Whenever anyone sees the proofs of What’s for Lunch?, my upcoming book on how schoolchildren eat around the world (not a huge focus group, I admit, since the book hasn’t been published yet, but significant enough), they always say they wish they lived in France.
The French school lunch in the book is, indeed, delicious looking.
Maybe it’s the presentation: real cutlery, real plates. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a four-course balanced meal. Maybe it’s the cheese.
But the kids in France definitely have it made with school lunch. (The Italians don’t do too badly, either.)
A big part of the fact that French schoolchildren have such a well-conceived meal at school is the emphasis on food as culture in French society. Where else is “taste” such a celebrated sense?
Karen Le Billon knows this intimately. A Canadian author and teacher now based in Vancouver, her book, French Kids Eat Everything, is coming out this spring.
When she and her family moved to France (to her husband’s hometown) a couple of years ago, she was forced, she writes, to “question some of her most basic assumptions about food and parenting. Gradually, she [began] to see the wisdom in a simple set of rules that govern French food education.”
Note the combination of food and education. Not words we see in such close proximity very much here at home.
In advance of the book’s publication, Le Billon is blogging regularly about French school lunches in various towns around the country. Seems last week in Nice, in the south of France (a town I, incidentally, consider the birthplace of my own love of food), the children were eating as well as ever. Here’s the menu according to Le Billon:
Celery salad with vinaigrette dressing
Fresh salmon filet, with ciboulette sauce
Dessert: Vanilla ice-cream.”
With meals like that I guess it’s no surprise that French children have some of the lowest rates of obesity in Europe. I’ll take the salmon filet, s’il vous plaît.