There has been a growing trend lately of Americans looking towards other countries (specifically France) for wisdom on child rearing. The book French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, was released recently. It is part memoir, part parenting book, part cookbook- inspired by the author’s year living in France with her (French) husband and two young children. It documents how a North American mom had to alter her feeding habits to assimilate to how the French feed their children.
The book is outstanding- on a couple of levels. First, unlike many parenting books that make parents feel bad about what they are doing incorrectly, Le Billon is telling us about her journey – which very clearly demonstrates the mistakes she was making. (No parent wants to highlight the things they have done poorly. I applaud Le Billon’s candor.) Secondly, I have to hand it to the French. I really dig their food philosophy! The book gives really solid advice on how to raise your children to be competent (if not adventurous) eaters. It reinforces good manners, the idea that children should be invited and expected to eat most of what the adults eat, and the concept that variety is key in feeding children.
The book has actually been a major topic of discussion at our family table. One evening, after scarfing down their dinner in 5 minutes and asking to be excused, I told my kids about the book and some of the things I was learning. I told them how meals in France are longer and French children are expected to sit at the table until the meal is finished (or at least longer than 5 minutes!). They listened intently and sat at the table for 25 more minutes as we discussed some of the differences between how the French eat and how we eat. Over the next few weeks we talked more about different cultures and how they eat, as well as what they eat.
If you are a parent looking for some guidance when it comes to feeding your children, I strongly recommend French Kids Eat Everything. If you have ever wanted to move to another country, I recommend the book. If you like good food, I recommend it. If you have ever felt out of your element in another country, I recommend it.
If you're reading this, I recommend it.