31 days to love all things French {day thirty-one}

{day thirty-one} 31 days to love all things French

Bonjour!

This is it, the final day of my series on how to Frenchify Your Life.

31 days of actually finishing something

I cannot believe I managed to post every day for 31 days. When I first started, I thought I would get really stressed half-way through and give up. I was convinced I would not have enough content to write for such a sustained period. But I did it! I may have neglected my studies to do this (like, a lot) but it feels like such an accomplishment. This is particularly the case because Failing To Complete is one of the things I struggle with the most in my everyday life. I have a tendency to be full of fire and motivation when I begin something but the novelty soon wears off and I often don’t finish what I have started. It happens to me all the time. And yet, here I am on day 31, with 31 posts. I am giving myself license to go ‘yay me!’.

31 days of learning about blogging

I learnt a couple of things about blogging, namely that creating graphics takes FOREVER but should definitely not be neglected, and that if I trusted my gut and stopped nit-picking at my posts, it wouldn’t take me so long to write them.

31 days of… decent posts?

In my introductory post on 1st October, I stated that one of my fears when I started on this venture was that it would turn into an exercise in churning out posts of poor quality and/or low interest and value, just for the sake of writing. I tried to avoid this by planning topics and posts in advance rather than writing every evening for the next day, and considering the amount of research some of the posts required, I dare say it is a good thing I did! I feel I reached my goal of producing good content (I think! I hope?).

31 days of recommendations, just for fun

I forgot to say it in the actual posts, but I was not approached by anyone to review products, nor did I receive monetary rewards by companies or authors for any of the recommendations I made throughout this series. I did it purely because I personally like or use the products and sites mentioned. This said, most of the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that if you were to go through the links to purchase the stated item, I would receive a small token of money which would go towards supporting the site.

31 days of French things

I hope you enjoyed the various topics I explored around the elusive subject of what it means to be French, and that the recommendations inspired you. We talked about food, education, history, beauty products and French novelists to name but a few, and I had a lot of fun writing some of the more random posts (hello, Napoleon!). Which one was your favourite? As you saw from my post on fashion, the fact that I know nothing about a particular subject will not stop me writing, if anything I will send you out onto the internet towards someone with more expertise. Do you have a burning question about France or French people you wish I had addressed? As ever, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or the comments section if you want me to write about anything in particular to do with France and the French (or food).

I am now going to take a break for a couple of weeks to catch up on my studies for an assignment deadline on 10th November. I have no big plans beyond that, no big blog announcement of any sort but I aim to continue to write once a week as life allows.

If you missed any of this month’s posts again, I have curated the entire series on one page, which you can find under my main blog headings at the top of every page, or by clicking the graphic below. Thanks for staying with me this month, and happy reading!

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French-style food education for children {day twenty-six}

 

{day twenty-six} French-style Food Education for Children

The French haven’t earned their reputation as food lovers and great cooks without doing something right somewhere. But as I have explained before, there is a cultural aspect that transcends simply ‘doing as the natives do’. Food education starts in infancy.

The school canteen as an extension of Health Education

I’m sure that most children, as part of their school health education, learn about food groups and how to have a healthy lifestyle. In France, the theory about what constitutes a balanced and varied meal is directly applied to the school canteen menus, it’s the practical application of the curriculum. Often school menus are approved by the council for an entire town. Some schools display their school menus on their website; sometimes the food may be cooked on site, or it will just be warmed up there, but this doesn’t mean the food will be tasteless.

Children who attend the canteen will be exposed to many foods they may never eat at home. Menus include a starter (often raw vegetables in a seasoned salad, or a pâté served with bread) and a main dish of meat and a side of rice/pasta/potatoes. There may be cooked vegetables served as well, but it is not always the case if the starter is veggie. This will be followed by cheese (a different kind every day), fruit, yoghurt or more elaborate desserts. Here are a couple of menus from two different towns. Let me just say that the menus are as good as you get older; I have great memories of secondary school dinners apart from the dreaded Wednesdays when there was always some awful beef tongue or such horror and the smell permeated the canteen.

This menu is standard across all primary schools in Limoges:

Some weeks, menus will be created around a theme, like the last week of October in the menu displayed above, which is themed around Autumn. On one of the days, children will eat a slice of dry sausage and gherkin (typical French starter), roast chicken breast with poëllée forestière (a potato and mushroom fry-up), plain yoghurt and a walnut tart (both walnuts and mushrooms being autumnal). On another, they had melon, lamb tajine with couscous, garlic and herbs cheese and seasonal fruit. I don’t know about you, but I want to eat this!

This is the menu for kids in maternelle (pre-school ages 3-6) in Toulouse:

On a typical day, they are having a vegetable soup, turkey macaroni gratin, cheese and a chocolate mousse.

How many hot meals?

A number of people in England complain about the fact that hot meals are being served to their children at school for lunch. I can’t get my head around it. They argue that a sandwich lunch would be just as good, if not even healthier. As a sandwich, a bag of crisps and a piece of fruit is standard lunch fare across England for all ages, I’m not surprised by the argument, even if I think it is misguided. English children older than 6 years old bring their own packed lunch as there is no canteen food available for them unless they fall in the ‘in need’ bracket.

In France, you get two hot meals a day, at lunch and at dinner time, although adults are more and more tempted by the ‘quick lunch’ option that sandwiches offer.

For children, the benefits of having a hot meal served at school are manifold:

  • it is an introduction to a variety of foods
  • it is about developing taste buds and the palate
  • it is about learning table manners and how to eat in public
  • it is about not being at home; a child might behave differently and be more likely to try something if there is some peer pressure
  • it is also about having energy for a long day at school, which you won’t convince me a sandwich and piece of fruit really provides.
  • It is, at the end of the day, about value: the value the French place on food, not just as a means to live and mere subsistence but an event, about enjoyment and community, how to talk and eat and do life together.

Note: most French schools have a 2-hour lunch break and many children get picked up by their parents or carers and eat food at home rather than in the canteen.

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Sleep like The French {day twenty-two}

{day twenty-two} Sleep like the French

This blog post idea comes courtesy of my husband Badgerman, who said “surely you should write a post about sleep, after all the moaning you do about it and British windows”. He’s heard me complain often enough about blinds and windows and poxy cream curtains that let all the light in to know my sleep is important to me and that I cannot fathom why shutters don’t come as standard on British houses.

The best way to get a good night sleep, according to the French and SCIENCE, is to have a very dark bedroom. It doesn’t need to be completely pitch-back but it should be as close to it as possible. It’s a known fact that the darker the room the more profound the sleep.

Typical French shutters in the background

Typical French shutters in the background

French people understand this so all houses and flats come with shutters as standard. Some have painted wooden ones and some have the more old-fashioned metal ones on the outside of windows. More modern constructions may have electric shutters but that’s not a statement of wealth, just practical.

Typical English shutters: bespoke, affordable only to the wealthy, and installed inside the window (in case they get stolen?)

I cannot get my head around why shutters are not standard everywhere. They are common sense for so many reasons, not just because they create a darker and more suitable environment for a good night sleep but also because:

1. If you live in a hot country (or just for hot summer days), you can half shut them to protect your house and yourself from overheating but you can keep your windows open and get the benefit of the outside air instead of just being shut inside in a hot house.

But for this to work, you would need windows that actually open widely, and these are not to be found in England (another cultural shock for me!).

2. The flip coin is that in winter, closing your shutters helps keep the heat in and the cold out, you are immediately better insulated. So, you know, you save money on heating.

3. It is added safety; robbers have an extra job trying to get in. It’s just common sense!

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The Truth about Frogs and Snails {day nineteen}

{day nineteen} The Truth about Frogs and Snails

 

When I was preparing for this series earlier this year, I asked people on my Facebook page if they had any questions about the French that they would like answered, and one of the things that came up was: why do the French eat frogs and snails?

 

That’s a good question, which is just as puzzling to foreigners as the following two are to me: why do the British eat Marmite and why do Americans eat syrup with bacon? Mystère… If you live in the culture, it’s a no brainer; ‘because it tastes good‘ comes to mind, but like many cultural things, it can be an acquired taste, a ‘you have to be there to get it’ sort of thing.

 

When you think about what the Romans used to eat, you should maybe not be so surprised, France was properly invaded by them, and then of course, in medieval times, nobles owned the land and were pretty much the only ones allowed to hunt on it. The peasants had to make do with, well, peasant food. So in the case of frogs and snails, it probably went like this:

 

It was a dark and stormy night in medieval times and the peasants were hungry. They woke up to find an invasion of frogs crawling everywhere. ‘What to do with the vermin’, they wondered. Eat it of course! And so they did. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Don’t judge them.

 

I joke, but that’s as likely as any other myth story you will hear on the subject.

 

You are lucky in that I have tasted both frogs’ legs and snails so I can give you my personal opinion, and then you can decide whether it’s a food idea worth pursuing for yourself.
Photo: Todd Coleman

I liked frogs and I hated snails: both are pretty tasteless. I always describe the taste of frogs’ legs as ‘chicken that lives in water’. Bland but tasty enough when fried in butter, herbs and garlic. You do need quite a few of them to make a decent meal, as they are only skin and bones, the poor things.

 

Snails dish

 

Snails are prepared all manner of ways, including the traditional pan-fried in butter, garlic, and herbs (a French classic trio of flavours) and they’re OK I guess, if you like things that are bland and chewy. They taste fine but I didn’t like the texture at all, which goes to show it is a matter of personal taste.

 

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