catching two large coypu, which the owl also seemed to enjoy.

After a fortnight of recuperation, we decided that the owl, who appeared much stronger, could fly (if only the length of our living room), was using both eyes and could perch, should be released.

It was a nervous moment, after all the time and effort we had put to his recovery, yet the owl flew beautifully, perching close by while he sized up his surroundings, before flying effortlessly deeper into the wood. It was a great feeling.

Apparently the French also eat coypu, and having chopped them up, I can see why – they are quite meaty little beasts. I imagine it is only a matter of time before they make an appearance as a school lunch ingredient.

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