After reading several heated threads about this book, I decided that I needed to read it ASAP. I have to say that I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, and it has given me new insight into cultural beliefs about food that are decidedly American (but I thought were universal.)
As the longer title suggests, this book is about a family who moved to France, revolutionized the way their family ate, cured their picky eaters, stopped snacking, and then ultimately moved back to North America and realized that it was much harder to maintain when you’re outside of the French culture.
First, let me say that this is not the same author who wrote French Women Don’t Get Fat. That’s a whole different lady, making a whole different point.
This author, Karen Le Billon, married a Frenchman and decided that it’d be fun to go live in France for a year. At first, it was hard for her to adjust to the way of life in France. She was one of the few people at the supermarket. The locals shopped at their local fresh market that was held downtown. At the market downtown, you tell the vendor which day/meal you plan on eating a particular food, and they pick the perfect item for that timing. It is a slow process, and very personalized.
As she adjusted to the ways of shopping, she also learned that the French approach food education with their children completely differently. They encourage the kids to view new foods as exciting, rather than scary, and expect for kids to need to try foods many times to develop a taste for it. They don’t snack, as that makes the child less hungry for real food at the meals. They also view mealtimes as a special occasion (with most people still going home for hot lunches, their biggest meal), and eating on the go is a big no-no.
The author also learns first-hand that school lunches are a whole different beast in France. There is only one option, the kids sit at tables with tablecloths and real silverware. The meal is a traditional 4-course meal, with a cheese course and everything, and there is NO personalizing the meal. The idea is that if you are given good food, you should eat it. They view the idea of giving kids a choice in what they eat as stunting — leading to having an adult population who is still picky like toddlers.
One thing that I didn’t expect, but really appreciated, is that the author is coming from a background of what she considers attachment parenting (although it is bordering on permissive), and she has no desire to adopt the parts of French culture that are far from AP, including the appalling low breastfeeding rate in France. I didn’t feel like she took an overly rosy view of French culture, but I did like how she took the things that worked and found ways to use them in her life, both in France and when they returned to North America.
I think this book is well worth the read. It has yummy recipes in the back, including a killer mousse au chocolat that we made. Her descriptions of how food is approached in France were really eye-opening for me, and have changed the way we approach mealtimes. Definitely check it out if you get the chance. 🙂