Picky Eater tips from France
Scottish children are allowed to eat crisps, their Polish peers are usually fussy at the dinner table while the French ones supposedly enjoy their healthy meals without being picky…
Since I have moved to Scotland I can’t believe how freely most of kids are allowed to enjoy crisps and sweetened beverages. There is this king of all the additives that worries me most, petroleum-derived Sunset Yellow considered by many Scots as the iconic color of their iconic drink. It is not my business to criticise the eating habits of the nation that welcomed me so warm but I can’t turn my blind eye when seeing the very same worrisome habits spreading among Polish children here.
My most vivid picture regarding so called Polish Mum is all about the healthy, steaming bowl of homemade soup or any other meal served everyday to her offspring. The reality is that most of mums here struggle with time and tend to be more tolerant when it comes to their children meals, including Polish communities. It is also not rare to meet children whose diet consists mainly of toast with jam, spaghetti and chips.
The Way French Do It
Sadly, it seems to me fruitless in such situation to encourage parents for a change that starts with their own diet, skipping jam and spaghetti pasta on their shopping list. I have no tools whatsoever and such gentle suggestions usually end up on entering minefield – there is a very limited chance to survive. That’s why I don’t argue and simply choose the others for the hard job – like the author of fantastic book ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’. American mum Pamela Druckerman found herself in Paris where she discovered ‘invisible, civilising force’ that made parenting and feeding children impressively easy. Enough to say that according to the author French children are trained to eat everything and picky eaters are extremely rare there. Even in nursery children are offered 4-course menu with heart of palm and tomato salad, followed by turkey au basilica and rice in a provençal cream sauce, St Nectaire cheese with baguette, kiwi fruit. It is common among French children to eat on particular times of the day – usually every 4 hours and there are no snacks in between – no juice, no jogurt, no crisps, zero chocolate bars. French child knows the sensation of being hungry and this is where the proper eating begins. Hungry child will eat more willingly whatever is served and try new favours while sitting at the table with proper plate, cutlery and the company of the adults. You are the part of our tribe, Bon Appetit!
Polish genes still carry the very same ‘eating philosophy’ reflected in two main dishes : soup and the main plate followed by dessert as a dinner. The very traditional Polish dinner consists of seasonal vegetables, fruits, meat, spices, fermented food and sometimes legumes. Doesn’t it sound like a dietitian’s dream? In reality it is nearly impossible for a working mum to follow into her ancestors footsteps nowadays. That’s why I have invented my very own method: food variety.
Food Variety Method
Every time I serve the dinner my aim is to offer my kids many different ingredients put separately in small bowls. Let’s think about soup – it can be boring but not when assisted with crusty bread squares, grated cheese, lentils, roasted almonds, Naan bread, baked carrots… the list is endless. Everyone composes her symphony out of the food served on the table. Children are encouraged to try on everything, even symbolically. The best thing however is that the leftovers might be used for the next day delicious salad.
I apply the same rule to our picnics! We love dining al fresco – all children love it! Having food in a scenic place or even in a park on a glorious sunny day in Scotland feels like a feast! it is fair enough to pack fruits, good sourdough bread, cheese (in you are not diary-free) or tofu (if you are), soft veggies, humus or any pate-kind of deliciousness, cloth and perfectly convenient Swiss Army knife. Before I menage to set everything out, half of the food is usually swallowed by excited kids. I have plans to bake one day for our picnic rhubarb buns or even pizza the way my mum used to do but being realist I might as well not be able to menage such a heroic task in advance. However, one thing is granted – I will never pack any toast bread, nor the yellow beverage that is as far from the sunset as my will to become ignorant in what my kids eat…
text: Agata Lesiowska
photo: Agata Lesiowska