French Kids Eat Everything, Reviewed

It’s NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. For the month of November, I’m going to post every day. This is day 10.


Not long ago I had the pleasure to read “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon. Although aimed for parents of small children, I highly enjoyed reading this book. Karen has a welcoming and humorous narrative of her experience moving her family to a small town in France, where her husband had grown up. She talks of the adjustments they must make, many based on cultural differences. These stem from differing perspectives on food, and on how children develop a relationship with food. She weaves her 10 lessons-learned through a narrative of her family’s adventures in France. I was fascinated by some of these new (to me) perspectives.

Two lessons most impressed me. One, the idea that it’s okay to be hungry. This concept had never resonated with me in such plain language. We have a culture of always eating, snacking, moving, doing, noshing. When you get a little hungry, you eat a little something. Meals are just larger versions of the constant cycle of eating. Once you accept that it is okay to feel hungry on occasion, it is no longer so troubling. In fact, it’s somewhat exciting even – it lets me know that the next meal is soon, and that it’s going to taste that much better when I do eat it, because I’m hungry. It sounds silly, but try it – allow yourself to get hungry, cut out a snack. You may find yourself enjoying the next meal even more. For children, this also works to help them eat their meals, vegetables and all, ensuring they’re eating more at meal time and less at snack time, where the food tends to be less nutritive.

The next interesting lesson was really based on semantics. French kids learn to eat everything. When a child doesn’t want to finish the food, or appears not to like it, the French won’t say “my kid doesn’t like that food.” Instead, they think that the child just hasn’t tried the food enough times. Taste develops through exposure. So, if you or your child doesn’t like something, it merrily means you haven’t tried it enough times in enough different preparations to discover how you like this food. Eventually there may be a few things that you do truly dislike, but this should be the exception, not the rule (for adults as well as children).

I really gained a lot of new perspectives on approaching food as a whole, not just as a meal or individual dishes, although Mrs. Le Billon does discuss that as well. I would highly recommend “French Kids Eat Everything” for parents of picky eaters, Francophiles, or those just interested in different food cultures.