It is still Camp Germ over here. A couple of days ago my youngest was felled by this crud that just keeps circulating like a Christmas fruitcake and so we’re all just kind of hanging out and taking it easy. Anyway, I can’t remember how I came across this book but, last night I read something called, “French Kids Eat Everything”, by Karen Le Billon. Based on my history of reading Will Clower’s, “The Fat Fallacy” and “Joie de Vivre”, by Robert Arbor, you had to know that this book is something I was going to want to read. The French lifestyle and relationship with food is fascinating to me. Scratch that, I think it is the European attitude in general that I find fascinating it’s just that many authors focus on the French. “Joie de Vivre” though is one of my all-time favorite books and it made me want to immediately pack up and move to the French countryside. After reading Karen Le Billon’s book though, my feet are firmly planted on the ground.
Ms. Le Billon’s book is the story of her family’s move to France to be closer to her husband’s family and how it affected the relationship she and her children have with food. They were living in Vancouver (and eventually move back) so they experienced quite the culture shock upon their arrival. Interestingly, one of the things that I focused on the most was the way she described her husband’s family and the people in their tiny village. I have always heard that the villagers in France are much more friendly than the folks living in big cities there but, based on her experience, I’d say there seems to be no difference. She makes them all seem extraordinarily harsh and judgmental. There is one scene in particular that really stands out in my mind. Her husband came down with a terrible virus and ran such a high fever that he had a seizure. Terrified she called an emergency number, only to be told that they don’t send ambulances out their way for that kind of thing. She called her husband’s mother who told her to call her husband’s sister because she was nearby at a restaurant having dinner with a friend. The sister came over and off they went to the hospital. After many hours, they were finally sent home and her husband, thankfully, was all right. As Ms. Le Billon was catching her breath after this stressful, emotional ordeal, her sister-in-law approached her and told her that she had upset them all very much that night. Ms. LeBillon assumed (as I would have) that she was referring to being afraid for her husband but no, that was not the case. The sister-in-law was referring to the fact that their lovely dinner was interrupted by them having to drive her own brother to the hospital. She told Ms. LeBillon that she needed to send flowers and chocolates to the sister-in-law’s dining companion in apology. Say what?! And really, much of the book has stories like this, so much so that I didn’t find this book enjoyable to read at all. My stomach was in knots for this woman who was in a strange land surrounded by seemingly rude, harsh people. Was this supposed to be my takeaway from this book? No, I was supposed to want to emulate the French style of introducing children to good food at an early age and, indeed, I’d still like to do that for my children. After reading this book though, I certainly don’t feel like going to France anytime soon. 😉 I’m kidding, a little. It did leave me with a terrifying impression of French people though. How much of what she said is true and how much is hyperbole? I have no clue but, it was not a kind portrait of the French!
After reading all of that, you may be wondering if I recommend this book. After writing all of that I’m wondering about it myself. I gave it 3 stars on Amazon because there was some helpful information in there about how to introduce these complicated flavors to children. But I’m not sure you will enjoy the extra stressful parts of the book. Instead of buying it, perhaps check it out from the library first. Sometimes I’ll read something and emphatically feel like it’s something you could buy with confidence but, this book does not fall into that category. If you do read it, I’d love to know what your impression was so please be sure to come back and share!
My relationship with food has always been quite complicated. It is fraught with familial connections, guilt, control issues, addiction. All things that I battle in my mind on a daily basis. So, I have decided to relax my thinking, a religious person might say, “Let go and let God”. Instead of focusing on minutia and calories, etc, I’m going to eat fresh food, good food that I prepare at home, and live an active life. I truly feel that approaching things this way can be healthful and people can lose weight. It won’t be as fast as it is when reducing calories and fat but, I do believe it will work. The proof will be in the pudding! 🙂 Perhaps I will spend this day getting reacquainted with my copy of Fat Fallacy or Joie de Vivre and gain a little inspiration from their pages. It’s a good day for that.
Hope all is well with you!