What if Every Day was Food Day?

After a pause of three decades, national Food Day is back. An amazing amount of energy and creativity is being mobilized around this celebration, and the diversity of events is just amazing: community potlucks, special school menus, virtual dinner parties…the list goes on and on. There’s a lot to celebrate, not least the inventiveness and diversity of the food movement, which brings together farmers, nutritionists and health professionals, chefs, mommy bloggers, foodies, researchers, policy wonks, and a rapidly growing number of ‘real food’ businesses.

But after the feel-good feeling wears off, what will have changed? A little more awareness-raising, to be sure. But the danger with these events is (sometimes) that they are preaching to the converted, and to people who have the resources to participate. So I applaud those who are using Food Day to demand reforms to our food and educational systems. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest is a great example (check out their class action law suit against fake fruit snacks ). The school lunch reform campaigns run by chefs like Jamie Oliver and Ann Cooper (the ‘Renegade Lunch Lady’) are other great examples.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go out and celebrate: I certainly plan to do so. But we also shouldn’t forget our goal: not just to enjoy food with friends and family, but also to work towards living in a place where every day is Real Food Day, for everyone.

What is Food Day like in France?

Perhaps it tells us something about the difference between France and North America that the French dedicate a whole week to eating well (not just one day).

France’s ‘Tasting Week’, as it is called, just ended. It is truly a national celebration.

All school children participate in workshops with chefs, bakers and pastry-makers. At lunch, schools serve special ‘around the world’ menus, and older children participate in food-related job/career sessions (this year, a lot of emphasis is being laid on careers in farming).

“Taste Coaches” are posted in grocery stores to educate shoppers on ‘exotic’ ingredients, or on more prosaic issues like reading nutritional labels.

Restaurants offer innovative (and often inexpensive) tasting menus, top chefs open their doors (and, even more intriguingly, their kitchens) to the general public, and all sorts of wonderful (and sometimes wacky) workshops are offered across the country. What about a ‘Raw Cocoa Tasting’, or a session with ‘Grand Chef’ Medigue at the Chateau D’Orfeuillette in Lozère? And that’s just for the kids! Their parents head off to shows like CreaSculptures: the world’s first forum dedicated to the art of sculpting fruits and vegetables.

Last (but not least): at home, French families savour food, all food. And teach their children some of the simple, wonderful lessons about food that we’ve often forgotten. (Beatrice Peltre writes about this wonderfully in her amazing blog La Tartine Gourmande.)

Why do the French do this? Here’s the answer from the organizers of “Tasting Week”:

“Educating taste, particularly in childhood, is the key to a balanced, healthy and diverse diet for one’s entire life. All children can learn to appreciate different tastes, to distinguish between them, and to talk about them. Schools, chefs, and the family: all have a role to play.”

Amen! And Bon Appétit!