Day 36: meatloaf

Today’s menu: meatloaf, bread, fruit cup, mystery greens (!), milk

 To qualify for the label “meatloaf” I think meat should be baked in a loaf pan and then sliced. So given that definition, it is obvious that what I ate today is not meatloaf, but instead a meat patty.

And I was so thrilled to see what I assumed to be spinach!! I was floored. But then when I took a bite they were so very bitter. After work I chatted with my mom about it and she thinks they are collard greens. Frankly, it looks like spinach. But I’m not sure it was. All I can say is that this was the first time I could not finish my veggies during this experiment. I had three bites of the most bitter greens I have ever tasted. Can someone enlighten me as to what I ate?

So basically I ate the meat and the bread for lunch.

Additionally, yesterday’s “day-glo” cornbread muffin was normal colored in real life. There are flourescent lights in school and I also use a cell phone camera so I guess that made it look funny. The picture didn’t look very distorted to me though.

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54 thoughts on “Day 36: meatloaf

  1. They do look like collard greens to me — or maybe turnip greens. But definitely not spinach. Sad, too, because both collards and turnip greens can be tasty, but if they aren't done right they are VERY bitter.

  2. Hi… like CB says, the greens could be collard or turnip, both bitter but delicious when cooked right (with smoked ham hock and spicy vinegar sprinkled on top!! Yum!)
    They could also be mustard greens, same family.

  3. Oh no! I hope you don't give up on collard greens because of that bad experience with them (I can't imagine packaged cafeteria collard greens being too good).

    But get yourself to a good southern restaurant or diner, and order some chicken fried steak with mash taters & collard greens. Best meal ever. And collard greens are quite healthy, too.

  4. My first guess was also collard greens. It seems like a terrible idea for a kids lunch though, regardless of what it is.

  5. I would guess that no one actually ate the greens today. How can they expect kids to eat healthy foods like veggies if they don't prepare them well?

  6. I concur with the turnip greens ID. Both those and collards are great when cooked well. We had collards for dinner tonight—my almost four year old loves them.
    I happen to think leafy greens (kale or chard especially) are wonderful idea for a school lunch. Some of those kids won't ever see a leafy green veggie in their homes and getting them to branch out and discover is a great thing…but only if the foods are prepared well, otherwise you run the risk of scaring them off forever. Too bad.

  7. So glad that muffin was not day-glo. I was thinking you taught at Springfield Elementary.

    I think they are turnip greens.

  8. Just stopping by to say that they look like turnip greens to me, too (although I was going to say collard greens until Mary pointed out stems).

  9. As a native southerner, I know my greens, and those are either collard greens or mustard greens. And what tips the scales as mustard greens is their reported bitterness. Mustard greens are particularly bitter.

  10. Regardless of which greens they were, all those bitter greens can be made great if cooked well. I've gotten my family hooked on them after learning to parboil them, drain and squeeze out all the water, then saute them with some garlic or bacon for extra flavor. A sprinkle of vinegar is wonderful too. Unfortunately, my first experience of eating them like you did was also a turn off and it was thirty years before I gave them another chance. Just think how many of those children will now put all greens in the Dislike category forever….

  11. Ew. Sorry to hear about the mystery greens. I bet the kids ate even less of it than you did! But the meat was edible?

  12. Try cooking those greens at home! Brown 8 oz. of chopped bacon at medium heat until it renders. Set aside the bacon and reserve three tablespoons of the grease. Coarsely chop up a bunch of collards or mustards (1 inch cut) and sear it in the bacon fat on medium high heat until the greens crisp a little. (The caramelized flavor helps remove the bitterness and adds a little zing to it.) Add the bacon bits back into the greens and serve.

  13. I think out of that lunch, I might have eaten the fruit cup and the bread and that's it. Sigh.

  14. Those look like collards to me, too. I posted how to cook them – and make 'em tasty.

    But if they aren't cooked right they are downright inedible!
    Basic Braised Greens works for collards, kale, chard, and spinach.

  15. do they not post what food is on the daily menu? why would they make you guess what you are eating?

  16. I've had canned collard greens that looked exactly like that picture and tasted exactly like you described. Yech.

    Too bad, 'cause they can be really tasty.

  17. These look like collards, but based on the bitterness review, are likely their close relative, mustard greens.

  18. I'm thinking you had mustard greens.

    My father made the best meatloaf and it was not cooked in a loaf pan, but hand shaped and then cooked, like a loaf of artisan bread.

  19. Ironically, I first got into collard greens due to a cafeteria! Except this was when I was living at the dorms at the University of Texas. The dorm cafeteria was where I first had collard greens with bacon, and they were so yummy I learned how to cook them myself.

    People complained about the dorm food, but compared to Mrs. Q's school food, that stuff was practically gourmet!

    Macropixi is right that meatloaf is better when cooked outside a loaf pan. I use a loaf pan to mold mine and then plop it out onto a 13×9 inch pan. That allows a lot more of the surface area to get deliciously crusty.

    I suppose meatloaf is similar to greens in that it can be really good comfort food if cooked well, but if not done well it can be disgusting.

  20. They look like turnip greens, but they could be collards. The secret with those types is to flash cook them, not simmer them or stew them at all. They release a bitter chemical when cooked too long.

  21. Man, that would turn me off both meatloaf and greens. No wonder kids won't eat "real" food.

    They look like they could be collards or chard.

  22. … it is most likely collard greens. it is supposed to be cooked and seasoned in such a way that it is not as bitter as just boiling it down. It does have a distinct taste but, its really not something that should be serve to elementary school because 90% of them won't care and would toss it in the garbage. but my goodness I work with elementary students during the summer and those lunches are never awful, and we are in NYC!

  23. Those look like turnip greens, they are very good for you, but they can also be bitter. My mother used to mix turnip greens with mustard greens. When combined, it takes away the bitterness 🙂

  24. They are most definitely collard greens. Any self-respecting Southerner knows them from twenty yards.

    I must say, I don't understand what the uproar is about in your case. The foods are as healthy and nutritious as you can get when you consider they are mass produced and being offered free, subsidised by tax payers, to a public school. There is too much responsibilty on Schools to RAISE children, not educate them. Manners, ettiquette, socialization, education, basic living skills, two square meals a day, sexual ed, financial responsibilty, physical fitness, arts, etc. What's not provided in a schoolhouse today? If you don't like school food, pack your childs lunch. It's that simple. If you are poor, you are most likely on food stamps and you are given a monthly stipend per child, that if rationed properly, easily provides three meals per day, for 30 days. With free school lunch and breakfast, you only have to actually provide ONE meal; dinner. So why can't you pack a turkey sandwich on wheat to accompany the the healthy side dishes the school provides, like carrots, apple sauce, and greens? By the way, those greens look no less appealing than the ones offered at Perkins and other country buffets. If you just scoffed, please note that you are a snob and that buying a $10 half gallon of organic goat milk is not essential to survival.

    I grew up in a family of seven on public assistance, and every day I embarrasingly went up and collected my two free meals per day. 10-15 years ago in the south, there was only two meal options covered by free lunch: pizza (i'm lactose intolerant) or nuggets, and the only side dish they ever offered was dry tater tots. Period. Not a single protein or vitamin in sight. There was one day in particular I was busted not paying attention in class, and when my teacher asked me where my head was, I had to admit I has been daydreaming about saltine crackers because I was so hungry. But I survived. I would have sawed my right hand off at the time to have the meals you are showing in your photos, and although it may not be up to your sophisticated pallate standards, it is sustinance and if we can switch the focus, funding and limited resources back on to educating children so they can be productive citizens and break the cycle of poverty instead of fashionably harping on the "School Lunch", the fad yuppie cause of the 2000's (*see Jamie Oliver), we can create a generation of kids that know what a collard green is and understand that as carnivorous beings meat & protein provide energy and proper brain function, then they, like me, will appreciate that they are a child that the village helped raise and provide for when times were hard and that appreciation, knowing they weren't forgotten or uncared for, will inspire them to succeed. So, I am not bothered that the meatloaf wasn't served a la carte at a carving station because if we teach them to understand what luck they have to be a citizen of such a great country & society, instead of fostering feelings of marginalization and victimization by telling them they are entitled to more for nothing, or that the thing they love and look forward to (pizza friday) is not good enough and a low class choice, reinforcing already existing feeling of inferiority due to circumstanced they can't control, than we can begin to create an environment that I was lucky enough to have. Teachers teaching, helping, guiding, not judging, understanding, and making myself and all my sibling highly successful, socially responsible adults. For thirty minutes a day, I was not proud to pull out my free lunch card while the other kids ate hamburgers, but when the bell rang and we went to class, I worked that much harder to have the highest quality grades, and with my teachers support, encouragement and empowerment, I never felt less than anyone. I smiled when I saw your photo of dry tater tots because they are more than just a symbol of my childhood.

    They got me to a the top.

  25. in response to the comments from Jesusismagic
    it is as cheap to feed a child healthy school food as it is junk food. I can see that the options available to you were poor but that does not mean everyone has to suffer the same fate. Making vegetables flavoursome does not cost the school extra money, using non -reconstituted meat wont mean no books for kids. If you want kids to perform and pay attention you have to ensure they are getting a balanced diet. This isn't faddy, this is fact.
    Nobody is even saying the food is low class, you can still have Pizza friday without your pizza being pumped full of additives, preservatives, E numbers etc. Pizza is infact quite a healthy food if made properly!

    Being denied a healthy lunch wont make kids think "i'm going to work that bit harder" just because it might have made you think that. It probably means for many that the 1 hot meal they get per day is bereft of any nutritional benefit! Not all families care about feeding their kids and if we can turn to schools to care, at no cost, then where is the harm?!

  26. I'm fairly confident that they're collard greens that have been chopped too finely and then overcooked. Done right, they're pretty amazing (especially with a dash of vinegar).

  27. my impression is swiss chard too. I could be collard greens but the stems are a bit big. (at least for what we can grow in Idaho!)
    A reply to jesusismagic… I think you are feeling a little upset because no one thought of this when you were a kid! I'm sorry that you had to suffer through that but we are empowered to change! We can make a difference with the thanks to people like Mrs. Q.
    I see no harm in addressing the situation and using the monies available for school lunches more wisely. Why not give the kids healthy food? What does it help to feed them crap?

    I recently went to a school lunch with my daughter as a fund raiser (she is in a private christian school btw) and I was appauled at the burger and fries that was served. Wish I would have taken a picture Mrs. Q! Overcooked pre- processed meat patties that were as dry as could be. No cheese and a little bit of ketchup on dry buns. Not to mention it was cold! I could barely choke it down. Then there was the oven baked fries… again cold and a cup of ice cream. Where is the nutrition value in that?
    This is a private school, so they don't get the funding that public schools get. I can tell you… I will definitely be making my daughters lunch every day from now on.

  28. @jesusismagic
    Wow – I expected a much more heartfelt response from someone who uses jesusismagic?

    Do you seriously believe that being given crappy looking food like that is going to make a child want to work harder? Seriously??

    No, they're going to do exactly what you did – get busted for daydreaming or falling asleep in class because they threw their lunch away and they're starving.

    You also left out over half of the US citizens in your description. You skipped right over middle class. You described those who can easily afford to buy and pack their children a decent lunch every day. Then you described those who receive food stamps.

    What about all the people that make up the majority of our country? You know, the ones who can't quite afford to pack a lunch for their child everyday but make just a bit too much for food stamps. Hmm … any guesses on how many people in the US that category covers?

    And yes, I said decent. I'm absolutely sickened by these pictures. If an adult has to force themselves to eat this junk … can you imagine what the children are doing? I'm not even going to hit the "healthy" part here. Yes, healthier would be awesome but in Mrs. Q's case I think something at least somewhat tempting to eat would be a huge improvement!

    Our schools don't have the healthiest of lunches and maybe not even the best tasting every day … but wow! Let's just say I'll never ever complain nor will I allow my own children to complain about what they've had for lunch at school ever again. I'll be sure to show them these pictures and I'm positive they'll agree … these are disgusting looking!

    I pray you never lose your job Mrs. Q! First it's not fair that you would. Secondly, I would hope the parents of these students in your community would back you up. And thirdly, it looks as though these poor kids need a spokesperson for them. This school should be ashamed of themselves!

    Maybe if they'd stop using all the horrible styrofoam and pre-packaged food … they'd be able to afford something a little healthier and relatively appealing!

    I wish you and these kids the best of luck! I'll be following you here and on Twitter!

  29. Make those greens mushier, and more barf-like and you get the stuff that they call "spinach" at my school. To make this even worse, its the campus dining option that is cooking like this.

  30. I remember seeing greens on the lunch menu when I was growing up. We were all suspicious when it came on the day after they gut the grass. We were convinced they were serving us the clippings. At least, that's what they tasted like!


  31. I showed my 9 year old son a few of your pictures later last evening. I didn't even tell him what he was looking at … just wanted to grab his initial reaction.

    The first thing he saw was a meat patty with cheese on it. (Not sure I can even call it a "cheeseburger".)

    The first response was … Eww, what's that? Once he looked close he could of course see that it was supposed to be a cheeseburger. Oh, okay he says.

    As we scrolled down through many of the pictures he kept stopping me so he could get a better look at things to figure out what they were.

    And this I love … from the mouth of a 3rd grader.

    I showed him the lasagna. I told him: "This is apparently hard crunchy lasanga." He simply turns his head to me and says:

    "Now why does it have to be hard and crunchy?"

    Yes buddy, very good question …

    Just why does it have to be like this?

    I also must point out that I do not have picky eaters. Especially my son who would eat just about anything.

    Honestly, there's a disagreement at the dinner table every time we have brussel sprouts. My family fights over the last one.

    When we have spaghetti & salad. My kids practically fill up on the salad before they even touch the spaghetti.

    Both of my kids would a plate of raw veggies and ranch dressing over a bowl of chips any day.

    My son's favorite choice of drink is water.

    I also must point out that I'm the farthest thing from a health nut. Trust me when I say my kids choose healthy items much more than I do. While I too am a lover of fruits and veggies … it's my kids who keep my choices healthier.

    I'm just very blessed that my kids love things like brussel sprouts, green beans and asparagus.

    And I do realize that most do not. But there's even a difference between a healthy nutritional value and something that doesn't even remotely look appealing.

    (My comments are on most meals posted on this blog in general … not specifically the unknown green stuff.)

    So when a kid who loves these kinds of things and is a growing boy so he's not really picky on the looks of things says, "Eww – what's that?" You know something is wrong.

    I must ask … don't the other faculty members question why you're eating the school lunch every day? They must be grossed out at the thought.

  32. Let's all remember that the school lunches have to be paid for. If you are not in the "poor" bracket and receiving public assistance, you probably are not receiving any subsidy for the school lunch. If you don't like what they are serving, then take the money you would pay the school for the lunch and buy some lunch meat, a good loaf of bread, and some fruit. Make the lunches for a week. The other part to jesusismagic comment, I agree completely. When did the public school classroom become the place to teach ALL things. When I was a kid parents taught you about reponsibility and respect, and hard work, and etiquette. The public school classroom was meant to be for EDUCATION. You know reading and writing, spelling, math the subjects that kids need to know to be able to function. It's also commonly believed that most kids that are comfortable with their education, are less quarrelsome and disrespectful. Adults make decisions every day how to spend their money and how to raise or not raise their children. And while I may not judge them for those decisions, I am not going to go around "cleaning up" after them either.

  33. Regardless of what they are, the "greens", I won't eat them and I live in the South now. I was born and raised in Southern California, so a lot of the southern food here is beyond what my taste buds are willing to endure.

    Good luck with the lunches, though! Very interesting reading!

  34. Did they cut the grass that day? It seemed like every time they cut the grass, the school lunch included collard, turnip or mustard greens. We never had spinach – way too expensive to serve.

  35. @jesusismagic
    I, too, am quick to pick up on snobbery, and certainly over the last decade there has been a huge growth in upper-middle-class snobbery regarding food and school lunches. However, this is a serious problem with multifaceted ramifications. People taking issue with school lunches shouldn't be dismissed as trendy snobbery. For one thing, statistics on obesity (especially childhood) make it quite clear that US children need to learn better eating and wellness habits. Additionally, everyone should take offense to the ridiculous amount of packaging on every single lunch tray! It's incredibly wasteful and irresponsible. Schools are not necessarily meant to 'raise' children, as you said, but they should model behaviors worthy of adopting for a lifetime.

  36. the first thing I thought of was chard, however, chard is uncommon enough (at least in my area – southern New Hampshire) that I would be very much surprised to see chard in a school lunch.

  37. I think this is a really admirable project and very fitting given the present focus that is being put on childhood obesity in this country. I watched the sneak peek of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC and was horrified at what the children were being fed (pizza for breakfast?) and I really truly believe that they are being set up for an unenergetic and unhealthy life. Keep this up! The more attention you get the more attention this issue will get and *maybe* some change will come about.

  38. Once upon a time I was a food broker, and I traveled the state of Kentucky trying to get each school district to put my food on the bids. After a year of beating my head against a huge brick wall trying to get the food service directors to look at a heathier alternative, I gave up. They will purchase the cheapest food possible, with no concerns other than the almighty dollar.

  39. Hurray for Teachers/Moms like you. Our children need better food for lunch and more recess. I raised 4 children, none were over weight. That's because they had healthy food and played outdoors running, playing ball, riding bikes, etc. Take away all the electronic toys and get the children outside doing something.

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