Food at German Schools

Photo: Erin Porter

Photo: Erin Porter

Every morning I scramble around our kitchen, looking for appropriate snacks for a 15-month-old. Cucumber? I think she is eating that lately. German roll, or rice cake? Blueberries are always a yes. Is Würstchen trying too hard?

Blearily, I stash these goods in her little green lunch box and send her off to Krippe. And even if she doesn’t eat my lovingly packed breakfast and Vesper (snack) I know she is getting a warm lunch at school everyday.

Lunch, traditionally the biggest warm meal of the day in Germany, is provided at my daughter’s Krippe. While some schools specialize in bio (organic) or even vegetarian fare, I am just pleased that mine cooks on-site versus catering in. And since my daughter started school I have been pleasantly surprised to see what’s on the menu.

Not that I should be. The American reputation for kids’ food is abysmal. Chicken nuggets. Pizza. Soda. Sugary cereal. Almost anything is an improvement.

I know I am not alone in this opinion. One book that has become a kind of backbone to my parenting philosophy, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, is the product of a fellow parent and American expat in Europe. Pamela Druckerman found herself in France and discovered that moms are not the frazzled, erratic mess so often portrayed in America. They are chic, self-assured and their kids are more likely to eat braised leeks than chicken nuggets. The book was a hit in the USA and beyond. Clearly, she was on to something.

While Germans’ reputation (both in life and in parenting) is not as glamorous as the French, I have found a similar chilled-out, stylish vibe and no-nonsense approach to eating. Things I would never dream of seeing on an American daycare’s menu – broccoli! fish! remoulade!? – regularly make an appearance. Ingredients are prepared fresh, seasonal and (when I have gotten the chance to sample) delicious.

Kartoffeltaschen, Brokkoli und Curry Soße. Photo: Erin Porter

Kartoffeltaschen, Brokkoli und
Curry Soße. Photo: Erin Porter

This week’s menu at the Krippe:

  • MöhrenOrangenSuppe (Carrot and orange soup)
  • Fischschnitzel mit Kartoffeln und Remoulade (Fried fish with potatoes and remoulade sauce)
  • Kartoffeltaschen, Brokkoli und Curry Soße (Stuffed potato pockets, broccoli and curry sauce)
  • Penne mit Bolognese (penne pasta with meat-based tomato sauce)
  • Spätzlepfanne (Schwabian noodles, cheese and vegetables)

Sounds a lot better than the leftovers and cups of ramen I’m usually eating.

I’ve thought a lot about eating since my daughter started eating human-food. Of course I want her to be happy and healthy and navigating things like teething make the whole process even more complicated. Hearing what she eats at school has me examining how I still make a very American meal plan at home (burritos and hamburgers are regularly featured).

I’ve come to the curious realization that my little girl will be the one bringing the strange food to school, like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Food is just one of the fist examples of her emerging identity as a Third Culture Kid. She is going to be different. And though this is a life we’ve chosen, she is getting thrust into it, different from the start.

As my only experience with babies and kids’ food is in Germany, let me know if my view of the American kids’ palate is out-of-date. Maybe I had too many hot pockets as a child and my memory is skewed. Or if you have any great snack ideas or meal plans – my girl and I love to eat.

3 thoughts on “Food at German Schools

  1. American school food has improved a lot over the past decade. Most schools serve both breakfast and lunch and in the school I work at, is prepared fresh each day. No soda is sold on the school premises. Snack foods are limited by law in calorie, carbohydrate and fat contents.Water bottles are carried by many students throughout the day and refilled often. The school diet is changing in the US – it just takes time.

  2. German living in the U.S. here. My daughter is 3 and attends day care in our Midwestern city full time. I looked all over town but was unable to find a center that deviated from the standard: chicken nuggets, pasta alfredo, biscuits and gravy with waffle fries (?!?), mac & cheese… I think you’d have to luck out and find an in-home day care that is a little more adventurous food-wise.
    When she was just starting on solids and her class at the time was a mishmash of eating snack foods, drinking milk, or nibbling on school food, I used to send home-cooked lunches with her. Once all the kids started eating the same lunch, though, I stopped. It’s a bit disappointing, but ultimately, it’s more important to me that the day care is good, her teachers are competent, and she likes it there. We put more effort into our breakfasts, Abendessen, and weekend meals, and she’s a good eater. No problem there.
    Reading up on this because we plan to move back next year. Curious to see how it will go…

  3. Good points beakymcgee. I certainly hope the American diet is improving. I’m not a slave to healthy eating, but clearly appreciate the German emphasis on seasonal eating and cooking from scratch.

    Sorry to hear you are facing the kid’s food challenges I talked about here Daniella. While those all sound like decadent meals, I don’t know about them encompassing an entire meal plan for a toddler. I hope you find my story reassuring as I’ve been impressed. Where are you planning to move?

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