In the community, making a difference

“I was a picky eater as a child. Because I was obsessed with Popeye, mum and aunts would put food in a can to represent spinach, we’d hum the Popeye tune and I would eat.”

Paul O’Grady,

British comedian

How parents introduce a child to a new experience makes a difference. Eating habits that are formed by admonition, “it’s good for you,” bribery, “no dessert” threats or avoidance of resistance by preparing separate meals, can cause resistance and stress.

In contrast, riding a bicycle is done by comforting the bruises and encouraging persistence. With reading it is a shared experience of discovery.

“French Kids Eat Everything,” is the title of a book by Karen Le Billon, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She chronicles the transformation of her children from being picky to healthy eaters over the course of a year spent in France. Children are served the same food as adults and expected to be mannered. It provides an opportunity to talk, share thoughts and discuss the food, emphasis is placed on eating for enjoyment. There is no shame in not eating.

“A French portion is half an American portion and a French meal takes twice as long to eat. You do the math.” – Elizabeth Bard, “Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes.”

Portion control and meal planning are the keys to the French way of eating. Groceries are purchased at local markets for freshness and quality for specific menus. Breakfast is simple, with lunch being more substantial, and lighter fare at dinner. Meals are served in courses: soup or salad, vegetable, main dish with starch and fruit for dessert. Cheese and bread are eaten with meals. Beverages include water and wine for meals later in the day.

Meals are eaten at specific times of the day and there is no snacking. Consumption is deliberate with bites taken to savor not to fill. People enjoy eating with others and engaging in conversation, while seated at a table with no distractions. The approach to food is a lifestyle that promotes good health. In France, the life expectancy is 81.67 years and rate of obesity is 9.4 percent versus the United States at 78.64 and 30.6 percent.

The French have been placed on a pedestal for quality of food and style of dining. But like people everywhere, convenience is chipping away at tradition. “Insider Monkey” reports that France has taken second to the United States in fast food consumption. Large grocery chains are competing with the neighborhood markets.

The Alpena Farmers Market offers an opportunity to be “French.” Plan a menu and bring your children to the market to shop for fresh produce. Take it home and prepare a meal to be eaten at a table with all electronic gadgets in the off position.

“Good food is the foundation of true happiness.”

Auguste Escoffier,

French chef