Two books out recently tell the story of how the French teach their children to eat just about anything—from stinky cheeses to escargot—without battles or bribery, and how you can too.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon is part memoir of the author’s year spent raising her two young girls in a small town in France, and part instruction manual for learning to feed your kids the French way.
Le Billon and her French husband took their children to live in his family’s home town for a year and learned–in that short span of time–French culture is much more condusive to raising good eaters than North American culture. (Le Billon is from Canada.) For instance, the state-run preschools serve even the youngest children three-course lunches every day, and the little ones must learn to patiently wait their turn to be fed. School-age children find that learning to eat well and appreciate good food is truly part of the curriculum.
Maybe if American culture were as supportive, teaching our kids to eat slowly and daintily wouldn’t be such a challenge here. But Le Billon takes her experience and distills it down into very manageable food rules that any family can follow to help bring dinner time back under control. The book is light and fun because of the self-depreciating tone Le Billon adopts when talking about her own learning experiences with her children, making it a breath of fresh air from preachy parenting books.
Bringing Up Bêbe by Pamela Druckerman is a more wide-ranging socialogical look at raising kids in France from an American woman and British man who decide to settle in Paris to raise their kids. Druckerman discovers the same cultural approaches to teaching children about food as Le Billon, but she also includes more about the general mindset of French parents.
Perhaps most indicative of French parenting style is le pause—the few moments a French mother waits before attending to her child, no matter how young. The idea behind it is in those few seconds or minutes, the child starts to learn to calm herself, to wait, and to employ patience. Kind of a radical idea for some American parents who jump whenever their children utter a peep.
Druckerman also adopts a memoir-style in describing her ups and downs as an American ex-pat mother in Paris, and while she doesn’t lay out any convenient rules for American moms to try, she does highlight what she sees as the best advice French mothers have to share.
Image by Romain Girod