May 26, 12
Read in May, 2012
My mom saw this book when she was out shopping and picked it up for me. Although I didn't expect to like it much (the title seemed too preachy), I was surprised to find it quite enjoyable and informative. The author, a Canadian from Vancouver B.C., discusses her family's experiences from when they moved to her French husband's small village in Brittany for a year. The focus of the book is on the cultural differences between the North American and French methods of training infants and children to eat. The author experienced quite a difficult time adjusting to the French ways of food education and etiquette as her 2 young daughters were quite picky eaters when they first arrived in France. She discusses the process their family went through to identify unspoken cultural expectations/rules that are generally accepted in France surrounding the area of children and food. With a 1.5 year old and a 2 month old at home, this book felt particularly relevant to me. Although my daughter seems to eat everything these days, I expect that as she gets older she may get a bit more picky. I suppose it is easiest to begin to notice cultural norms that you take for granted when confronted with a culture that has vastly different expectations and priorities from your own. After reading "French Kids Eat Everything" I feel like I have a better idea of some perhaps not so healthy habits that I have fallen into and which are very common in our culture.
One my favorite points of the book was the emphasis the French place on training their children from a very young age to develop a diverse palate and the responsibility the parents assume in their children's food education. Le Billon's French Food Rule number 1 is, "Parents: You are in charge of food education." Although my goal has always been to serve healthy and delicious food to my family, I never really thought of systematically trying to expose my children to as many foods as possible with the goal of developing a wide range of tastes. It was interesting to read about the French system of introducing various vegetables in puree form from the tender age of 4 or 5 months. Especially interesting was the idea that certain vegetables should be introduced before others due to the strength of their taste or texture.
Other aspects of the book that encouraged me to think about how we are using food in our household were the emphasis on "avoiding emotional eating" (not using food as a reward, bribe, entertainment...), the point that children should eat what adults eat ("no short order cooking"), and "no snacking" (I think that one might be harder for me than for my daughter).
I felt like the author did a good job of portraying her successes and failures as she and her husband parented their daughters in France. It turned out that the book wasn't too preachy and her family didn't come off as having everything together or being a complete basket case. Overall, it was nice to get a picture of how food education is handled in France and it encouraged me to think more seriously about what I am teaching my children about food and eating well. I am hoping that implementing some of these ideas will help us keep at bay the whining over food issue which has already started to creep into my daughter's newly developing vocabulary. And I think I'll be making a wider variety of veggies! We had artichokes the other day and she seemed to like them quite a bit.