French Faves

Just some lovely French things that I’ve found in my travels…

 

French children are often given their own special set of cutlery–sometimes as a birthday present, or even as a present to newborn babies. This set is made from hand-painted resin (the designs are also hand-made). Kids love using their special cutlery. And, yes, even toddlers are allowed to use knives at the table–and taught how to use them properly.

 

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Even the bibs (called bavoirs (bah-vwahr)) are chic in France. They often have an elasticized cord (just slips on over the head) and fun designs. Pastels are in. Real cloth (100% cotton) is in. Plastic is out.

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Verrines are confections served in glasses and eaten with a spoon. These ones were created as an example of how French parents encourage their children to eat vegetables through playful, fun, foodie treats. Bon Appétit!

 

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All French children have a ‘tablier’, which translates as ‘apron’ (but is much more cosy-sounding). Most have two: one at school (for keeping clean during art class), and another at home (for cooking, bien sûr!). I swore off aprons years ago (frumpy!), but seeing them in France changed my mind….These lovely tabliers are from French company Bakalao.

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This is my all-time, hands-down favorite food preparation device for young children. Invented in France about a decade ago, the BebeCook (or the B. B. Kook, as my husband (mis)pronounces it) will steam, chop, puree and even defrost baby food — all in one container. This thing is patented, and rightly so. Every family we knew in France had one. We gave ours away when we moved back to North America, and I still miss mine. The good news is that you can buy them here now! I just have no excuse, our younger daughter having just turned 4. Is it possible to be nostalgic for a baby blender?

And here are some other French favourites for kids (and parents too)…

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French mothers wrap their babies in what they call a ‘gigoteuse’ (‘gigoter’ means to wriggle or squirm). Ingenious! Parents don’t have to worry about their safely bundled babies pulling blankets over their faces, losing blankets and getting cold, or climbing out of the cribs. My children wore these until they were nearly three (once toilet-training happens, it’s no longer such a good idea!).

 
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French parents love stickers. Sticker activity books, math and reading sticker workbooks, stickers for long car rides or plane rides, home decor stickers, artfully displayed on the walls of children’s rooms (even older ones).

Here’s the Poem Tree from Djeco, one of my favorite French toy companies (the tree is over 4 feet tall).

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French singer Zaz’s first album (released in 2010) has already gone double platinum. Think of Amy Winehouse meets Edith Piaf, with a bit of gypsy jazz thrown in…My favorites are ‘Je Veux’ and the adorable ‘La Fee’ (which was a home movie that a Zaz fan took of his two kids singing this song: he posted it on YouTube, and she loved it so much that she chose it as the song’s official video!).

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You’ll often see French women and girls wearing ‘chèches‘: warm crinkly-cotton scarves that are wrapped around one’s neck with a simple just-so twist. Voila! One minute they can be crumpled at the bottom of your diaper bag, the next minute you can be looking oh-so-stylish. I admit to owning at least a dozen. There’s just always one more colour out there that is oh-so-tempting…This one is from French designers “Créartistes et Cie”, which I found on a French equivalent of Etsy: E-ponyme.com.

 

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Sophie the Giraffe is the classic French kids’ toy: more are reportedly sold every year than babies born in France. Made in France, from natural rubber and food grade paint, Sophie is an easy-to-clutch, easy-to-clean teether: ideal for babies to gnaw and gum. My older daughter slept with hers for a while. (ps I love this video of how Sophie is made, filmed for the toy’s 50th anniversary).

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The French have a strange fascination with music boxes for all ages. Every child we knew had one of these little metal, hand-turned ones, which resonate beautifully when placed on a wooden surface, usually with charming, melancholic melodies. Fancier ones are even made for adults, nestled in all sorts of packages, handed out as quirky gifts at weddings or other special events. This one is made in France by the Paris-based Trousseilier.

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When I grow up I want to be a designer for French toy company Djeco. Seriously, their puzzles, art kits, and toys are intriguing, beautiful, intricate, and inspiring. When we first moved back to North America my mother-in-law would mail them to me from France. Luckily you can now get them in North America. One of those items that parents buy for themselves as much as their children!

 

 

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This one isn’t really French…but Sarah Jane Wright is a wonderful artist (including the illustrations on this site), and creator of many gorgeous things, many of them French-inspired, for parents and children alike.  Her lovely new book is A Christmas Goodnight:

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10 thoughts on “French Faves

  1. Thanks for your message. I am really glad you found the book’s message to be empowering — it’s OK (even great!) to like all sorts of foods. I have not read de Pomiane but will look him up. Thankyou! People in Brittany do read cookbooks, lots of them. I am working on a new cookbook that summarizes some of the best recipes and approaches they use. It will be published in 2013. So stay tuned!

    ps I love herring too! 🙂

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  2. Dear Karen,

    I find your book to be very enjoyable! Besides providing interesting information, your writing is very good. I finally feel confident to change the way my family eats and relates.

    Being originally from a coastal city in the former USSR (where kids ate everything, too) I was embarrassed when my daughter told our new extended family in the US that she loved herring. You see, although she was born here, she was mostly cared for by my mother, who introduced her to our “grown up food” from the start. Now, thanks to you, I’ll have it on good authority that my daughter is not weird:)

    Regarding cookbooks. Have you ever tried books by Edouard de Pomiane?

    Also, do people in Brittany read cookbooks?

    Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for listing this, my little one is about to start solids in the not too distant future and I’m getting the Bebecook!

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  4. Perhaps check out the Bonne Femme cookbook at your local library – it has fast, easy recipes based on French family cooking at home. Let me know how it goes!

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  5. LOVING your book. Can you recommend any cookbooks in English that helped you prepare simple, fast, tasty meals for you and your family. We *love* to cook, but find that we are rather slow and would love to speed things up w/out compromising on taste or quality. We also want our kids to gobble up our meals with us.

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  6. Really enjoy your writing! I am passing this blog on to a pregnant friend; I know she’ll love it, too.

    Where is the BeBeCook available in the US? I tried to Google it with no luck.

    Congrats on the new book 🙂

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