According to Pamela Druckerman, author of ‘Why French Children Don’t Throw Food’, it is all about letting your offspring experience a huge variety of gourmet tastes from an early age. With formal courses and napkins and the right amount of pomp and ceremony.
Aghast at the thought of blending veg into baby mush and shovelling it in with a cheery ‘choo choo’ a la Annabel Karmel, Druckerman reports that our Parisian counterparts integrate tots into the adult (French) dining experience with starters, amuse bouches, gastronomic dishes (and require that they remain at the table whilst Papa retreats for Gauloises and brandy)
Through educating children to appreciate, discuss and discover food, maintains Druckerman, these tiny connoisseurs se tenir tranquille dans le restuarant.
Other out-takes of French parenting from the book include:
‘Le Regarde’ – ie glaring at your kid menacingly until they oblige (surprisingly effective but hard to pull off in Waitrose)
‘Adult Time’ – described as ‘a basic human right’ – essentially the opposite of attachment parenting and frequently exemplified through Mummy reading Grazia in the playground.
‘Le Pause’ – getting babies sleeping through the night by letting them settle themselves, rather than pouncing on the crib every time one hears a snuffle through the baby monitor.
Obvious downsides: finding intellectual ways to describe the taste of carrots to your child on a daily basis…
By contrast, ‘Baby Led Weaning’ by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett advocates much more of a liberal approach. Give them anything and everything, regardless of age, teeth, size or texture – and to hell with cutlery!
Here there is a similar logic to Druckerman’s – exposing babies to a variety of ‘adult’ foods ignites their natural curiousity and thus hones less fussy eaters.
But whilst the French children are encouraged to eat tidilly and finish their courses, BLW suggests food is fun: ‘the more the messier’; a little bit of everything and it’s just as good to mush it in your hair as to taste it.
Out-takes from this title:
‘Dippers’ – or using food as its own cutlery (scooping up hummus with pitta bread or yoghurt with toast, for example)
‘Family Meal Times’ – with BLW Rapley stresses that there is no need to cater separately for your offspring. Simply serve them the same what you are serving everyone else, minus the G&T aperitif…
‘Chunks’ – teeth or no teeth, Rapley says there is no need to puree food. She suggests letting the little ones gurn away on a lamp chop or vampirically suck the living fibre out of a slice of melon.
Obvious down sides: unless you have a maid or a lackadaisical approach to food hygeine standards, this one is going to result in a good deal of baby led cleaning…