Something that newly arrived families may notice when visiting and eventually attending a local school in Barcelona (and I suspect Spain as a whole) is the focus that is placed on the midday meal offered at school.
It’s not unusual for schools to make a special visit to the kitchen (if they have one) to see the space and meet the cooks during the school tour.
They will proudly tell you of the fact that the school menu is overseen by a nutritionist and that they adhere to the principles of the Mediterranean diet.
They will tell you that they have a cocina propia (their own kitchen where the food is cooked on the premises) rather than the dreaded catering (where food is prepared offsite and brought to the school at lunchtime).
They do this because the midday meal is important culturally and quite simply, parents are interested in what their child is putting in their mouths when they are not around.
Since everyone knows the importance placed on the role of lunch in Spanish culture, this shouldn’t be such a surprise. If you were brought up in Spain (or in fact any another Mediterranean country) this may not seem strange to you but if, like me, you lived through the Turkey Twizzler Controversy then this will seem like an interesting (but welcome) cultural quirk.
I, for one, love the fact that at primary school I can rest assured that my kids are eating a good meal at lunchtime. When the school kitchen was being refurbished and they had to rely on catering for a few weeks, I didn’t hear the end of it! I have even been asked by my daughter to cook something ‘the way they do at school!’.
Having now visited a great number of different schools in the city, I am no longer taken aback by the detour to the kitchen.
In fact, I look forward to it. Perhaps it is not the most important thing to focus on when choosing a school but it would a shame not to see it, wouldn’t it?