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For 2018 I am doing a new monthly series highlighting books I consider Worth Reading, generally pertaining to food since this is after all Worth Cooking. What better way to kick it off than the one book I own in Kindle, paperback, and audible form? French Kids Eat Everything.
To be fair, I got it in audible form because I wanted to go over again before writing this post and I knew an audiobook would fit my current schedule better. I could listen to it while taking and editing food photos. Bonus to that format is my husband and I are currently listening to it together because while, as menu-planner, shopper, and cook, I am the driving force behind our family’s food culture I want both of us to define what we want that to look like.
While a few details might need to be ironed out after we have heard it together, in general forms, this is what we want it to look like:
French Kids Eat Everything had a huge hand in my deciding to try and focus on the three things “quality ingredients, enjoyed together, to nourish.” Thus it has earned a warm place in my heart. Now, I am not saying I agree with everything the book says. I might have shed an inner tear at the mention of diversifying meals of pasta with olive oil one day, canola the next, and the idea of serving pureed vegetable soups that were basically unseasoned caused a few sighs. Despite that though, French Kids Eat Everything really challenged several things in my life.
So, without further ado here are 5 reasons, mostly in no particular order, I think it was worth reading and why I think you should read it also:
1. The king of all reasons to read a book is it’s well written. No matter how valuable the contents are, if a book is as fun to read as sitting in an electric chair…. well it makes absorbing the info hard (I’m looking at you GAPS diet book and Physical Degeneration). The book is a personal story with lessons the author, Karen Le Billion, learned along the way. I laughed at many of the stories, scratched my head at others (just wait till you read about the swine flu scare), and generally felt like I was in France with the author in all her struggles and triumphs. I am still enjoying it the third time through.
2. It is written by someone who learned lessons from a different culture (even if she didn’t agree or understand everything) and actually applied them to her picky eaters and seeing the fruit of her labor. With food allergies being a huge part of our life picky eating really wasn’t an option for years. It was either what I fixed, or nothing. Literally. It wasn’t until my girls healed from their allergies we saw any resemblance to pickiness emerge. It was new territory for me, and the tips in the book have gone a long way in getting back to having a family that joyfully eats just about anything.
3. It rekindled my passion for family dinners. Somewhere along the road, I started dreading family dinners. They were no longer a fun event I enjoyed with my husband and kids. They were an inevitable chore. I am not even sure when the change emerged, but both Mark and I saw it and were displeased. Dinners were rushed, chaotic, and pickiness and whining were causing an already unpleasant affair to be borderline torturous.
When I told Mark I wanted to prioritize family dinners in the evening, and eat slower and spend more time at the table, he panicked a bit. He saw all the struggles we were already having simply increasing and for a prolonged period. Always up for trying something though, he didn’t completely nix the idea. While I definitely can’t say we are perfect about it (or anywhere close) unhurried dinners are the highlight of my day. We aren’t rushing through them to go do something as a family we already doing something that is an unavoidable part of life as a family, and enjoying it.
4. It made me rethink teaching my kids to eat. I always knew two things regarding food 1. I didn’t want to be a tyrannical parent forcing my kid to eat something *epic shudder* 2. I didn’t want to be a short order cook and allow the kids (who are a bit too young for the responsibility) be in charge. What I didn’t know was how hard that would be to balance. In other areas, the balance line between tyrant and doormat looked a wide and comparatively easy trek. For food, however, it felt like a tightrope and we were flailing. Bribes of dessert came into play. Turning vegetables into yucky hurdles to overcome to reach the glorious finish line of dessert.
I don’t want to teach my kids that food should be rewards or “punishments”. I want them to learn to enjoy all sorts of food not just choke it down for rewards.
While the American culture tends to consider pickiness unavoidable, the French take it for granted their kids will learn to eat well. Where we think “they don’t like it” they think “they haven’t tried it enough times” and encourage their kids to eat it anyway. The analogy presented in the book is that the French think of teaching kids to eat like we think of teaching kids to potty train or read. It might not be something they pick up at first but, outside of special needs, we continue to teach until they get it.
The saying “picky eaters are made not born” which has always made me want to go crawl under a rock and not be associated with people who expect my kids to eat what they are served (even though I do) became “adventurous eaters are gently encouraged and taught, not born” in my mind. There are many tips and tricks on how this happens in the book, but just being able to realize that it is something we should continue to work on was encouraging.
5. It reminded me to enjoy food. Food and I have a complicated history. While I don’t want to muddy this post with all of those fun details, I frequently forget to enjoy the food. Still, I try and remember to thank God we need to eat because there is such a beautiful variety of food out there! From artichokes to strawberries to chocolate. Generation upon generation has practiced and experimented and passed it on resulting in a magnitude of ways to prepare food. The need to eat forces us to stop, and if we allow it, enjoy. I’ve heard a few people bemoan the need (including myself). But when I am reminded to enjoy food, together, to nourish body and soul I realize just what a beautiful need it is.
While I didn’t agree with all of the French’s culture surrounding food (mostly taking it so seriously) French Kids Eat Everything truly made me want to get in the kitchen to cook up quality food to enjoy with my family.
Have you read the book? What are some things you learned from it?