French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

/ posted in: Reading

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy EatersFrench Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Memoir/nonfiction

This family spent one year living in Brittany near the husband’s family.  They had two small children and their relatives were horrified by their eating habits.  In France there are many unspoken rules that govern eating and this Canadian family was breaking them all. 

1.  You are in charge of food education.

2.  Avoid emotional eating – Don’t use food to avoid disciplining children.  No bribes.

3. Parents schedule meals and kids eat what adults eat.

4.  Eat meals together

5.  Eat your veggies.

6.  You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it.

7.  No snacking.  It is ok to feel hungry between meals.

8.  Slow food is happy food.

9.  Eat mostly real food.

10.  Remember eating is joyful!

I picked up this book because this is a major pet peeve of mine.  I was pretty much raised with these rules, even though I’m not at all French, so when I had to feed a stepchild these seemed natural.  Then all hell broke loose.

I was dealing with a child who was never taught to use utensils.  She was taught to scream whenever there was a knife on her side of the table.  That ended when I forced her to pick up a butter knife and challenged her to try to find a way to hurt herself with it.  Seriously, forks are more dangerous than that.

Because most adults who work with this kid are terrified of her, they give into her demands for whatever food she wants.  Not here.  I’m not forcing her to eat disgusting things but she doesn’t see it that way.  When she was about 5 we had a fondue night.  There was a spread of fruits and vegetables on the table and she spent the meal screaming, “Heather!  You’re a bad cooker!”  Ah, memories.  At almost 11 she still has no table manners despite my insistence.  She’s getting better.  About half the time she can chew without food falling out of her mouth.  It is hard because she isn’t here often and apparently these rules aren’t insisted on elsewhere.  It makes me wonder why I’m the only Miss Manners around.

It isn’t just here.  I watch my mother with my niece and nephew and wonder what happened to the woman who raised me.  I never got to eat macaroni and cheese instead of what the adults were eating.  Had I suggested it, it would not have been pretty.  I was a budding vegetarian even as a kid so I had to smother roast in ketchup to get it down.  The kids also eat almost nonstop.  I don’t remember being handed food every time I was bored.

I found the French approach to food education in school interesting.  I think kids should be taught how to try things and how to eat in public.  The only problem I have with it is the emphasis on never expressing personal preference.  It makes me wonder how any French vegetarians deal with the system.

I also enjoyed hearing how they tried to keep the French spirit of eating when they moved back to Vancouver and a culture that was not supportive of it.

There are some recipes in the back of the book that look interesting.  Some of these are baby food which are basically soups.  They sound like things I’d like.