on May 16, 2012
Our daughter is four, and not a bad eater, but I've noticed that dinner time was increasingly becoming tense time where we cajoled her to eat a certain number of bites, sit properly, all with the bribery of dessert. Since reading Le Billon's book a few weeks ago, we've instituted a strict no snacks rule (which has eliminated pre-dinner carbs), and despite some initial resistance (a temper tantrum about matzah), she's now on board. To reduce whining about snacking, we started role playing.
F: "Can I have a snack?"
F: "Why not?"
me: "Because we're saving our appetite for dinner."
She liked it so much she wanted to repeat it five times. Then we switched parts and she got to be the mommy and say "No!" This makes it a game for her, and also helps her know what to expect.
It's striking to me how much I had imbibed the American snack attitude - that to be a good parent, I must have snacks at all time so my kid doesn't go hungry. It's been empowering, both for myself and as a parent to accept that it's okay to be hungry between meals.
Since we were already eating "French" in that we cook from scratch and eat dinner together every night, the other big change has been the rule that we try everything, and it's been amazing to see what F. will try now that she's really hungry at meal times. I'm no longer making mainly foods that F. will like, but thinking about expanding her palate and knowing that she'll try whatever we make. It's a sea change! We recently had our second child, and I'm looking forward to starting him a la francaise on vegetable purees.
A huge message of your book is if we raise our expectations for what our kids can handle, in eating and social behavior, they will surprise us by meeting the challenge. I wish everyone with young kids could read this book.
I just finished reading this book and I loved it. I bought this after finishing 'Bringing Up Bebe', and I wanted more tips on how to get my child to enjoy more foods. I also wanted to change my own food habits, so this was perfect for me. I hate how I eat and I hate how the way my family eats has affected their health negatively. I am still young and in good health and I want it to stay that way. I don't enjoy eating and food much, because I like to eat and just move on to the next thing as fast as possible. I now realize that by taking my time to eat and to cook healthy meals, I can de-stress and enjoy my life more. Slowing down to enjoy food and family is just what I needed.
I am sure that a lot of people (especially Americans) will probably not give this book as good a review as it deserves, because there are a couple of parts in the book that pretty much say that everything about the way Americans eat (as well as some other Europeans and Canada) is so very wrong. I am inclined to agree 100%, because if nothing was wrong with how Americans eat then our childhood obesity rate wouldn't be what it is. But I can see how some people might be ready to get all upset about somebody telling them that their eating habits are wrong. So unless you want to and are willing to make a big change in your eating habits for the sake of your child, don't bother reading this book. It is the slap in the face that I needed and what I think America needs, but is too lazy and complacent to accept.
So far my family and I have begun changing our lifestyles, little by little, to follow the 'rules' in the book. It has been amazing. We have had several meals 'the French way' and we have enjoyed them immensely. My daughter is very young (just started solids) so this is the perfect time for me to have read this book. She will never know how bad me and her dad used to eat, and how bad our habits were. I think its great that I will never have to go through a time with her where she will refuse to eat things. Her dad and I are not picky eaters at all and I can't stand to have meals with picky eaters, so we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep her from being like that. The changes we have made so far are small, but we are working slowly towards our goal of eating the way we should at every single meal.
This is a great book if you are looking for a lifestyle change that will help you and your kids eat healthier and lead more enjoyable lives. If you are willing to put forth some minor effort to change and you really try at it, its not that hard. I lead an incredibly busy life and this has actually simplified it a lot! The recipes included are great and the anecdotes are funny. It is a fun book to read. I highlighted and underlined a lot of passages to read again. The rules are simple (not rigid) and easy to apply to everyday life, even if you don't live in France. Any family and any person can follow them super easily.
------ UPDATE ------
I just wanted to update my review now that its been several months since I closed the cover. My daughter is now a a busy toddler and is eating more 'big girl' foods. I wanted to revist this review just to say that this book has definitely made a lasting impression on me, my parenting, and my life. This has helped me so much. Currently my family is very busy and we barely have time to do anything, much less take the time to cook nice dinners, but somehow we have been able to carve out time here and there to use dinner as a time to connect, even if we aren't always able to do that with every single meal. We are still working on a lot of the main principles outlined in the book, since its hard to undo 20 something years of 'bad' eating in a few months or weeks. We are just doing what we can, when we can, and its working for us.
I really appreciate the many anecdotes in the book and the funny stories now that my daughter is a toddler and has learned to say, 'no', and 'I don't want any'. Often when I offer her new foods she shakes her head and dumps it in the floor. And yes, sometimes it is frustrating but eventually she will try a bit after offering her the food several times in different ways. My daughter doesn't like certain textures so we have to work with her on that, and this book has given me the knowledge that she won't always hate sticky foods, its just a phase and eventually with work she'll get over it. I now know that sometimes you have to try something 100 different ways before you like it.
My husband and I have applied this to our own eating habits. He hates squash so I have tried to get him to try it in various dishes in order to test the theories in this book and I do think they work. I have prepared squash for him in almost every possible way, and while he does not like every single dish he does enjoy some of them. Also we have cut out or cut down on a lot of bad eating habits like eating fast food and take away, foods with high fructose corn syrup instead of real sugar, and foods with other nasty chemicals. Now we try to eat as much organic food as possible and as clean as possible.
We also prepare almost everything ourselves so we control how much sodium and sugar is in everything. I make almost all of my daughter's baby food, and we are lucky enough for her to attend a daycare that is very much like a creche in some ways. All the kids eat the same food (unless they are allergic) and the teachers encourage them to try new foods and to take time and enjoy eating. They also encourage table manners and healthy eating. They sing songs and read books about eating healthy foods every day, they have play kitchens where they pretend to make healthy foods. They also give the parents a menu of everything the kids eat so we can keep track of their nutrition too.
My daughter has eaten a ton of things that most toddlers I know would NEVER eat. She does enjoy a bite of pizza or a muffin here and there. And in the future I have no intention of telling her that she can't have a burger or chicken fingers from McDonald's if she wants it. I just don't want her to think that high calorie food the only yummy food. She needs to know that an apple can be just as yummy as a slice of cheesecake and that a refreshing glass of cucumber water can be as delicious as an ice cold Coca-Cola. I was not raised to appreciate that in moderation EVERYTHING can be enjoyable equally. I was raised to think that indulgence was the best way to enjoy food. Now I realize that a small brownie tastes better than a big one because its a special treat instead of an everyday thing.
Obesity can lead to so many health problems like some forms of cancer and heart disease. I don't want that for my daughter. I have seen what these things can do to individuals and families because many of my own family members suffer from these medical issues. It is hard enough when a person is afflicted with a medical problem that they have no control over whatsoever, but to have a medical problem that could have been avoided if you practiced healthy habits its so much worse because it leaves you with regret. Many people don't know that there are alternative ways of living and doing things because they simply do not make the effort to find out. This book and this lifestyle is one of those alternatives for those who are willing to do the work to change.
I'm not judging people who have medical problems due to weight because I love dearly some people who do, and I myself am still struggling to get my pre-pregnancy figure back. I know that being a healthy weight isn't just about eating right and exercising, there is a deep psychological aspect that has to do with how we are raised and how we feel about ourselves. I know that and I want to be sure that I do everything within my power to make sure that my daughter is not affected by some of the negative things that impacted me and my eating habits, most of which were definitely psychological.
I'm not saying this is the only way or the best way to eat or live your life, but it has worked for me and I think it could work for a lot of other people if they were willing to try it.
------ UPDATE ------
For those who are interested, I've started a blog about how I've been using these rules to help my family and myself eat better. Since I read this book I've lost 100% of my pregnancy weight, and I am now 10 pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant, and still losing. My daughter is now 18 months old and eats very, very well.
[...]<- in case this URL doesn't work, its duncanfamilyeats dot blogspot dot com.
on April 17, 2012
After a decade of French and France bashing, the pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction with a range of new books extolling the magic of the French art de vivre. After Pamela Druckerman's coquettish "I'm not even sure I like it here" but nonetheless rose-tinted view of life in France (read, Paris), it's refreshing to read Karen Bakker Le Billon's earnest attempt to understand the French way of educating bébé at the table. While Druckerman bears and rears her children in Paris and in a French cultural context from conception, Le Billon moves with her French husband and two small children, ages two and six at the time, from the ultra-permissive, child-centered food culture of North America (Vancouver, to be exact) to the authoritarian and comparatively rigid environment of Brittany.
The Le Billon grandparents are horrified by the manners and eating habits of their Franco-Canadian grandchildren. From their French family's perspective the children eat constantly, at inappropriate times and places, and with so sense of etiquette - n'importe quoi, n'importe quand et n'importe comment. Le Billon is not happy with her daughters' poor eating habits and limited culinary range, but feels powerless to change them until she realizes that behavior tolerated at home is unacceptable in France and could pose a significant impediment to her children's social acceptance.
With the rational mind and experimental rigor of her academic background, she sets out to identify aspects of French food culture that will help her educate her own children on healthy eating and good manners. What makes the book interesting is that Le Billon is not herself in love with the French way of life and she is not a foodie by a long shot. She is no instant convert to eating a wide variety of foods and spending hours languishing at the table either. Le Billon is not afraid to voice her discomfort with the rigidity of French culture with regards to expectations of child behavior. She often finds French attitudes towards children and food downright mean.
In the beginning Le Billon views children making their own food choices as empowering and the rigid rules around eating times unnecessarily strict. In American culture, choosing your own food is indicative of the overarching importance placed on individual liberty. French culture, in contrast, values communal sharing of food as a means of strengthening bonds and increasing cohesiveness.
While Le Billon wishes that her daughters could adopt the manners and varied palates of their French peers she herself is a reluctant cook with a somewhat fearful and anxious attitude towards food. She sees mealtime as a chore and a time drain. However, over the course of the year she comes to appreciate not only the health benefits of specific mealtimes, a varied diet and no snacking, but also the interpersonal benefits of relaxed time together as a family. Meal times transition from battleground to an opportunity to spend time together, to connect, to be joyful and to relax. The book is overly long in my opinion, but the reader does identify with the slowness of her process in coming to terms - and eventual acceptance - of a way of eating that runs through French culture. Restraint, connection and pleasure are all to be found around the table.
Where this book distinguishes itself from others in the genre is that it does not conclude in France with a rosy cinematic fade out of the annual family day-long garden feast and a `happy end' to the food wars. After their year in Brittany, the Le Billon family returns to Vancouver, intent on maintaining the French culinary art de vivre, or lifestyle. The return, as my family knows all too well, was rocky. They had spent a year consciously exploring another view entirely of food and its place in their lives culminating, literally, with the 10 commandments of eating well, only to find that it is very difficult and a whole lot less pleasurable to walk the walk in the land of ten minute school lunches. K-Rae Nelson, Toast2Taste.blogspot.com
on August 29, 2013
This book is a must-have for an American parent. We started out feeding our child homecooked, good meals, eating as a family, and limiting treats and snacks. Somewhere by age 4, she was eating mostly crackers of various types, cheese sticks, and other junk. Worse of all, the family dinner table had become a battleground. She would refuse just about anything except what was familiar and usually processed. It didn't help matters when our own family members, meaning well I'm sure, began filling our pantry with "good" food for her...microwaved processed meals. So long as it said "organic" or was somehow marketed as healthy, it was okay. It really wasn't.
Americans snack constantly. Most of their calories are from junk, "fake" food. Most restaurants are some variant of Fast Food (especially Chili's and Olive Garden types, that cook prepackaged meals passed off as real dishes), and they eat out a LOT! Kids are constantly walking around with some bag of something in their hands. Corporations have caught on and pacify parents with things like "Organic Fruit Rollups". And we have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Schools especially, even Pre-K, where the kids are fed Animal Crackers as a morning snack and corporate marketing tools are drilled into them.
We tried several books that typically resulted in bribery, punishment, reward, or becoming a line-cook and making separate meals for the kids. It seemed ridiculous because we were eating so much better than our own child. Other parents were of little help, because they all had the same problem with no solutions.
By instituting some of the rules outlined in this book, we've changed our household dramatically. We stopped the fighting. We cooked good meals and started eating together, more slowly, enjoying conversation. We eliminated snacks from our house. We encouraged her to try everything, but didn't force her to eat it (a "taste" was acceptable, it would reappear on her plate some other night). One snack a day, between lunch and dinner, and only fruit/yogurt/cheese/applesauce/etc. Desserts were for special meals and occasions (where it had previously been a reward for choking down a sliver of carrot). If she didn't eat, fine, the plate was taken away when the meal was over and she could wait until her next meal. No snacks! (Very quickly, she finally stormed into the kitchen, took back her plate and happily ate everything she had 20 minutes ago declared "yucky!") We started formal dinners once a week to have fun dressing up the table. She was encouraged to help with the cooking more. Eating is supposed to be FUN and enjoyable!
Finally, we changed ourselves. We took the time in the morning to make meals and eat together, as well as the evening dinner. We stopped letting ourselves get frustrated, because we knew that we weren't starving her (plenty of yummy food was being served), and eventually she would eat when she got hungry and realized that no, a cookie or box of crackers would never be coming.
I recommend this book to every parent.
on April 11, 2014
My wife and I are big foodie type people. For the first year of our sons life, he ate whatever we put in front of him, which included things like: duck risotto, rattlesnake sausage, any veggie, etc. But after about 13 months, he became difficult. It was like a switch that turned off.
About the time he was turning two, we decided that we had enough with his fussiness. He was at the point that he would only eat processed garbage, and only then if it was covered in pesto. Not only that, it got worse in that he would often just lick the pesto off of something and then throw the remaining actual food on the floor! We could not tolerate this behavior and as such, we turned to this book.
I would generalize the central message of this book to the following:
-there needs to be rules regarding meal times, but they are never enforced in anger
-kids are allowed to be hungry...they'll quickly learn that starving themselves is not an option!
-everyone eats the same thing
-try to make meal time an enjoyable experience
-rules are flexible to your family lifestyle
So, we started giving these things a twirl in that we would only serve him what we were eating. Note that it took some consideration on our part as we couldn't just eat anything we wanted anymore. For example, we couldn't have crazy spicy food, or something he wasn't capable of consuming easily (i.e., soup because he wasn't particularly good with the spoon.) Anyway, the first week, he went to be hungry every night. That was hard. Also, we would always end dinner with fruit, which he loved, but we would never give him enough to fill up on. That was hard too, but starting the next week, he got the message, which is "you are no longer in control, and you will only get what we put on your plate." Also, he could no longer bank on snacking.
So, during the second week, he would start tasting stuff. Admittedly, he didn't always eat it, but the point was that he tried it, whereas beforehand, that was impossible. Now, we've realized some extra things that help in our particular situation, and as such, we made some minor adjustments. And while he is not eating perfectly yet (we've only been doing this for almost 4 weeks,) he usually will at least try something before deciding he doesn't like it. And that's also huge!
End result is that our lives are much less stressed. Dinner time was always a battle. That is mostly not the case anymore. First off, we don't need to think "what should we prepare him so that he'll eat?" We just give him what we're eating. That may seem like a small thing to some, but it's actually HUGE! One less thing to worry about!!!! Second, we don't fight with him...and as such, he's become easier going about meal time. Less stress for him, less stress for us. Third, he now sits at the table (we got rid of his high-chair) and he'll actually come to the table on his own when we announce that it's dinner time! Something that warms my heart.
So, while we are still a work in progress (and I reserve the right to update this post later on) he has progressed magnificently. Our only regret is that we didn't read this book earlier.
Best of luck!
on January 15, 2013
I grew up in Russia and remember even during the Soviet time the food was much more nutritious than what I've seen in my daughter's school here. Soup was a must every day, all meals were hot, including breakfast. Now that I'm here and work full time, I really struggle with feeding my kids the right way, I cook every single day and we never miss family dinner but it's becoming more and more difficult to feed my kids the same things we eat. My daughter is 7 and she started out as a very adventurous eater (she loved avocados, broccoli, all sorts of food as a baby but every yet it seems she is eliminating something from her "Like" list and now we're down to like 3 choices, none of which are nutritious - pasta related or grilled cheese). My son is not even 2 yet and already he won't eat anything except for soups and hot cereal and a couple of fruit/veggie mixes.
So I turned to books to see what I'm not doing right. So after reading this and the "bringing up bebe", I came to the conclusion that while this is a really nice read, and an eye opening book about how nutrition aspect is handled by different society, it finally just got me frustrated. Conclusion is: if you're looking for a book that will help you get your kids to eat healthy, this book isn't it. And so isn't a "sneaky chef" or anything like that. In fact, if you don't home school your kids and they attend some sort of public school (some schools are better than others), they'll eat an American diet just not to be made fun of in the cafeteria. My daughter said: "kids think I eat weird things all the time", it's because she eats homemade lunch that usually includes a hot meal in thermos like noodles or rice and some veggies or dried fruit. When I asked her what other kids eat, she says: "artificial things, you know mom, normal things everyone eats"! She is 7 and that is normal!!!! Imagine if instead of dried pineapple that kids make fun of she brought in beet puree or gorgonzola cheese? I just don't want to have a choice between my child's nutrition and her getting bullied for what she eats.
Don't get me wrong, this is a really good book but I think it's easier to move to France than to change American school cafeteria and kids' food choices.
It's very sad but true.
on April 12, 2012
I purchased this book after I read the book description regarding how the author integrated what she learned in France into her family's lives back in North America. Having recently moved from Paris, expecting our first baby, and scared to death of raising my child in our current American food culture, I really was hoping to glean some ideas on what to do to keep my child away from American junk food, fast food, processed food, and from snacking all the time as I see children do here. I thought the book was terrific the whole time they were in France - it reinforced what I had learned there and reminded me of all the things I do want to do with my children/family. However, I found their move back to North America less than inspiring and overall not helpful. The author resumed allowing her children to snack throughout the day at school and did nothing regarding the lack of time her children had to eat in school and their poor lunch selections. She also started purchasing processed foods in the house for "just in case" times (like peer visits) and allows her children to eat fast foods on days beginning with "F". I do not want to home school my children, so I really was hoping for some real, solid suggestions on keeping my children healthy in an unhealthy, fast food society. I do not want my children to snack throughout the day, eat processed food at all (especially not partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup) and I will never let my children go to fast food restaurant chains - nothing on their menus are healthy whatsoever.
Definitely, the first part of the book is a good read, especially for those who have never lived in France or in Europe. There are also recipes in the back of the book that are quite nice and useful for quick healthy meals. It would be lovely to see a full cookbook filled with French, family-friendly, easy recipes (hint-hint). The research in this book is also sound, and overall, the book is a good read. I was just highly disappointed in lack of answers I sought out to find - how to raise my children in the American society while still maintaining a whole foods, unprocessed, slow, healthy way of eating. And personally, I was shocked that the author chose to move back. We did not have a choice, but hope to return someday (maybe even before our children enter the American school system), so it is also hard for me to understand why someone would want to give up that wonderful life for a life of fast paced, shove-faux-food-in-as-you-go, kind of life style.
Definitely a must-read for those in America who want to change their relationship with food (enjoyment/nourishment instead of reward/punishment) and to attempt to carve out a better way of life for their children in America's obsessive processed/fake food culture.
on August 26, 2014
As the first-time parent of a toddler, I bought this book hoping to find some useful information about instilling healthy eating habits in children. True, the byline of the book doesn't say it is a guide for others ("How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters") so maybe it was intended to be a memoir only. But considering that the book presents "Tips, Tricks, Rules, and Routines" as well as a recipe guide at the end, I felt like it was presented as a how-to of sorts. After reading it, I found that its usefulness for parents looking for practical ways to cure picky eating is pretty limited.
The things I liked:
The recipes look delicious, and I do intend to try some of them.
It provides a fascinating perspective into another culture. (But so does Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe, which I preferred.)
It provides enough contrast between North American culture and French culture to be thought provoking about certain things, like how often kids snack and how they behave at the table.
The things I didn't like:
1. Le Billon almost exclusively refers to "The French" as if they are all exactly the same, and likewise with North Americans. I understand that she is speaking about a culture generally, but she discusses some things as if they are novel and exclusive French ideas when in reality a large number of Americans practice the same thing. Example: "French Rule #9: Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. Hint: anything processed is not "real" food." I'm pretty sure most American nutrition experts would tell you something similar. The author can also be disingenuous. Le Billon talks as if absolutely everyone in France eats a gourmet, unprocessed diet, and wouldn't dream of touching anything less. She goes so far as to say that "many French people are still relatively unused to processed 'convenience' foods of any kind." She also spends an entire section on the disdain the French have for McDonald's and fast food in general, but she doesn't mention that France is the world's 2nd largest McDonald's market behind the US, and quickly glosses over the mention that the parking lot is usually full at the nearest McDonalds. Again, her argument is only supported by blanket statements.
2. Each chapter follows the exact same formula: Author is surprised when she runs into cultural difference. Author embarks on lengthy compare/contrast between French and North American approaches, favoring the French approach. Author describes conversations with French family/friends in which she meekly defends the non-French way, only to be patronized and criticized by the French person, who lectures her about why their way is better. (I suspect that many of these encounters are fictional, so the author can play devil's advocate, otherwise she just comes across as simple and the French come across as jerks.) Author decides to make a laborious set of written rules to address the problem, fails. French person steps in to set her straight. Once on the right path, the plan is a success and the children are practicing the French way.
3. As others have mentioned, her tone is irritating. She describes herself as a polite, meek outsider who is often at odds with the culture, which is often hostile. She is regularly "snapped" at for asking questions about French food culture, and the French people are consistently described as domineering, "severe," "stern," etc. in contrast to her innocent curiosity. It starts to seem unlikely when you take into account the number of times she describes being "snapped" at by a French person. She is also "chided" and has a "bristling disagreement" with her mother in law on more than one occasion.
4. Finally, as I mentioned in the beginning, this is not the best book to buy as a guide for healthy eating habits, though it is clearly set up to be. Many of the French practices she cites are only effective IN FRANCE, as she says herself. Her own children were usually kept in line by all the other children and families, not just their mother. Anyone hoping to instill some of these practices in a country with a different food culture would probably not be successful, and the author implies as much. There are practical ways to improve children's eating habits, but this is not the book to teach you how. As others have said, it is the story of her family and it really would not work for others across the board.
on June 21, 2013
I wanted to read this book after reading "Bringing up Bebe," (BUB) which I really enjoyed, because living in the U.S. all of my life and seeing the horrid diet and habits taught to the majority (but not all!) of U.S. children is appallingly unhealthy. When I become a parent, I want to help my child learn to enjoy healthy foods, to share meals as a family, and to not struggle with emotional eating or bad habits such as snacking on junk between meals. I was looking for guidance between the extremes, between being a total authoritarian on a child's diet ("no sugar ever!") and being one who gives in when a child says he/she will only eat chicken nuggets. I know this seems almost an impossible task in the U.S., where every time your child goes to school or a friend's house or any other event, there is going to be the most processed foods imaginable. I am also drawn to the French approach to food as a source of pleasure, not guilt caused by the perpetual dieting mentality in the U.S. Both of these books deliver insight on these matters and practical guidance I found very valuable.
Although there is much in common between the two books regarding the observations the North American women make while living in France, there are a few differences. One, the author of BUB lives in Paris, whereas this author lives in the countryside--both with some different consequences. Two, BUB focuses on a myriad of interesting aspects of parenting, whereas this book pretty much only focuses on food. Each is interesting.
However, my dislike (and lower rating) comes from my being turned off by the author's perspective and tone, which some may or may not like (the latter in my case). From my point of view, I would be extremely grateful if I had a job, and my husband had a job, that allowed us to go live in the countryside of France for "an experiment." Moreover, her husband's family lives in that area and was there to help her acclimate to the new culture by answering questions and showing her the ways, even help take care of the children. Not only that, but her husband discovers that he has long missed and begins to recultivate his appreciation for his homeland while her children begin to adapt, grow, make friends, and all-around come to love where they live. To my disappointment, despite all the healthy benefits (from food to friendship) that blossom in her family through this experience, the author decides to make everyone move back to North America, where only some of the good lessons learned in France stick and other bad habits creep back in, because she doesn't want to live there anymore. The scene where she and her husband are walking on the beach, and her husband is visibly upset about the idea of returning to Canada, is heartwrenching--for the husband. I'm not expecting her to be a martyr and sacrifice herself for the happiness of her husband and children, but I just can't help but think, "What I wouldn't give for that opportunity with my family!" True, there are good and bad aspects to both North American and French cultures, things that a person might miss from each depending on which country they were living. However, I think it is her negative perspective and tone, often perhaps aggressive or abrasive (in my mind), that is so off-putting and eliminates sympathy for her self-inflicting misery. I guess I felt she was not very open-minded to the experience, and that personal aspect of the book overshadows the enjoyable tips of French eating habits.
From the very beginning, it seems the author is deliberately choosing to play the role of contrarian to anything valuable, such as sneakily shoving snacks into her kids' hands in the car after they cry from not being able to snack all day at school or because her mother-in-law scolded the children and told them to wait until dinner was served--which derails the whole point of trying to get her kids to have better habits. Even though I grew up in the U.S., my mom's side of the family has French roots, and some of the habits/approaches to parenting I read about in the books I realized my family followed to some degree. So, maybe it is not unreasonable to me to hear someone tell a child, "No, you cannot eat until dinnertime; you will spoil your appetite" because of that. (Then again, my significant other, who is not French in any way to my knowledge, also had a similar upbringing--both of us are from the U.S.) I thought that was common sense but apparently not. Even more, this author seems to complain a lot about her husband/marriage, and I was shocked by how out-of-control her children were and how she handled it. Kudos for being honest, I guess, but her portrayal of marriage and raising children made the whole idea seem very unappealing! That shouldn't have been one of the major ideas I took away from the book.
Some people may like the author's personality; I just happen not to. I would recommend saving yourself the frustration of reading about what French culture has to offer to parenting from this person who ultimately seems ungrateful.
on May 1, 2012
It's an interesting book, yes, and I'm glad I've stumbled across it, but it will never be on my recommended list. The author's tone, style, and dealings with her husband, children, in-laws, and her friends make her sound, quite frankly, childish and whiny. Her uneasiness moving to a new country and adapting to new societal customs is harped on on every page, and certainly doesn't make for a comfortable read. She also seems to characterize her old bad food habits as ones that EVERY parent in North America has as a matter of course, when this is not at all the case, she sounds like every new "rule" was discovered by her alone and would be completely foreign to all North Americans.
I did like the content of what she found and her experiences, I just wish it was told in a manner more...friendly? Humble? Less aggressive?