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French Kids DO Snack, The Sacred French “Gouter”

Yaki Onigiri
Creative Commons License photo credit: norwichnuts

The French have a very disciplined snacking system called “The gouter”.  This snacking ritual is something very sacred to French children.  Even my half French kids get drawn into the gouter mode.  You see, French children  NEVER miss having the gouter, and French parents (and foreign parents who live in France) NEVER forget to serve the gouter!

When you pick up your kids from school (no yellow school buses to bring them home), you hear “Mom! (or Papa), The Gouter!” from the kids.  When you invite your kid’s friends over to play, the gouter is ready for 4 PM.  Likewise when your kids are invited to play at their friend’s houses, they always eat the gouter there too. Usually it is a homemade cake, or crepes…makes me feel so guilty when I pull out the store-bought cookies “chez nous”.  The drinks with the snack?  Water with a touch of sugary syrup in it, just to give it flavor…this also is part of the sit down French gouter ritual.

It gets more complicated if you have the parents coming over for gouter too…But usually the parents coming offer something for the snack, either their freshly made cake still warm out of the oven or something bought at the bakery!  The 4 PM witching hour approaches…”Should we have the gouter? The kids must be getting hungry by now!”  No wonder in France dinner isn’t until at least 7 could the kids eat the cake and dinner so soon afterwards?

Yes, “The gouter” experience is quite cultural and must be seen first hand.  It is a very disciplined affair, also in the fact that children don’t eat anything between lunch (which is the main meal of the day) until the gouter…The refrigerator is closed.  So, when the kids do eat that gouter, it better be good!  I remember one time laughing like crazy with my kids because we watched a scene after school.  A student was going to be dropped off somewhere directly and was going to miss the gouter.  This 10-year-old looked at her mom, horrified, and said, “But mom, WHAT ABOUT THE GOUTER????” OMG…we were laughing, my kids and I..can’t French kids live ONE DAY without the gouter?  Apparently not…!  Do your kids have a snack ritual?  Would love to hear about it.

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15 Responses to French Kids DO Snack, The Sacred French “Gouter”

  1. Claire January 7, 2011 at 13:34 #

    The kids have a school meal, and Gilles eats at the cafeteria, so our evening meal does tend to be lighter – tho as I take a packed lunch (usually a sandwich & a compote) I probably do a bit more, as I am hungry !!
    It’s true back in the UK we’d have dinner by 6pm and then have “supper” between 9 and 10 (toast, usually). In some ways it’s only reversing what the French do, the evening “snack” would be the equivelent of the gouter, but I guess eating late at night isn’t that good for you.

  2. Claire January 7, 2011 at 09:52 #

    Gouter has been adopted here too, although the older they get the later it gets – Rebecca when she comes home from school around 5h15, and Luke an hour later !! Usually a bowl of cereal or toast and …. nutella !! I generally have a herbal tea and a biscuit when I get in from work.
    So our evening meal is generally nearer 8pm.

    • mbrighton January 7, 2011 at 10:01 #

      Our house it is about the same, we eat late but light at dinner-soups/salads, pasta, rice dishes. What about your family? Is the main meal at lunch? I’ve certaintly adopted and like this way of eating better. Eating dinner earlier, as in America and UK we tend to dip back into the fridge around 9-10 pm (even the kids) because hunger strikes again. (And this is where the biscuits, chocolate, potato chips come out..non? )

  3. Debby May 7, 2010 at 02:05 #

    Hi Mary,

    The “gouter” is still a ritual for me after all those years in France. Even though I have relocated back to Los Angeles, I still have my “gouter” whenever possible. If I come home straight from work at 4, I have a gouter, although it’s never the croissants or sweeter things, then if I’m still hungry later in the evening I have a light meal. It’s 4:30 in L.A. and I’m having my green tea, apple slices and toast as I’m writing this!

    • mbrighton May 7, 2010 at 20:11 #

      Debby, thanks so much for you comment. I think the French gouter ritual really does exist…even though the elderly! I have seen it in retirement homes here in France…the gouter for the older ages is as important as the young ages! Even today, picking up the kids at school…saw a 8 year old whose gouter fell on the sidewalk…so, into the garbage it went..! The mom said “oh, well, so much for the gouter!” hysterical!

  4. cécile April 30, 2010 at 09:35 #

    Oh yes, that stuff can be VERY addictive! you have to write a post on it. The name? “les français ne mangent pas si équilibré: le Nutella fait des ravages!” Thanks for the answer. I keep reading. 😉

  5. cécile April 29, 2010 at 19:10 #

    hihi, i’m french and I can assure you that even at 19 year old, I wouldn’t miss the goûter, never. it’s a ritual. And it’s true that it helps waiting for dinner without snaking here and there (i don’t know if that sentence is really english but…). Usually, lunch is at 12 or 12:30 and dinner at 7:30pm so it’s a pretty long time (to my mind that is) and 4:30pm is the exact hour when I become hungry (and I’m not the only one). Just to say it: the best goûter ever (for me) is a slice of bred with Nutella on it and a glass of fresh milk. It’s funny to read that article because I thought you had an equivalent of the goûter “chez vous” ^^

    • mbrighton April 29, 2010 at 19:54 #

      Chere Cécile,
      Merci beaucoup for your comment. Your English is excellent! Loved your comment…and believe it or not “chez nous” in the states the snack ritual is not as common as in France. Funny thing is, when I read one of your last lines about Nutella on bread…reminds me that i just bought my 10 year old her first “pot” of Nutella. We always have peanut butter to “gorge” on…My daughter was gorging out at her friend’s houses on that stuff…I am going to soon write a post about Nutella “addiction” …keep reading my blog 🙂


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