What does this picture tell you? This summer read my ‘little stories’ from snapshots caught on the Jersey Shore.
Differences Between French and American Food Culture
It is no secret that there is a food crisis in America’s obesogenic environment.
The bigger question is what can we can do about it?
The answers seem clear but nearly impossible to fully implement in a society whose food culture is highly linked to the industrialized food industry, fast food and 24 hour-a-day food availability.
I admit that our summer visits over to the Jersey Shore have me on alert to the food culture differences so apparent between my summer (and native country) the United States and my adopted country, France. Not that the French have the perfect food culture, but in general food seems more sacred in France, the French cook many a meal from scratch and traditional eating times are still very much part of the daily lives of a typical French person, including children.
What people eat and drink and how they eat is really their business (of course!), but as a dietitian nutritionist, there is this cultural shock when I come over to the States to see the way some Americans treat food with an almost blasé attitude. It is also difficult for me when I see the large numbers of obese adults and bigger children, because the effects of being very overweight are devastating for most, especially on a psychological level.
Over the summer I collect ‘little stories’; these snippets that might seem normal to an American living in the United States, but they are my ‘little stories’ because they are situations, conversations, images of how Americans approach food and meals that seem so culturally different to my adopted France.
While I never approach anyone, I ask forgiveness when I look at them out of the corner of my eye, listen with a half-ear, or talk to them because they wanted a chat. Over this summer I will share with you some of these ‘little stories’ because I think they might answer, even on a small level, the awareness of our fragile connection with an older traditional food culture of three square home-cooked meals a day and the move to how Americans eat now. This newer obesogenic environment is not good to our waistlines, our health and the psychological satiety that comes with eating a sit down home-cooked meal.
Allow me to share with you here on the blog the first ‘little story’, a conversation I overheard a few days ago on the beach.
Why Do Some Very Caring Parents Find It Difficult To Say ‘No’ To Kids?
Food Conversations Overheard at the Jersey Shore
The beach was crowded yesterday, it was one of those picture perfect beach days. And when the lifeguards went home at 5:00 PM, so did many of the families. During the day we had been surrounded on the sand by a lot of parents and kids. And one by one as the day’s end drew near these crowds disappeared from around us, toddling off with all the beach gear. One family; a grandma, a mom and two young twelve year-old teenagers were next to me, getting ready to leave. I was laying on a towel listening to their conversation.
“Mom can we get Taco Bell tonight?”
“Please Mom, PLEASE!”
“But I want to have the Cheesy Gordita Crunch!”
“I am not spending 10$ on fast food!”
“I am making scallops for dinner tonight.”
(Now I am thinking, lucky them-a mom who is cooking good food for the kids)
But her son continues:
“I don’t like scallops”
“There will be shrimp too.”
“I want Taco Bell!”
(Now I look over to the mom. I was curious to see what she would say next. She looked over at me too (oops). Our eyes meet. I look away. C’mon mom, don’t give up!)
And to my big surprise she says to her son,
(What? Oh Mom—NO!)
Why can’t we say ‘NO’ to kids’ food demands? Does this make us a bad parent to say no?
This is one thing wrong with American’s food culture.
Some parents cannot say no to kids wanting to eat:
1. at the wrong time
2. the wrong foods
3. at the wrong places
And in France, the parents can. And they do. And the kids are okay with this.
This young teenager probably doesn’t even realize how lucky he is to have a mom who takes time to cook dinner. To cook scallops and shrimp.
Mom, give him a chance to figure it out. Just say no.
What do you think? How do you say no or find food compromises with your kids?
Or maybe I am being too judgmental.
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Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary