When I heard about Karen Le Billion's book, French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, my first reaction was: hey, that’s a book I wish I'd written! Since we’ve lived here, we’ve been amazed to observe how French kids eat. Which is: enthusiastically, adventurously, and sanely.
I got interested in this subject after observing kids in French restaurants. Six and seven year olds, studying the entire menu carefully. And ordering ris de veau (veal sweetbreads) or boudin noir (blood sausage) or whatever else looks interesting. No ‘kid’s plate’ in sight! (and, I might add, they have beautiful table manners). Proof that the French do it better: obesity in children is not a problem in this country. I wondered, how do French parents do it?
When I asked French friends for their secrets, they seemed surprised I would ask. “Why they eat what we eat, of course,” they told me. Even when their kids are very small, many French parents simply chop or purée what they themselves are eating, no matter how exotic. And of course French parents teach kids the same sensible food rules they follow (and Food Rules are fairly rigid in France: shared family meals at particular times; no snacking; small portions served in courses; and an adoration of good cuisine).
Not all the good ideas come from the French, of course. On NPR I heard an interview with an American woman who is "cooking her way around the world" with her children, with ethnic dishes from every country. She got out a globe and got her children involved in the journey (sorry, just caught the tail-end, and can't find the link). What a clever way to nurture life-long adventurous eating.
The back cover of Le Billion's book states that "We need to dramatically rethink the way we feed children, at home and at school". So, you parents and grandparents out there, I’m very curious to hear your take on feeding kids in this modern world!
The poster above, worthy of a prominent posting on the fridge, shows some of the food rules from Le Billion's book. Hmm, might this be a good thing for the grown-ups among us as well?
In the COMMENTS: Do take a moment to read all of the thoughtful comments that came in from the last post, "Contemplating Charlie". I found them touching and edifying. Natalia wistfully evokes the Beatles song, "Love is All We Need". Such a simple solution, and yet so complicated.
Favorite Reads: I went to a lovely women's party (merci, Dani!) where several folks absolutely raved about a book by French author Muriel Barbery, translated into English, called The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It "explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building". I've got it on reserve at my library, and reviews from readers who've read it are welcome! Cookbook author Nathalie Dupree (more about her books in a future post) was at the party, and she reminded us about a great French movie which is on a lot of folks' favorite movie list: Babette's Feast (English Subtitled). And while we're talking about kid's food preferences: if you want to learn more about the fascinating topic of taste itself, try Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat. Besides learning about the science of taste, you'll learn about food memories, people who are 'Super-tasters', and more. Speaking of tasty, my foodie friend Gordon recommends a quirky little cookbook about real live southern cuisine, called The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. He says, "it's faboo, put it in the blog!"