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Why the French take food so seriously
June 6th, 2009 by Nancy

We were there!

So if I’m writing about changing the way we think about lunch, I’m going to to have to say why I think that’s important.  To illustrate, a story:

My family stumbled into a great opportunity to go visit friends and relations in Europe 4 summers ago (an aside: trips to Europe are not the norm around here).  A few weeks before liftoff, my daughter and I went out for pancakes one morning (another aside: going out for pancakes, and with only one of my three kids in tow, is not the norm around here either), and I started to tell her about things we might be eating during our trip, and the culture of food there, and that we’d have to gussy up our table manners, and her seven-year-old self asked,

“Mama, why do the French take food so seriously?”

I was stumped. So I said,

“Well, let’s ask them when we get there.”

This, then, became her “research project” during our visit.  We posed the question to several French friends and relatives, and the response was remarkable, and very surprising both in content and consistency.  I think without exception they all said this:

“       “.

That is, they said nothing, at first.  But they ALL chuckled, and looked to the horizon, and smiled, and THEN they said,

“I have no idea.”

“But we do.”

So by the end of the trip we had to draw our own conclusions.  The food was, of course, nothing less than astonishing – fresh, delicious, thoughtfully and lovingly prepared, and served with grace and style (and even occasional theatrics, just for good measure).  Here is what we came to understand (brace yourself, it’s a doozy):

The French do not take food so seriously.

Toldja!  It’s a doozy. We realized, though, that it was the community of sitting down together and sharing the time with others that the French take very, very seriously.  The French cuisine, that yardstick-by-which-all-cooking-is-measured, has grown from the desire for community, not the other way around.

Changing the way we think about lunch (and all food in general) might well begin with a lesson learned by a seven year old.

Three brothers, their wives, their children


9 Responses  
Lunchbox Obsessed writes:
June 16th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Wow. What a great experience you were able to give to your kids! We really enjoy cooking with our kids, and always try to make their meals look fun. I am a bit intimidated by French cuisine but your opinion makes it seem more about the culture around the food rather than the food itself. I like keeping food culture fun :) (And wine for the grownups is always a great addition!). Good luck with your blog!

AJ writes:
June 21st, 2009 at 3:40 am

Being first generation American and raised by French parents, I don’t think it is all about the food. It’s the experience of eating together as a group, be it with friends or family, and socializing. My mom insisted on eating on eating together as a family, and I took part in many cultural outings where I saw people eat and talk, with emphasis on talk. I learned to value the experience on being with others and cherish relationships, which is probably the real lesson.

Nancy writes:
June 21st, 2009 at 8:35 am

Thanks – that was our experience too. The lesson stays with us even now, four years later!

Zashkaser writes:
August 5th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language

Nancy writes:
August 5th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Oh, you are very welcome, and your english is just fine. Hey, I’m native born and I’m still learning english too!

Sdanektir writes:
August 6th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Are you from San Diego?

Nancy writes:
August 6th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

No, why do you ask?

Vivalkakira writes:
August 7th, 2009 at 7:39 am

OMG…totally!

Yvone Pounder writes:
July 14th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for supplying these helpful advise.

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