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Food Snob or Bad Manners? Why The French Might Just Be Right

Belgian Frites!
Eating take out in front of customers while working. A necessity or just bad habits?

The French say Americans are always eating and drinking

I hear it a lot living over in France:  Americans are always eating. We eat in our cars, at work, in front of the TV and computer and we always have a drink in our hands, the bigger the better. Visit a typical American mall and you get to see all this in action: eating and drinking while walking.

Are the French just showing off their cultural food arrogance or do they have a point? Do Americans lack basic meal discipline? Do we eat and drink all the time?

Well tonight, in small town Tuckerton, New Jersey, the French might have just hit it right. Because I saw something that I haven’t seen in a long time.  Or maybe I am just more perceptive living in France for most of the year.

Something that makes me question my cultural identity. And I ask myself (and you) “Is this just a food snobbish attitude?”

Food snob or bad manners?

It started with a quick visit to the store around dinner time. I found what I needed and started to walk up to the register to pay for it. As I approached the counter there were three employees hanging out working and one Styrofoam take out container with fries and a half eaten grilled cheese sitting in it on the register’s counter. One of the cashiers is standing there, eating the other half of the cheese sandwich. I am thinking, “Hmm, this guy isn’t working and eating his dinner too? No, he can’t be”

Ummm, like yeah.

He grabs my items to buy, rings it up and while taking another bite into his grilled cheese he takes my money with his other hand.

And that was it.

But it made my stomach turn. And as my 8 daughter and I walked out of the store, I turned to her and said “Can you believe that guy? He was eating his dinner and waiting on us!”  She said “That wasn’t very polite, was it Mommy?”

And then I thought, “Mary, you are turning into a horrible food snob.”

The cashier and greasy fingers broke some basic meal discipline ‘rules’

Was this food snobbism or was this cashier just breaking basic manners?

He wasn’t alone working, there were other employees, the store wasn’t busy. Why didn’t he take a 10 minute break to eat? Or at least put the food away from the counter where people pay? Just bad manners?

He broke some of my favorite meal discipline food rules:

  1. Sit down while eating
  2. Eat at a table
  3. Take time to eat in a relaxed environment
  4. Don’t eat and multitask at the same time.

Your verdict? Bad manners or bad food discipline?

Do the French have some merit in their blanket statement? Or am I just a bad food snob from living most of the year in France, a country with strict meal discipline?

Love to hear your comments.  (And don’t worry, I won’t be upset if you call me a snob!)

BrightonYourHealth is a website devoted to helping you stay healthy for the long road. Mary Brighton MS, RD, believes in realistic back to basics ways towards good health. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter or to receive email updates please subscribe by clicking on the link:  Join BrightonYourHealth. Thanks for your support!


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11 Responses to Food Snob or Bad Manners? Why The French Might Just Be Right

  1. cab August 26, 2012 at 19:59 #

    Bad manners + bad food discipline. Not snobbery. I would have been disgusted also, especially by the greasy fingers! The French ARE right. As an American girl growing up in the 50-60’s, at my house Mom made 3 meals plus one snack. As with most of America, the main meal was at dinner (suppertime) about 6 pm, and snack was after school, but less sweets, and more fruit/healthy things. It was a kids-meal-discipline home. I raised my own kids the same way, until they had wheels and could eat elsewhere at times. I watch the growing trend of eating a LOT, anywhere, anytime in this country (US) and how overweight almost everyone is, and cringe.

    • mbrighton August 27, 2012 at 06:04 #

      Dear Cab, Thank you for your comment. You and I are fighting a dying trend…Eating at home, homecooked meals, around the table. We need to get back to basics, don’t you agree? I can at least imagine that your kids eat well. You did your part with great food education/meal discipline habits passed onto your children. I hope others reading the articles in this summer series take a moment to reflect that if each of us does our own part, their kids and their grandkids (and so on) will be healthier and know satiety eating. Thank you very much for your comment. Please keep reading and providing feedback, it is important.

  2. Rie July 26, 2012 at 15:33 #

    You are not a snob, rather, a healthy conscious–concerned about the plight of the American obesity crisis, citizen! I have also observed gross eating behavior on this side of the pond. Two weeks at a beach house with family left me baffled about approaches to food. People were always eating, and not the good stuff. Boxed and processed “foods” were always around. Teenagers sitting around eating out of a cheez it box before dinner; parents giving in to children’s pleas for ice cream–again before dinner, all left me feeling frustrated, because my kids jumped right in to the bad habits. I was often conflicted between appearing like a nag or just going with the flow. I opted to talk to my girls privately, reminding them about healthy eating habits. But yes, in the case of approaching food and dining in a healthy, appreciative way, the French win hands down!

    • mbrighton July 27, 2012 at 00:45 #

      Oh Rie! Hard to keep the healthy eating balance with our kids while keeping “relaxed vacation” eating in mind. My pet peeve with my kids (which is why I am vigilant with before supper snacking) is WHY COOK if they won’t be hungry to eat it? My kids know I never force them to finish their plates, so if they are not hungry because of snacking their dinner stays on their plates. I think you did the right thing to speak to the girls privately, in a way they have to make the right choices for them and if their choices are occasional not the right ones they will remember next time. Thanks so much for your comment, always love to hear your views.


  1. Vicki Fleming - December 9, 2012

    Not right, eating and waiting on someone! Rude indeed! Food Snob or #BadManners? Why The French Might Just Be Right

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    […] you would like to read the first three parts of the series, click here: Food Snob or Bad Manners, Food Snob or Dinner Disaster, Food Snob or Just […]

  3. Food Snob or Just Lazy: Why The French Might Just Be Right | BrightonYourHealth - August 4, 2012

    […] fast food and fast paced America. If you would like to read part 1 and part 2 , click on “Food Snob or Bad Manners” and “Food Snob or Dinner […]

  4. Food Snob or Diet Disaster: Why The French Might Just Be Right | BrightonYourHealth - July 24, 2012

    […] This is part 2 of dinnertime dining stories which happened at a local store in a small and typical town in New Jersey. Interested in reading part 1? Click on “Food Snob or Bad Manners: Why the French Might Just be Right.” […]

  5. FrenchHolidayRentals - July 24, 2012

    The French say the Americans are always eating and drinking! #rt #bizipig #bizitalk

  6. Mary Brighton - July 14, 2012

    Wrote this article last night after a cashier was eating his take out dinner at the cash register, biting on his…

  7. Suzanne Saxe-R, Ed.D - July 14, 2012

    RT @mbrighton66 Food Snob or Bad Manners? Why The French Might Just Be Right: When a cashier eats his dinner whi…

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