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 PM..how 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.