What does this picture tell you? Ice cream=summer! Oh well, although summer is nearly over, there is still time to share one of my last ‘little stories’ from snapshots caught on the Jersey Shore.
Differences Between French and American Food Culture: Eating in the Car
As we did several times over the summer, after a sunny beach day on Long Beach Island (here is my son body boarding at Ship Bottom, LBI) we stopped for ice cream at Jeffreeze in West Creek on the way home. I ‘negotiated’ with the kids to get a baby scoop size (which is huge as you can see in the picture) so that we could still keep our appetite for our light and late summer suppertime.
Jeffreeze is a typical American ice cream place with plenty of space to park cars (see the space behind the ice cream cone), smiling teens serving the scoops, and a few tables with checker boards to play a game while devouring the very delicious ice cream.
In other words, a great atmosphere to have a scoop (or two).
It was my nine year-old daughter who noticed it first:
“Mommy, why is everyone eating their ice cream in the car?”
I turned my head to look around at the cars.
There was a couple in their SUV ‘big car’ sitting in the driver and passenger seat enjoying their ice cream.
Ditto with a second car.
And the last car, a minivan, had a family in it: mom, dad and teenagers eating their ice cream in the car.
We were the only ones eating at the table. Uhm.
My daughter remarked on this American food habit that I find quite normal (I eat in the car sometimes too), but she noticed this eating in the car as something food culturally different than what she sees in France: Americans eat food in our car more a lot more often than French people do.
In America it is relatively common to eat meals, snacks and enjoy ice cream in the car (and do this while we are driving, oh la la bad). In fact, a whopping 20% of American meals are consumed in the car. (Check out the picture for a unique car table-wouldn’t that be fun?).
For my sweet Julia, who loves ice cream and most anything sweet, the thought of eating her ice cream in a car is weird. Why not eat at the table and play checkers? Why not feel the warm outside breeze that matches so well with the cold ice cream? Isn’t it fun to eat ice cream in an open space?
Eating in the car or eating at the table: does it really matter?
Most French don’t eat in the car. They stop on the side of the road for picnic lunches (unfolding picnic tables and pulling out the picnic basket from the trunk of the car). They stop at restaurants. They hold their hunger until they reach the dining table. French people take breaks from driving to stop and eat. Because for the French, taking a moment to eat and savor a meal, at a table is a privilege they don’t want to give up.
But American love their cars. And these moving vehicles are bigger (in general) than the European versions. We drive more, we commute more in our cars. Gas is cheaper. And the American food culture supports these food and eating in the car habits. As an example, there are fast food drive thru restaurants just about everyone and Wawa and other small food markets that cater to the morning commuters for breakfast on the run. For an American, the car is like our second home. (sigh)
Does it really matter where you eat your meals or savor your ice cream? Does the taste change by sitting in the car or sitting at the table? What is your opinion?
I will answer my daughter’s question, my dear Julia, on why so many people at Jeffreeze and around America eat their ice cream and other food in their cars, the answer is simply because it is part of the American food culture and history of our love of cars!
But you can eat your ice cream wherever you want.
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Thanks for your support. Warmly, Mary