I’m not sure if I’ve just become overly aware of the titles recently published about France, or if we’re really being invaded, but French culture has been very popular lately. I just finished two titles, Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman and French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon, and one of my colleagues blogged about Paris in Love back in April. I’ve also started rereading French Women Don’t Get Fat; I thought I might be able to appreciate the book a little more the second time around, now that I have a better understanding of French culture.
I really enjoyed both Bringing up Bébé and French Kids Eat Everything, even though I don’t have children. You might wonder why I would read either of these books, since they focus on child rearing and children’s eating habits, but both were well written and engaging reads. Bringing up Bébé was also well researched; Druckerman cites many French journals and books about their parenting philosophies. Although both books focus on children, they also lay a foundation for an understanding of French culture in general, which I found fascinating. For instance, I never realized how important food and cooking are to the French. In France, cooking and eating together as a family are customary. Meals are several courses and often take a couple of hours. Children are expected not only to eat the same foods as adults do, but to sit at the table quietly and patiently during most of the meal. At school, these cultural norms are also reinforced during lunch. Trained chefs plan and prepare the weekly meals for students. Here is a sample menu for one day at the primary schools in Toulouse:
Radishes with butter
Fish filet, sauce meunière (a buttery, creamy sauce)
Dairy: Organic bulgur yogurt (plain)
Dessert: Cooked prunes
Even if you don’t have children of your own, or yours are grown, these books can still be enlightening and eye opening. It was especially interesting to read the perspectives of the authors, who are American and Canadian, adjusting to their new lives in France.