Oh, quelle surprise. Apparently French Kids Eat Everything, or so says the latest book to boast about how effing faultless the women and children of France are. This new piece of literary Francophilia comes hot on the heels of French Children Don’t Throw Food (in which New Yorker-turned-Parisian Pamela Druckerman argues that les enfants Francais are infinitely better behaved than kids this side of the Channel, since their parents don’t take any merde from them) and follows in the tradition of French Women Don’t Get Fat (mainly by eating what they want, t’would seem, but only in portions the size of a matchbox) and French Woman Don’t Sleep Alone (it’s because they are charming, discreet, charismatic, mysterious, and – I gather – because they love themselves). I haven’t yet seen publicity for a book called ‘French Women Have Fantastic Fannies Even After Giving Birth’, but as I’ve read more than one article on the subject in the past, it must only be a matter of time.
Anyhoo, being as the issue of kids and food interests me and I’ve written about it myself, I was intrigued to read of this title by Karen Le Billon, a Canadian who moved to France and witnessed her children’s transformation from fussy eaters who turned their nose up at everything, to petit gastronomes who’d gladly chow down on snails, smelly cheese and even – really – on aubergines. So chuffed was she about this (and who can blame her?), she sat down and wrote French Kids Eat Everything, in which she outlines all the rules for family eating à la Français.
Inspired by the whole philosophy, I’m paraphrasing some of said rules here, courtesy of an edited extract of the book in last weekend’s Sunday Times Style magazine – and with the addition of some entirely unsolicited views of my own. Mme Le Billon, je suis désolée…
Parents are in charge of their children’s food education
In other words, it’s up to us to teach them to eat well. Fair point, well made. My other half and I are foodies for sure, and we do our best to pass on all the right nutritional messages to our girls. Unfortunately, they rumbled me on the following matter some years ago: I bloody love chocolate, and I bloody hate fruit. Is there any point in lying about that? Non.
Avoid emotional eating
This is – as I’m sure any psychologist would agree – a very sensible truth. But the fact remains that EATING CHOCOLATE ALWAYS MAKES ME FEEL HAPPIER THAN I WAS BEFORE. Is there any point in lying about that? Non.
Food is social
Mai oui. Bien Sȗr. Sit down together for meals. I’m all for that. And we darn well DO eat with our kids in this house, every day, in spite of the fact that it’s about as much fun as having teeth pulled because they a) fidget horribly b) have the table manners of pigs and c) take turns to dislike what’s been dished up, regardless of how long one has slaved over it in the kitchen.
Don’t eat the same main dish more than once a week
OK, well this also sounds like good advice. But it’s tricky when there are seven days in the week, and only SIX meals that are mutually agreeable to all members of the household. We have to double up at least once. It would be mathematically impossible to do otherwise.
Fussy eaters DON’T have to like something, but they DO have to taste it
To be fair, we actually have this rule in our house already. (With the following addendum: If you don’t like it and need to spit it out, please do not do so on the table or the floor.)
I can absolutely see that this makes perfect sense. And I try, oh, I do try. But it is so very hard to deny a child who comes home from school two hours before dinner’s due and tells me, with utter conviction: ‘Mum. I am LITERALLY dying of starvation.’ (The other factor is that – judging by the volume of biscuit wrappers, mouldy bread crusts and pockets of seeds, nuts and berries that I find scattered in the corners and crannies of their bedrooms, it doesn’t actually matter if I say ‘no’ to snacking. They will apparently snack autonomously, in any case.)
Take your time eating
Not a problem for Miss P the elder, who procrastinates so much over meals she would still be sitting in front of her dinner at breakfast time if we didn’t remove her plate and grant her permission to leave the table some time around sunset. But yes, an issue that should perhaps be addressed by myself, Mr P, and the younger Miss P at some point, since the three of us eat rather like a trio competing in a ‘first person to get indigestion wins a prize’ contest. Maybe one day the four of us will meet somewhere in the middle.
Oh well, anyway, there you go, just some thoughts. I would like to add that I actually think this book probably contains a lot of sound advice for families like mine. I might actually buy it.
Meanwhile, bon appétit!
Disclaimer: Painstaking research went into the correct spelling and accent usage of the French words used herein. Please don’t tell me if I got anything wrong.