Food memories from boarding school

I spent 7 years in boarding school, when I was 10-13, and again from 14-17 (so I had a year off in between).  My parents started by moving to Vanuatu, a small pacific island, and my dad’s employer paid for my schooling.  When my parents returned to Brisbane, I was devastated to be a day girl   So when they moved to Wollongong (a town 1 hr from Sydney), I was asked if I wanted to stay in Brisbane, or go to school in Wollongong or Sydney.  Wollongong didn’t offer an Anglican all girls school, so it’s likely I would have had to go to a school in Sydney.  A 2 hr daily commute is rough on a teenager, so it’s possible I may have been a boarder in Sydney.  But sometimes the devil you know is better than anything!  So I went back into boarding school in Brisbane, and was there til graduation!

Boarding school wasn’t a punishment, for me or almost all the other 180 girls.  We loved the camaraderie, and the opportunities – you can play so many sports, and there’s no car pooling in most cases.  That being said, some boarding school stereotypes are definitely true! The food was… not ideal!  In the 7 years I was in the boarding house, they had a few moments of ‘tarting up’ the food – it was all laid out like it was a photo shoot.  For Melbourne Cup (a horse race that stops the nation) they put out a spread with non alcoholic wine, even.  It was stolen.  It was a coup.  Anyhow, these times of improved conditions seldom lasted.

What has pervaded are these memories:

– White bread + butter + sugar at the dinner table

– Orange halves + sugar (you think they’d learn to not put sugar on the tables, right?)

Photo shoot with readers in mind (or... making OJ for a sick BF) Oh the synergies
Photo shoot with readers in mind (or… making OJ for a sick BF) Oh the synergies

– The best dessert ever: caramel tarts.  And running to afternoon tea the following day in the hope of leftovers

They looked *just* like this! source:
They looked *just* like this!

– Icecream bars, wrapped in papery/plastic on Fridays

– Blueberry muffins for breakfast

– Crumpets, English Muffins and raisin toast added to weekend breakfasts

Oh the added toasting variety!
Oh the added toasting variety!

– Bacon and eggs on chapel mornings (Thursday and Sunday)

– Beef stronganoff looking like dog food, namely PAL (remember I mentioned this in my food dislikes list?)

– Creamed rice always resulting in rumours of maggots (especially after numerous repeat servings!)

– Milo (chocolate malt milk powder) stuck to benchtops

– Never having access to a microwave

It’s always interesting to speak to other who went to boarding school.  One friend has struggled with eggs ever since.  What about you?  What are your food memories – particularly institutionalised food!

19 Replies to “Food memories from boarding school”

  1. That 12.54% figure is interesting – I worked out after your last post that we spend roughly 12% of our income at the moment on our monthly food bills!

    The boarding school food sounds quite ok! (especially the caramel tarts and weekend breakfasts!)

    That's such a great take on boarding school that you didn't want to go back to being a day student!

    1. I was so fiercely independent, i think, I didn't want my parents 'cramping my style'! Interesting that my eating out matched you food bill – just imagine if I didn't eat out? Which I'm trying, along with going away for a wedding – let the challenge begin!

  2. Sarah, what a big challenge you are taking on! I wish you the best of luck. I was a horribly fussy eater when I was a child and could barely cope with food that was served away from home such as at Girl Guide camp. If anything was served I didn't like, I wanted just to leave it and have nothing, but I was often forced to sit there for an hour and told to eat it. I ate a lot of healthy food, but had a long dislikes list. I didn't start eating a wider range of foods until I was in my 20s. Looking at your list above makes me want to go out and buy raisin bread to toast for breakfast!

    1. It's more of a challenge when I realised we'll be away for a weekend wedding – but I have a mouthwatering plan so far! I don't mind if the BF buys food out, but I'm trying not to. As you know, I still have a considerable list – but I hide it well, because I will eat things I don't like (but I just won't enjoy it!). Actually I tuaght my even fussier brother my trick to not go hungry – eat cake. It'll fill you up, and it's not so bad for a few days of school camp! I'd love some raisin bread too – whenever I'm at my parents and they have it, I eat some (trying to be gluten free be damned!).

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing how you do on your challenge.

    No boarding school here but school lunch….um, I think we had the Beef stronganoff looking like dog food. Ugh, where did they get that garbage?!?!?! And to think, we live on different continents.

    I never have put sugar on an orange but my grandma taught me to put it on a grapefruit. And raisin bread is to die for. It's really good as french toast.

    1. Ah see we don't largely have 'school lunch' programs in Australia. But of course boarding school would be just like school lunches in other places! We did anything to make those oranges appear appetizing after days and days of them and horrible apples! Ah, I'm weakening to raisin bread – and I've been so good trying to be gluten free! I've never tried it for French Toast, maybe I should give it a whirl!

  4. Boarding school food – I just had to comment.

    I spent a year at boarding school in 1970. My memories – porridge – rolled oats one day and Cerevite the next. I only ate it on the Cerevite days. Blancmange and macaroni cheese are the only other stand out memories so I guess everything else was reasonable but no real highlights.

    1. Wow, if everything else was reasonable, you were doing ok! Blancmange, I reckon now days they'd up sell that as creme caramel or something! I almost wish we'd had macaroni and cheese, I love that! Well provided it's tasty, rather than tasteless. There was a fair bit of porrige, but I must have avoided it there, and still it daily in winter now. Oh and I had to goggle Cerevite!

  5. Good luck with the challenge – it will be tough! When I was a live-in volunteer overseas, the volunteers would take turns cooking for the rest of the volunteers (up to 70 people). As a vegetarian I ended up eating a lot of pasta with tomato sauce, boiled veggies (and nothing else) and potato-based veggie burgers served with mashed potato. After a while I started helping in the kitchen, to try and teach people about vegetarian food, and to make sure I got a decent meal!

    1. Tell me about it – I LOVE eating out!! I can only imagine how unimaginative vego food might be in a bulk setting – especially when they aren't 'trained' cooks or chefs. Actually I ate vego a lot at boarding school – the meat was so suspect. Some vego meals, like lasagne, were awesome. But if I never see another vego patty, it'll be too soon – full of corn and peas, neither my close friends!

  6. My kids go to an Anglican school – as day students, but my goodness the boarders eat well there! So maybe things have improved over time.
    Good luck with your eating in challenge. Remember to stock up the cupboards a bit more with some 'fun' foods so you will have something to fall back on when you feel like going out. Do you have some basic go-to foods for nights when you are really tired after work? Or whip up some soup and pop it in the freezer. You can do it!

    1. Don't get me wrong, we ate well (comparatively) at times. Hot meals for lunch are a blessing, that's for sure. Like pizza pockets… mmm. So warm and yummy! As to it improving – it largely depends on the contractor. I've since worked in two boarding schools, and to be honest, they weren't that much better – there's only so many things you can make in bulk batches!

      You're right, I do need some 'fun' food at home – I realise I'm stretching myself thin, trying to not eat out, not eat sugar, and not eat gluten! Mostly, I'm not too tired after work, getting home at 4pm is such a blessing. But if I'm really worse for wear, there's always pasta and simple sauce. I also like to make souffle, as I always have the ingredients on hand, and it's like baking, which I love. I do need to make some soup – at the moment I have leftover leek tart – yummo!

  7. I never attended birding school, in high school I avoided all cafeteria food, and for elementary school.. Canned veggies became something I loathe. There is a taste which permeates the vegetable I can't stand.

    1. Ah yeah you've mentioned your distaste for canned veggies. I find canned tomatos so convenient though! I don't use any other canned vegies, that I can think of.

  8. Another one here who never put sugar on oranges. And I don't think it is a food trend I will take up. Weren't other fruits offered? If oranges and apples were the only fruit on offer, it was pretty poor form for a school in Qld – where so much yummy fruit is grown.

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