I really don’t know what made me purchase this book. I’ve always been fascinated with people who pick up and go live in another culture. Truthfully, I’m envious of them. This book tells several intertwined stories. The story of their move, the struggle for the author to fit in (her husband is French), the story of their children’s adaptability to French culture, and the story of the French people’s relationship with food and why they have this relationship.
I don’t think I’m giving any spoilers away by listing the 10 French Food Rules. For me, some of these were no brainers and others were new and I’ve begun to incorporate them into our lives. I don’t think we could actually eat “French” here in the states, but we can make small changes that make sense and create a healthier view of food.
French Food Rules as compiled by Karen de Billon after her year in France:
#1 – Parents – YOU are in charge of Food Education!
#2 – Avoid emotional eating – NO food rewards, bribes, etc. (hard)
#3 – Parents schedule meals & menus ~ KIDS EAT WHAT ADULTS EAT! ~ No short-order cooking!
#4 – Eat family meals together – no distractions
#5 – EAT YOUR VEGGIES (key: think variety)
#6 – You don’t have to LIKE it, but you do have to TASTE it (say at every meal)
#7 – NO SNACKING!! (It’s okay to feel hungry between meals)
#8 – SLOW FOOD is happy food, as in eat slow!
#9 – eat mostly REAL FOOD
#10 – Remember: eating is joyful – RELAX!
If anything, this book helped me to see that we really don’t take the time to enjoy our food in North America. The average kid in school has about 20 minutes, maximum for lunch. In France, they schedule one and a half hours! This probably sounds extreme and maybe it is, but I’m sure a balance between the two could be found.
She has a section at the back of tips and tricks and what has worked for them since coming back to North America. She also shares some recipes which I’ve yet to try, but plan to do so in the near future. Here are two I’m most interested in trying:
Gratin de chou-fleur (Cauliflower Casserole)
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 adult servings
1 cauliflower, chopped in bite-size pieces
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Optional: salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon
1. Put a pot of water to boil on the stove, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and butter a medium casserole dish.
2. Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces. Add it to pot when water is at a rolling boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes while making the white sauce.
3. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, stir well (until flour is absorbed), raise the heat to high, and stir for 30 seconds. Add the milk and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg or cinnamon (if desired). Set aside.
4. To make the topping, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a small bowl.
5. To make the gratin, drain the cauliflower (which will be soft but not floppy) and place it in the dish. Pour the white sauce on top, sprinkle with bread-crumb mixture, and bake for 10 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and crunchy.
Mousse au chocolat (Chocolate Mousse)
Preparation: 10 to 15 minutes
Waiting: 2 to 3 hours
1/2 pound semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate
4 teaspoons butter
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Zest of half an orange
Pinch of salt
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Allow the chocolate to cool!! Otherwise you risk cooking the eggs. When chocolate is melted, but not too hot, add in the egg yolks and the orange zest, and stir well.
2. In a standing mixer beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks (adding a pinch of salt at the start will help them stiffen).
3. Gently fold one half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Mix gently, then fold in the other half, mixing very gently. Spoon the mousse into little serving dishes and chill for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm. Serve with berries or crisp little cookies on the side.
I find it’s always good to read a book like this to add a little inspiration to my cooking.