When American writer, Karen Le Billon, moved her family to her husband’s home town in France her attitudes towards food and how she fed her family came under the spotlight. Faced with a very different way of eating and taking mealtimes, Le Billon at first resisted but eventually changed her family’s mealtimes for the better. Gone are the snacks, and the different meals for fussy eaters; gone are the children dictating what everyone else eats; gone too seemingly are the nightly battles.
This is not a cookbook but more of a guide to a new way of eating with your children. What’s fascinating is how all the solid-as-a-rock notions Le Billon had about feeding her children fell away one by one.
Again, there are the 10 rules you’d typically see in self-help books, in this case the 10 French Food Rules, among them: no snacking, kids eat what adults eat, eat real food i.e. not processed and so on.
All in all, it’s very sensible, logical and matter-of-fact. Karen overcomes her own resistance and that of her children to start expanding their palate and to encourage a genuine appetite in her children for new and varied foods.
As I read this, I started to feel like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It all appeared so easy. Parents are in charge; parents decide menus and cook one meal for everyone, no arguments. Could this really work in my house?
Well yes and no. I think the basic premise is excellent and we have stuck to some of the rules, or rather they have become ingrained in our own family rituals – sitting down to eat at a table with no distractions for example. Some points though, like realising I’d already blown it as far as getting my kids to eat a more varied diet, were depressing. According to French paediatricians, Le Dillon recounts, children’s appetites naturally decrease between the ages of two and four. So French parents actively encourage their toddlers to try as many varied foods as possible in the first two years of life. Soft cheese like Roquefort, vegetable soup, green beans, courgettes, baby endive, baby chard and squash – there are at least four things on that list that my children have never tried. Maybe this is why dinner times are such a battle?
This is such an eye-opening book, I’d recommend it to any parent struggling with mealtimes. While you may not take all the advice from the French, you’ll find something that works for you.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon is published in the US by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2012; and in the UK by Piatkus, 2012. It is available in all good book shops 🙂 RRP: £12.99 paperback