Les Bébés Français Mangent-Ils Bien?

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Since we already know that French cats eat well, I thought I’d see how French babies eat, just for comparison.  A quick and fascinating stroll through the supermarket ensued.  And here we have baby Couscous, baby Paella, baby Chicken and Vegetables à la Basquaise, baby Pasta with Ratatouille and Veal, and baby Brioche-Flavored Cereal with Milk.  Almost makes you want to be a French baby, doesn’t it?

Of course, it’s not a fair comparison, since I’ve never actually tasted Beppo’s duck with green olive cat food, nor his rabbit with baby carrots.  And no, I’m not going to, just in case you were wondering.  But I did taste all this baby stuff, out of curiosity and a blind faith in French cuisine.  Here’s a word for you to add to your French vocabulary: beurk!  That’s French for yuck.

Maybe it’s all about the expectations.  I don’t have any American baby food to compare it to, and if I did it would probably be double beurk, but this stuff really let me down.  The “couscous” was pleasant, in a Campbell’s tomato soup kind of way, not at all spicy or North African tasting, but edible.  But the “paella,” even though the nose had the barest whiff of saffron and seafood, had a fairly nasty aftertaste and a gluey texture.  The “ratatouille” had no nose at all, although you could actually taste the vegetables, and it was rather starchy and pasty on the palate.  The chicken “Basquaise” had a beefy nose, although it was nominally chicken, and while it didn’t remotely taste Basque, it wasn’t terrible except for a lingering graininess.  The brioche-flavored cereal, now that wasn’t awful.  Sweet and yeasty, I could imagine that even a French cat would happily lap it up.

I didn’t pay any attention to the nutritional content, and I’m fairly sure that this stuff is at least reasonably good for babies, but it’s hard to see how a person who starts out eating it is ever going to turn into a discerning eater.  And in my limited experience, French kids are discerning eaters.

Ok, yes I do see teens on the street after school with giant bags of potato chips, probably flavored with roasted chicken and thyme, but still chips.  By the way, those are possibly the most delicious chips on the planet.  They taste like actual food.  But they’re still chips.

Lingering on a street corner not too long ago I overheard a mother talking with her daughter, who looked about ten or eleven.  As they walked past me the mother was saying that they’d be having pasta for dinner and the daughter was asking how the pasta would be prepared.  She looked approving when the answer was “in a tomato sauce,” and I’m sure I looked as astonished as I felt just to hear a young kid thoughtfully inquire about the preparation of the evening meal.

Much more astonishing was the answer of a nine year old whom  I asked “qu’est-ce qu’on fait pour le Nöel?” Partly it’s the fault of the French language.  What I meant was “what do you do for Christmas?”  But the same question also means “what do you make for Christmas” and so, instead of telling me that you put up a tree, put the presents underneath, and so on, she told me “we make foie gras with a jelly glaze, and maybe a duck with truffles” and went on to rapturously describe  a whole list of gourmet foods.  I was so astounded by what I was hearing that I actually forgot to remember the details of the menu.  At the very end she said shyly “and sometimes I get presents.”

It’s highly unlikely that she was ever fed paella purée from a jar.

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2 Comments on “Les Bébés Français Mangent-Ils Bien?”

  1. MickeyM Says:

    Ah, Nestle! Paella puree, indeed. The Swiss may be hesitant to enter into entangling alliances or to declare war, but they do not hesitate to make money, non?

    Was there not, some time past, a petit contretemps regarding their baby formula dumped on unwitting Africans?

    But my favorite international babyfood tale is that of the American giant, who shall remain nameless but may be recognizable from the infant portraits on its labels. They also embarked on a campaign en Afrique to rival the Swiss competitors but failed miserably. Pourquoi? Because the local populace was used to seeing graphic images of the contents on the labels of cans and jars and when they saw the G—– labels, the reaction was a very shocked ‘Ew-w-w-w!!’, or if they were in former French colonies, ‘Beurk!’

  2. mb Says:

    I stumbled upon your blog, and this was funny! I must say that although not all people do, my children were not raised on this awful industrial food. The French mothers I know make vegetable soup that is standard practice (leek, carrot, potato and lettuce plus butter) which after a certain age gets a tiny amount of meat/ham/fish etc. all puréed more or less thin or thick depending on age and whether fed from a bottle or spoon.


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