French Fridays: Eat Like the French

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collioure fish lunch trim

One of the things that we did to prepare our kids for a month in France was a practice I call, “French Fridays”. Instead of serving regular Friday night pizza, I switch up the menu to serve our dinner more in the French style.

To do so, the girls enjoy setting a nicer table. I serve the meal in courses. The guys have to slow down and pace themselves when it comes to eating.

All this preparation served us well in France. Not only were they more familiar with the rhythm of a French meal, but they also came to prefer this style of eating. In fact, on our last Friday in France, FishChick almost popped a gasket when I didn’t serve our meal in courses. It was French Friday, after all.

For my part, I lost six pounds eating the French way, so I have no complaints.

A typical menu includes:

  • an aperitif (a drink and a few finger foods)
  • an entree (an appetizer, such as charcuterie, tapas, or a salad of some type)
  • a main dish or plat principal (typically meat or fish and a vegetable)
  • salade (usually a green salad with a simple vinaigrette)
  • cheese plate
  • dessert

I was thinking of writing a series about the French style of eating, but I realized that there are others better equipped than I to lay it all out for you. So, I defer to them. While I learned to eat a la Francaise by living there, not all of us have that opportunity. Those of us stateside must rely on French restaurants (not completely reliable in the US) and books.

durieux table trim

Here are four books that I’ve enjoyed reading that I think do a great job portraying the French manner of eating.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle – I’m dating myself mentioning this book first. It was a hit when it came out — 20+ years ago. Francophiles flocked to read it. I enjoyed it.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano – I don’t love the title, but the style of eating recommended is just my style. I’ve found that when I follow the French Lady’s advice, I enjoy great food without feeling like I’m on a diet — and without gaining weight.

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen LeBillon – I read this book a few years ago and it revolutionized the way I looked at vegetables and whether or not my kids needed to eat them. They do.

The Bonne Femme Cookbook by Wini Moranville – Wini and I have, in some ways, lived parallel lives. Both exchange students to France who grew up to write cookbooks for the Harvard Common Press. Also, we both have ties to the same itty bitty village in southern France. I love this book! I’ve been waiting for a time when I have a break from recipe development and testing so that I can dig in and make everything in this book. So far the recipes we’ve tried have been fantastic.

These are all fabulous books and I would not hesitate to buy them for the French fans in your life.

Are YOU ready for French Friday?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Marganne says

    I may have missed it but did you share the recipe for the whole fish and potatoes pic that has been posted?! Everytime I see it I drool! Thanks so much for sharing this information and these great book suggestions…great ideas for Christmas gifts for my foodie friends!

    • That was from a little restaurant in Collioure on the Mediterranean. No recipe to share. Sorry!

  2. Sara K. says

    I just borrowed two of the French Women books from the library for the second time. I really like her philosophy on food. I have a terrible habit of eating too fast. I think I would eat less and be more satisfied if I took my time. The only issue I have with her advice is that sometimes they don’t jive with a working mom’s life. She doesn’t have to snarf down a meal in between work and swimming lessons or work with picky eaters. I would love to see a “mom-friendly” version of the book that incorporates some additional tips for those of us in a much different season of life! 🙂

    I haven’t read the other books, but maybe I will add them to the list!

    • That is a great idea! Last night, to stretch our potato soup dinner, I served appetizers and yogurt afterward. It made the meal so much more pleasant. It was really amazing how calm everyone was when we’d established the time as an “event”.

  3. Kelly says

    I’m currently reading “Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris.” By Jennifer L. Scott. She covers the French way of eating as well as other topics. She is a California girl who spent a year as a college exchange student in Paris. Kind of reminds me of you! Great read & fine good lessons!

  4. Trish says

    I loved French Kids eat everything – I heard an interview with the author and it sounded intriguing enough that I got the book. It really is eye opening as far as the relationship French ppl have with food. SO much better than Americans. The author struggled with the idea of not allowing her kids to choose what they ate, but as the French pointed out, kids are not equipped to make good choices. We do have a ghastly diet, all those chips, chicken nuggets, fries, eaten at breakneck speed. The author struggled so much with switching to the French way of feeding kids, but she realized that ultimately it leads to a healthier and happier adult. It makes sense too, to schedule meals and forbid snacks. Hungry kids are much more likely to at least sample vegetables and other unfamiliar food.

    I could just go on and on about the French relationship with food. My husband feels as if I am being unduly critical of the American diet, but for goodness sake – we ARE so unhealthy. Family get togethers with my in-laws are eye opening. Dishes are mostly variations on potatoes. I have brought vegetable dishes that go completely untouched. My own family eats a more healthy diet, but it is still gobbled up in less than 10 minutes, in a very unsatisfying way. And everyone discusses carbs, protein, etc. No one talks about food as a pleasure, rather it is seen as something we struggle to deal with.

  5. Donna says

    I really really really want to work on this. I want to enjoy my food, stop eating so fast and teach my kids to eat this way also. Thanks for all you are sharing. Enjoying your epiphanies and discoveries!

  6. Emily says

    I have loved reading your posts about the French way of eating, but was very nervous to try it at my home. My children are quite young (4 and 2.5), and I wasn’t sure how such young children would handle it. Plus, for various reasons, the four of us don’t always eat all at the same time many nights. But I am growing tired of our dinners being such quick (often ten minutes or less), chaotic affairs where it is much less about enjoying ourselves, and more about simply eating the food so we can move on to other things.

    So tonight I decided on a whim (as in, about 15 minutes before dinner time!) to give it a try. Since it was so last minute, it was only three courses. But we started munching on a platter of carrot sticks, pear slices and roasted cashews while our entree ( was still in the oven and while our green beans steamed on the stove. We took our time on each of those two courses, then enjoyed a fruit and cheese tray (along with the remaining cashews) as the third and final course. My husband and daughter (the two-year-old) even made a pot of decaf for us to enjoy.

    Of course this was only the first time for us to try this, but I am astounded at how well this went. We spent a good 45 minutes at the table with both children, without any squabbles or even attempts to leave the table early. We conversed. Ate slowly. And simply enjoyed each other’s company over good food. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I so look forward to doing this more often in the future. And hopefully being just a tad more prepared next time 🙂 But even with simple foods (orange cheddar and apple slices, anyone?), it still transformed dinner time.

    • This made my day when I read it a few weeks ago. I’m just now getting a chance to respond. I LOVE that this worked so well at your house right out of the chute. Have you done it again? Yay for big wins!

  7. Sally says

    Given your love of all things French, I’m surprised you con’t have a recipe for French Yogurt Cake. It’s such a classic and endlessly versatile.

    I first saw a recipe for it in Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bébé. Karen Le Billon mentioned it in French Kids Eat Everything and provided a recipe in her second book. Last fall I wanted to make a cake that didn’t require a 13×9 pan and wasn’t 2 or 3 layers and remembered this. Who knew that making a cake from scratch is so easy?

    I have all the books you mention above. Recently I found Let’s Cook French, A Family Cookbook by Claudine Pepin It’s fior older children.. Recipes are given in both English and French. I can’t believe how many of the recipes I want to try.

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