Serving suggestion

12th June 2015 at 01:00

The reason I'm in our local chippy at 11 o'clock on a Saturday night is because the expensive restaurant we went to earlier neglected to include sufficient carbohydrate with my sea bass fillet. Although the roast tomatoes, caramelised red peppers and salsa romesco were to die for, I never expected it to be from starvation.

I consider portion size to be an important factor in any meal - particularly one that comes in at pound;35 a head not including wine. But my biggest complaint this evening is reserved for a large slab of granite. I'm not normally fussy about what my food is served on but I draw the line at an irregular-shaped lump of igneous rock.

Journalist Ross McGinnes recently launched a Twitter account called @WeWantPlates that highlights the growing trend of restaurants using ridiculously inappropriate tableware. Salads are arranged on garden trowels, chips stacked in miniature shopping trolleys and a sausage casserole served in a tiny toilet bowl (I might have made the last one up).

But the battle for food to be served on proper plates has been waged in schools up and down the country for years. It began not long after someone armed with a stopwatch was given the task of making efficiency savings in the serving, eating and washing up of school dinners. Rumour has it that the school meal flight tray was literally a product of blue-sky thinking - the brainchild of a local education authority officer on a flight from Gatwick to Alicante.

From the very beginning I have been opposed to this all-in-one dining experience. I'm all for fusion cuisine but I draw the line at combining rice pudding with bangers and mash. A drizzle of fluorescent custard over deep-fried Turkey Twizzlers is no one's idea of fine dining. And you don't need MasterChef's John Torode to tell you that the last thing your spotted dick needs is a swirl of granulated gravy reduction.

What we feed our kids has never been under such sharp scrutiny. Childhood obesity is spreading across school playgrounds. An epidemic of type 2 diabetes threatens to overwhelm the NHS. Only a food revolution can save us. That's why Jamie Oliver came up with Food Revolution Day, part of his campaign to put compulsory practical food education on the curriculum.

But how can we hope to raise the status of school dinners if we undermine their reputation by serving them on the ubiquitous plastic flight tray? It may be unpalatable news for educational bean counters but the truth is that the tray must go. That's why I call on teachers to insist that, from now on, their pupils experience total culinary excellence. Let their food be healthy, let it be nutritious, but let it be served on real plates.

"How would you like your chips?" asks the lady behind the counter.

"In a paper bag with lashings of salt and vinegar," I reply.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield


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