Everyday Reading: French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

August 30, 2012

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

While I was reading Bringing Up Bebe, I stumbled upon several mentions of this just-about-to-published book on a similar topic. Since I'd loved the former book so much, I was anxious to get my hands on French Kids Eat Everything.

French Kids Eat Everything has a lot of similarities to Bringing Up Bebe, but they really are quite different books. Bringing Up Bebe focuses on lots of aspects of parenting in France (schooling, playing, eating, sleeping) and is definitely more about being a parent.

French Kids Eat Everything, on the other hand, focuses pretty much exclusively on food (with brief mentions here and there of other parenting differences between North American and French culture), and it's much more of a "how-to" book rather than an "insights on French parenting" kind of memoir. Also, French Kids is really about the childhood experience, more than it is about being the parent, if that distinction makes any sense.

Karen Le Billon is a Canadian married to a French man and they've spent all their lives together in Canada (they both are professors). When their two daughters are small (about one and five), they decide to take a year and live in France, in the tiny town where Karen's husband grew up - and where his family still lives.

Although they knew their kids were picky, they didn't really understand HOW unusual this was until they moved to France and their children stick out like picky sore thumbs.

And they just can't get AWAY from it - the grandparents and other family members constantly comment on it, her husband starts to notice how un-French his children's eating habits are, and people at the bakery, school, market, etc all are quick to make suggestions or reprove the way Karen lets her children eat.

She finally resolves to do something about it and thus their family's food experiment begins.

It's not easy, and the first efforts are rousingly unsuccessful. The girls hate the loss of their familiar snacks and aren't eager to try new foods. But as they slowly work to make dinner a more interseting and fun time for the family, and cut back on snacks to just one, very satisfying, snack in the afternoon, things get better. Karen's husband helps her to recognize it's okay for their kids to feel a little hungry between meals - that the first nudge of hunger doesn't instantly mean it's time for a snack.

And by the time the year is up, the eating habits of the whole family - not just the children - are remarkably improved.

What makes this book particularly interesting and useful is that at the end of a year, the family moves back to Vancouver. Which means they must figure out how to keep their good eating habits and strategies going when the rest of the society they interact with is eating in the car, slurping down lunch in ten minutes, and snacking like it's the most important meal of the day.

I think it's easy to read something like Bringing Up Bebe and think, "well, YES, I'd parent like that if everyone around me was too, but how can I be the only person at the playground refusing to give my child a snack?" This one, I felt, really gave me a lot of tools to improve our family's eating habits in the midst of a food culture that is on-the-go and extremely snack-driven.

I love reading a book that is both useful AND absolutely entertaining and enjoyable. And this one was one of those books. If you're interested in food at all, this book is a gem.

Copy checked out from the library

12 comments:

  1. I think I will read both this book and Bringing up Bebe. I am not a fan of the constant snacking culture, so I am interested to see what these authors have to say.

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  2. Both of these were GREAT books! I think I liked this one the best though. I'm glad we got to read it together and discuss it!!!

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  3. What do you do if your Pleasant Grove Library doesn't have ANY of these books? Buy them on Amazon? Ugh. I wish I could check out a book other than Harry Potter or the Boxcar Children!

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  4. I am going to have to get this one! I did a similar experiment in my own home- I HAD to cut out snacks for hailyn- she wasn't eating meals- and it was a problem. I didn't want her to just live on goldfish crackers- so we cut snakcs out- and no snacks at church (gulp!) but really she doesn't NEED them. She eats a sandwich or something before church and then naps when we get home (11 o clock church) and then she eats at dinner- she gets a snack when she wakes up from a nap but it's yogurt or an apple- and we are SO much happier! We don't bring snacks to the park either- glad I am not the only one around!! I was doing this (well sort of!) for a whileI'll have to check it out! love it!

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  5. I've been so excited to read this!

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  6. I loved this book too, a fascinating journey. I haven't been implementing it as I should, but have been FORCING kids to eat more than a no-thank-you-bite of my delicious dinners.

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  7. I have got to try this one out. My kids don't snack much. But they don't eat much either. I am kind of stumped by their eating habits/preferences. My Mom's solution is always "here! HAVE A FRUIT SNACK!" So I totally get the mentality- maybe I'll suggest SHE read it too!

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  8. I thought you already read this book?? I really enjoyed this one and had some eye opening ideas from it!

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  9. I have poured over Gabrielle's (DM) posts about this exact subject. I've added this to my gr list.

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  10. I have found that my child eats much better if I limit his snacks before lunch and dinner. However, I am a bit conflicted because there are a number of "authorities" out there who state that it is better to "eat like a toddler" (i.e. small meals spread out throughout the day). I guess the difference might be the *types* of snacks. Most kids aren't snacking on vegetables or fruit, but rather empty carbs and sugars.

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  11. My mom was always very strict about snacking. You could have an apple or something after school, but that was about it. And it was institutionalized: we had "teatime" after school and that's when you'd eat your apple. Goldfishes were a treat. And on the weekend, we had one additional snack at 11 AM, at "coffee time". Since it was the weekend, we'd get a cookie :) My mom was the strictest mom on the block, but she also made the best pancakes, so everyone loved her. And both the strictness and the pancakes were pure Dutch :)

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