A vegetarian meal for school dinner in the 1950’s

We seem to think that meatless meals are a new trend; not so! Here is something I wrote a couple of years ago:

There may have been different reasons for offering a vegetarian meal for school dinner in the 1950’s – economy. I don’t suppose there were options for school meals, you had what was given;  I do remember some time later when I was at school having school dinners, a couple of people were always given grated cheese or a hard-boiled egg to go with the vegetables when there wasn’t something veggie on offer such as delicious cheese tart!

In my mother-in-law’s 1950’s school kitchen cook book which she had as head cook in a local primary school there’s a vegetable hot-pot, which has a list of fresh vegetables, potatoes, carrots, swede, parsnips, onions or leaks, plus fried peas and haricot beans, plus a small amount of oatmeal or sago for thickening and Marmite or tomato purée for flavouring! Unfortunately they suggest dipping for frying the vegetables but add the option of margarine. The serving suggestion is more potatoes but mashed this time, and green vegetables which include Brussels sprouts, spring greens, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and watercress.

There are a couple of recipes for cheese tart but neither sound like what we had at school.

Cheese layer tart (enough for a hundred children so you may need to scale it back a little!!)

  • pastry made with 7½ lbs flour
  • 9 lbs grated cheese
  • 1 lb potatoes, diced and cooked
  • 2 lbs cooked peas
  • 1 lb dried milk or 8 pints proper milk
  • 2 lbs skinned tomatoes, diced and cooked
  • 2 lbs carrots, diced and cooked
  • 1 lb onions, diced and cooked
  • 8 eggs
  • seasoning
  1. line dishes with pastry (save some for a lid) and mix eggs and milk
  2. mix all vegetables and arrange in layers with the cheese
  3. season and carefully add milk and eggs
  4. cover with pastry and bake

To me this sounds more like a pie, and now I think about it we did also have a cheese pie bu it was cheese and onion as I remember.

Cheese potato pie (for 100 children)

  • 25 lbs potatoes cooked and mashed
  • 9 lbs 6 oz grated cheese
  • 6 lbs chopped and fried onions
  • 2 lbs of dried milk reconstituted with the water used for cooking the potatoes
  • ¼ lb dripping (or margarine or oil)
  • seasoning
  1. add the milk to the mashed potatoes
  2. add all the other ingredients reserving some cheese to sprinkle on the top
  3. put into dish, sprinkle on cheese, cook in a hot oven until well browned

With this I guess you could serve baked beans, also from the recipe book, made with haricot beans, dripping, flour, brown sugar, stock, mixed spice, vinegar, tomato puree and seasoning. The beans in those days had to be soaked overnight and then boiled until tender before making them into bake beans!


    1. Lois

      We had a couple, but we didn’t think of them with that label, they just didn’t eat meat or fish and had terribly dull replacements. Looking back our school dinners were very varied, and although it was the 50’s/60’s, they were very balanced and with lots of ‘healthy’ items – as well as the stodge!


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