Our French food adventure
I’m just back from a couple of weeks in France and already missing the weather, the wine and the holiday way of life. But the food? Not so much! The restaurants were a bit underwhelming to say the least. Frites, frites and more frites* with everything, pizza and galettes/crepes staples on most menus with the burger bringing up the rear. Vegetables were as rare as Perigord truffles although the salads get a thumbs up. Lack of variety and creativity in most restaurants and a distinct lack of choice on kids menus (although they did feature lots of mussels!) made for some disappointing dining.
On the other hand, the supermarkets and markets are filled with the most wonderful array of fresh produce, distinctly better than what’s on offer here in Ireland in general. Our nearest supermarket Intermarche, had mountains of different varieties and colours of tomatoes, an assortment of lettuces, washed and unwashed carrots and staggering displays of seafood and fish. It seems that the French eat much better at home than they do in restaurants!
The other thing that struck me as I cycled through the French countryside (may sound romantic but I was on a tandem with a lazy 10 year old so basically hard work!), was the prevalence of fresh food growing along side the road. This is not something you see in Ireland too often. We passed vines laden down with grapes (unripe unfortunately - we did try them!), all manners of lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, leeks, potatoes and more. And the beaches were full of oyster farms.
Being so close to the food chain is great education for kids. They can see how food grows, where it grows and the amount of work required to grow it. It teaches them a better appreciation for food and when asked the question “where does cheese come from? ”, I am sure they are unlikely to answer “the garage” as one child answered me in class one day.
All this exposure to fresh food may help explain why French children among the least obese in Europe according to OECD research. A rich food tradition (this is France after all!) ensures that children get plenty of time to eat their 2/3 course school lunch, sitting down, and may be another reason to explain their low rating on the obesity charts. And France is the home of Sapere, sensory food education for children, which we teach under the Flavour School name in Ireland.
During our visit to France, my kids enjoyed (ok, tasted!) mussels, oysters, snail and goats cheese. The 8 year old had his eyes peeled looking out for frogs legs, which we didn’t come across. They enjoyed looking at (and maybe “borrowing”!) the fruit and veggies growing all around us. They also ate their body weight in frites and pain-au-chocolats! So while they have not become complete gourmands, they have learnt a little bit more about food so that’s a win for me!