I finished reading “French Kids Eat Everything” on the plane to Buenos Aires. The author, an English Canadian, relates her experience moving to her husband’s hometown in France with two picky eaters and describes how she and her young daughters eventually adopted a French approach to food and eating.
In brief, the French approach is based on these ideas: food is social—intended to be enjoyed with other people, without distractions; eating is joyful; and parents are responsible for educating children about food so they become self-confident eaters who eat a wide variety of foods, are comfortable trying new things, and know how to balance self-restraint with pleasure.
Karen Le Billon made it clear in her book how much reflection it took to change her own ideas about food as well as how important it was to have the support of her community and extended family as she endeavored to change her family’s food habits and mindset. In the end, she was successful. And I was inspired.
Sitting in our room at Chavi’s B&B in Buenos Aires, I envisioned healthy, homecooked meals eaten unhurriedly with good conversation. No more short order cooking—we would all eat the same thing. And maybe we would move from a breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner schedule to breakfast-lunch-dinner.
Then we went out for breakfast, and Lou refused to drink the milk because it tasted different. In the afternoon we saw parents, grandparents and nannies picking up kids of all ages from schools and going straight to kioscos for ice cream, cookies, and pop. On the flight from Buenos Aires to Bariloche we each received a snack box with one piece of chocolate, one juice box, one bag of pizza flavored crackers, and one dulce de leche confection. And all around us were bodies that looked American—spare tires, paunches, bellies—not like idealized French people. My heart sank as I realized Argentina was not like the French village in Le Billon’s book.
In two weeks, Pete and I have eaten our share of empanadas and pizza. But because I have time to do real cooking, we have eaten more vegetables than we were eating at home. We are eating all together at a table with placemats. And we have not been successful at getting Lou to eat anything new with the exception of some frozen yogurt in Buenos Aires that surprised us all because it carried the tang of real yogurt. We have gone through one of our four jars of peanut butter, both cans of black beans, and three of four boxes of macaroni and cheese. I have not seen any of these things at the grocery store, nor have I seen craisins or dried cherries. When Lou finishes the supply of food from home, none of us will have a choice about him eating something new.