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 by karen le billon
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 interesting 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 French Kids Eat Everything 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.