Much of what I have to say on this blog praises the French approach to food, which I generally find fairly inspiring. Their meals are quite healthy, and they eat a good variety of food, but they still like their treats (although they rarely snack). It’s a ‘middle way’ approach that seems balanced.
But not everything about the French approach is perfect. For example, one thing I’m not so fond of is French breakfasts. Most French people tend to have a ‘Continental-style’ breakfast: juice, baguette (white flour) with butter (or jam, or honey). Coffee or (cafe au lait) is usually the choice of hot beverage for adults; kids might have milk (or even chocolate milk). As a treat, the French sometimes eat pastries (like croissants or a yummy pain au chocolat), but usually not every day. Fresh fruit appears sometimes, but the classic ‘American breakfast’ standards–like eggs and bacon, or oatmeal–aren’t customarily eaten. In fact, the French word for breakfast (petit déjeuner) sums this up: petit means little, and déjeuner means lunch, so breakfast is like a (very) ‘little lunch’.
Our family tends to have ‘American’ breakfasts, as I find them to be more nutritious and filling. In winter months, especially, I feel better sending my kids off to school having had oatmeal with blueberries, or scrambled eggs and whole-grain toast. In fact, I wonder how the French habit of breakfast developed; it seems so much less nutritious than their other meals. Maybe it’s because they have such large lunches (40% of daily caloric intake, on average), whereas we have relatively smaller lunches.
No one country has the ‘perfect’ approach to eating. But we can learn good ideas from different cultures. I do think the French approach to school lunches is better than the average American approach (but so too is the Japanese). However, our family breakfasts will continue to be proudly ‘American’.