Food for Thought

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In France there are unspoken ways of doing things, particularly  when it comes to mealtimes and just about anything to do with food. Break these generally unspoken rules and the chances are that although no one may say anything, there might be a discreetly raised eyebrow here and there; not in an unkind way, but merely as a gentle nod of acknowledgement that you’re a foreigner. However, I think that things may be changing a little, even if the fundamental values remain the same; at least for the time being.

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The past couple of weeks I seem to have been rather social; I’ve enjoyed a cup of coffee with several different people, all French, and on each occasion when offered a coffee I have been asked if I would like sugar. “Non merci,” is always my reply, but I do ask if there is any possibility of a little milk. These are friends after all. However, on all three occasions this has turned into a jolly conversation which always starts along the lines of, “We never have milk in coffee, milk is for children!” Oh, how we have laughed at this, because for much of the rest of the time the French do have milk in their coffee, especially at breakfast, and when I remind them of this they laugh along with me!

At the weekend we were in Angoulême for a tennis tournament. We arrived around 10am, with the clubhouse a hive of activity, and from behind the bar came the smell of freshly brewed coffee. A smiling man offered us a small cup straight away, a tiny offering of a little espresso, the type I am getting so used to now. Every parent and every coach was offered a coffee as they arrived after their fairly long journeys, and I couldn’t help but think how terribly civilised it all was.

After the prize-giving, afternoon goûter (tea-time snacks) was laid out in the form of pastries and drinks, and the man in charge walked around offering all the children a handful of candies – trust me, French children love sweets just as much as any other child in any other country. The man stopped at Millie (who had come with us in her official role as president of the Gigi Supporters club) and with a wink he said, “You’re 12 years old, aren’t you?” (he knew only too well she was much older) and with a grin, Millie took the offered handful of sweets. The man then smiled at me as he passed and said, “But of course, none for the adults,” and he continued on his way, children partaking of the offerings, while adults abstained. Now, don’t get me wrong, adults eat candy just like the children in France, and not just limiting themselves to a square of dark chocolate after a meal; but what I found interesting was the general perception, that adults are not offered sweets, and nor are teenagers. Oh no, sweets are just for children, because this is what is expected.

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At the same tournament the players were, most unusually as it happens, given lunch; it was provided by the French Tennis Federation who were also running the tournament. This all took place in a small club-house, with a bar that had neither dining facilities nor a kitchen; as a result everything had to be brought in for the day. However, after some small Gallic adjustments, some tables were carefully pushed together just after midday, places were arranged and ten girls, aged 9 and 10, sat down to lunch. A simple rice salad was handed around, followed by huge baguettes filled with ham or cheese and salad; a bag of potato crisps was then added to each person’s plate, and this was all followed by a basket full of fruit. There was nothing remarkable about the menu, but what I loved was that although the girls didn’t know one another, they all, without exception, sat, ate and chatted to whoever they were next to. They might have only met that day or at previous matches perhaps, but as the food got to work and tongues loosened, friendships slowly began to form, a statement of humanity that today’s fast-food street lunches cannot compete with. In France they have never lost sight of that fact, that food is a means of socialising more than just a chance to re-fuel in mid-flight.

Which brings me back to school lunches once more. At the end of last summer I gave you a sample menu of a week of lunches from the primary school in our village. Back then it was early September; fresh produce was in plentiful supply and everything was sourced from local growers. Now however it’s the depths of winter, so I thought it might be fun to show you how the  menu shapes up at this time of year. Note that in France there is no school on a Wednesday afternoon, so no lunch is provided that day; also for us, February is a short school month as the two week winter holiday starts tomorrow (note that this state of affairs translates into excited children and a ‘super-happy’ me!!)

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The pale circle (just visible) donates raw fresh seasonal produce, which at this time of year means apples, kiwis, mandarins or pears.

The dark circle means dishes prepared in a traditional home-cooked way, pretty much everything except for the cheese and fruit!

30/1/17 – Vegetable soup; Hake and Salmon with Rice; Fruit Fromage Frais; Fresh Fruit.

31/01/17 – Chinese Cabbage with Ham and Cheese Salad; Pasta Bolognese; Cheese (Camembert); Fresh Fruit Salad.

02/02/17 – Piémontaise is a Regional Salad usually prepared with chopped potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and ham in mayonnaise; Lamb in Tomatoe Sauce and Carrots; Cheese (Gouda); Meringues floating in Crème Anglais.

03/02/17 – Grated Carrots; Slow cooked Pork in Mustard with Green Beans; Cheese (Vache Picon); Crêpe de la Chandeleur – Pancakes**

06/02/17 – Taboule; Mexican Chicken with Peas and Carrots; Cheese (Carré Frais); Brownies.

07/02/17 – Ham and Cheese Pancakes; Ham in a Madeira sauce with Green and White Beans;  Cheese (Cantadou); Fresh Fruit.

09/02/17 – Grated Carrots in Vinaigrette; Mini Cottage Pies with Green Salad; Cheese (Saint Nectaire); Plain Yoghurt.

10/02/17 – Beetroot in Vinaigrette; Couscous with Vegetables; Goat’s Cheese; Fresh Fruit.

13/02/17 – Raddishes in Butter; Fish with Vegetables and Ratatouille; Cheese (Camembert); Chocolate Chip Muffins.

14/02/17 – Tomato Soup with Vermicelli Pasta; Chicken Nuggets with Mashed Potato; Cheese (Pyrénéen); Fruit Compote.

16/02/17 – Seafood Pasta Salad; Beef with Mushrooms and Baby Carrots; Cheese (Kiri); Fresh Fruit.

17/02/17 – Course Paté; Chipolata Sausages with a Cauliflower and Potato Gratin; Cheese (Cantadou); Fromage Blanc with Red Fruits and Banana.

** Crêpe de la Chandeleur – the 2nd February marks the Catholic holiday of Candlemas; it commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus. In France, this holiday is called La Chandeleur and traditionally crêpes are eaten on this day.

I have always said I would happily eat at the primary school every day! Nothing is forced on the children but they are asked to at least try every dish. Second helpings are nearly always offered and of course there are sliced baguettes in bread-baskets on the table at all times! The children sit at tables of four to six, with places set in advance with china, glass, proper cutlery and paper napkins. Water is placed in a jug in the centre and the children are served by adults. Across France some schools may do things a little differently but in my experience the general theme remains the same throughout the Primary level. Once the children begin Collège (middle school) there is usually more of a canteen-style arrangement, but I can tell you the food again remains excellent with three or four courses on offer. And French children are no different to any others, when there is a delicious dessert instead of fruit or yoghurt there is much excitement, the highlight of lunch!

On a very sunny note I’m going to say goodbye, because we have had a week of springlike weather and I just have to show you how it looks – but – I haven’t forgotten how the weather has been so fickle this winter, and acknowledge the fact that we will probably be freezing again next week! We’ve eaten our first lunch of the year outside, and without even the need for a coat as we are quite literally basking in really warm sunshine.

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We don’t have enough flowers for an entire garden blogpost, but we do have a mass of daffodils in bloom; the centre of the chicken garden is a sea of yellow, all from bulbs I planted the first autumn we were here.

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Daffodils are bobbing in the sun amongst the remaining branches, that I have still to pick up, scattered around the garden from the storm the week before;

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The first blossom on our plum trees has burst into life

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and I’ve spotted mimosa flowering in a garden alongside the road.

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The warmth, the sun, and the flowers; as I drove home from school yesterday with the children I commented, “this weather; doesn’t it just make one happy to be alive?”

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168 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  • Delightful. I’ve read about the French school lunches in other places and would also gladly eat them myself. I don’t have time to go into the lunch situation in the States, as I have to have breakfast (homemade granola) and get ready for a short road trip over the weekend. The outdoor lunch at your home looks so inviting and I look forward to the days when that spring weather arrives here. In the meantime, I’ll just cadge off yours. 🙂 Happy weekend, Susan.

    janet

  • We are still a few weeks away from daffodils and violets in my part of the world (Missouri, US), but it’s nice to see that spring has sprung in your corner.
    I am always amazed at the importance of food in France. I wish it were more like that here. Thank you for sharing the lunch menu. Lunches for my children have improved in the last couple of years. For instance our local public school is serving spaghetti & meatballs or chili-cheese scoops with spinach salad, green beans, orange slices, 100% juice and milk. Now if they would only serve it with real silverware instead of plastic.

    • It has felt just like spring here this week, I wonder if it will last or if we will be plunged back into winter in a few days time! Whatever, we are making the most of it right now and the daffodils are such a welcome sight. Your school meals do sound a great deal better than many I have read about. I think the thing I love so much about meal times here are the fact that everyone does take the time to sit and eat together, children learn this at such a young age that it just becomes totally natural. xx

  • School lunch in France certainly is wonderful. I wish all schools would do that. What is the enrollment at the school? Our elementary school has 555 students which is 1 of 12 elementary schools in our area.

    • School lunches really are very good here and I love that everyone sits and eats together and enjoys their time chatting and eating. The village school here is tiny just 70 children! But the middle/high school the others attend is very much larger, about 800 children and they still manage to have fantastic food! xx

  • Mmmmm – I think Mrs C and myself may come and join you, Susan, though to be frank I am surely not small enough to try and sneak in undetected?

    Great post with lovely photos, apart from one thing though – I now have outdoor-lunch-envy. How can you post photos like that in February? We’re still in woolies and gloves over here!

    • I could happily eat in the school dining room as well here every day! With four courses even if they don’t like something there are always plenty of other things they will like. Today we reached even higher temperatures, 20C, I was too hot in jeans!! We will probably be plunged back into winter next week, but for the time being I am loving this warmth! xx

  • No buds here yet. Hopefully very soon although the locals are all complaining that it is too soon for such warm temperatures.
    I could happily go back to primary school here.

    • The locals here are sure we will be back in winter temperatures again next week! But for now I am loving this, just a few days of real spring weather, it was 20C today. Daffodils everywhere and I was actually too warm in jeans! Cannot beat the school food here, I definitely have school lunch envy! xx

  • I got up early this morning and what a delight to read your blog. I completely agree with you on meal time. I only wish we had more civilized school lunches here-without all the junk that is offered. Thank you for the slice of French life and the beautiful pictures to start my day!

    • Thank you so much Mary, lunch is such an important time of the day here, it is neither rushed nor hurried and everyone takes their time to eat and sit and chat and enjoy, it’s all very much part of the day’s education.xx

  • Years ago we made friends with a couple who had two young children and were moving to the states. When they came to the house I had no idea what to offer the children as a snack. I gave them peanut and butter sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off. They became devotees of this iconic American snack.
    I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed!!!!

    • Oh how funny, peanut butter is one of those things you either love or hate, I happily eat peanuts but I loathe peanut butter, even the smell of it and how anyone can spread it on bread is beyond me!! However, two of our girls adore it and so I do buy it for them, but then three of our children hate it! I love making English scones and serving them warm with jam as afternoon snacks when friends of the children come here, they always seem to be something of a hit, not too sweet and something a little different! xx

  • In an increasingly uncivilized world it is comforting to know that there are still places that carry on in a proper expected way. Good food is served in a home made way in a public school and children are expected to sit down to eat with their classmates. I here way to often here in the States that the parent doesn’t direct their children but instead asks the child to make the decisions about what, when and where they want to be or do even to letting the child make the decision about worship. We have abdicated our responsibilities in parenting and now the child acts as the parent. It is so good to see and here that you enjoy your parenting responsibilities. Your children show the good job you and your husband are doing. Congratulations!

    • I think it is much harder in society today to be a parent, because parents are now best friends as well as role models. However, I still believe in children learning proper manners and being polite, I think it is vital and mealtimes at school are really very much a part of their education, they learn to sit and chat together, no one questions that they sit properly and eat in a civilised manner, it is just normal. This is one of the many things I love about living here! xx

    • Love love love following your Blog…
      I am ready to sign up for a school lunch program in France.
      What a difference between US and France.
      Presenting formality, presentation, and healthy meals and great balance…..
      You are so ahead weather wise for a breath of spring. We had 9 inches of snow last week, and dusting off
      and on. Just 1 hour out side of NYC
      in New Jersey send a little spring our way. Love the beautiful pictures of the daffodils that are in the chicken garden lucky chickens…

      • Thanks so much Carolyn,I would happily eat every day at school as well, the food is so lovely and if there is something they don’t like there are always plenty of other courses, so no one goes hungry! All winter I would have welcomed your snow, I longed for it and prayed for it every day! But now I have had a taste of warmer weather I think I am now ready for spring! Having said that, we will probably be freezing again next week! In the meantime sending a little sunshine and warmth your way! xx

    • Thanks Shari, I still love a good cappuccino, but I very rarely have one, I have my favourite cafe in Rochefort who do serve the best milky white coffees and they know me so I don’t even have to say what I want anymore! xx

  • I spend much time talking about the French attitude to food which is quite simply head and shoulders about the US and UK. The standard of school food is excellent and you are so right – children just get on with socialising over meals because they have always done it. The family, after all, will typically sit down together for all meals – no pop tarts on the go at breakfast time, no burger grabbed from a kiosk at lunch and no propping up the fridge and gulping down its remains at supper. It makes so much sense and it is proven that although the French consume all the wrong things they also have a higher life expectancy and less heart attacks. Of course there are disgusting aspects to French food too – notably Andouiette, tripe and gésiers for me but on balance it is chouette and as a way of life, hard nay impossible to beat. We too are basking warm sun and the children here, being also Group A are getting ready for the hols. The little boy who lives above us was very keen to tell me that he is going to beat EVERYONE on the slopes next week! Aged 6 I like his style!!! xx

    • Oh how brilliant that the little boy is so exciting, I hope he does beat everyone, I absolutely adore seeing the little kids bombing down the slopes with their helmets on, quite fearless! You are quite right, the children just all sit down and eat because they don’t know anything different, it is quite normal and a part of their education. Ours have always eaten like this too, but the difference is here they are just normal whereas elsewhere they seem a little odd, that they sit and eat! I detest tripe with a passion and I can tell you a few other things that I am not fond of either. On the whole I think the French actually eat way less fresh vegetables than we do, but they must be doing something right! So happy it’s the holidays!! 20C here today, I was actually too warm in jeans, it felt fabulous!! xx

      • They do eat less veggies than I am used to though of course at home we are free to do as we please. Your children always look so happy and carefree …. the little fellow upstairs has two much older siblings who are absolutely charming and delight in their little brother’s Gung-ho approach to meeting new people. I’m sure his fearlessness will serve him well next week amongst all the others zooting round on their skis. They amaze me – I’ve ben skiing since I was 6 and am utterly abysmal! We are not quite at the giddying temperature you are basking in but have had clear blue skies and around 16C for the last few days. The butterflies and primevère are out in the hills but I worry that they are premature and a friend of mine in Ireland said they are worried about the bees and the lambs …. Mother Nature must know what she’s doing but I think with all the interference from humans she is a little confused at the mo! Xx

      • Just the way I look at it, load up on the veggies at home! I like to think the children are happy and France does allow them to be somewhat carefree and have far more independence. Your little neighbour sounds fantastic, I am sure he is going to have a great holidays. At least you too have had fabulous weather, lets hope it lasts a few more days, then I want snow at the end of the month as we are off skiing! The butterflies are out here too and the bees, but we are nowhere near as early as last year, I would say about a month later, so we may have messed with Mother Nature, but she is coping better than a year ago, let’s hope she is sorting things out! xx

      • Actually the little boy is clearly over-excited today and thundering above like a heard of elephants in hobnail boots …. I rather think I will be glad when they hightail it up into the mountains! Mother Nature knows what she is doing and actually I do think she is capable of rectifying most of our errors … so long as we do more to help than hinder, that is! Bon week-end a vous tous …. husband has just transpired from Boston having been away all week so we are off a-hiking! xx

      • Ok that’s not so much fun!! Mother Nature here has regulated temperatures a little, a very respectable 14 to 15C, slightly more in the normal range and just gorgeous. Three guesses where I spent all day though? Indoors at a tennis tournament!! Hope you have had a wonderful hike, I am slightly jealous!! I would love to have been outdoors enjoying the fabulous weather and gardening but hey ho that’s what we do for our children!! Xx

      • Oh how I miss those endless sports fixtures and drama workshops and scout camps! All too soon they are grown and flown (as you know too well) …. but I do remember sometimes wishing I could have a little clone-me that did the me things whilst still being the mummy I needed and wanted to be! Have a wonderful week … I guess you are revving up for the slopes now which will be glorious fun! Xx

      • I know just what you mean. My week is entirely defined by tennis courts, I swear I can now direct anyone around the entire south west of France and Centre, just by the location of a club! Then next week, the rackets and balls will be replaced by skis for a week, just cannot wait! I feel we deserve a little break! What’s the snow like in the Alps this year? Xx

      • That made me laugh out loud …. you should write a guide! Snow in the Alps is variable from quite good-excellent from what I can gather … and it is the only constant topic of conversation here. You can start talking about vegetables and somewhere along the line the person will mention snow! Xx

      • Another day, another tournament, I feel as if my head is spinning like a tennis ball! Can’t wait to get to the snow, apparently it’s not great in the Pyrenees, but snow is expected this weekend which might improve things a little, I hope! xx

      • I’ll keep fingers and toes crossed for you … I think you would fair OK this way but it’s a mighty long drive with children 🚗 🎿 xx

    • Ah, Osyth, a woman after my own heart. I detest tripe and Andouillette as well. In fact, I will run a mile from Andouillette if I smell it. I’ve eaten pretty much everything else offered me around the world, but that sausage is something I always gently push to one side.

      A long time ago I once watched with great amusement as a boat owner bought his entire American crew the ‘plat de jour’ in a restaurant on St Martin, in the Caribbean. Written firmly on the blackboard was the word ‘Andouillette’ and when the plates were brought out to the table there was much consternation amongst the group. Suffice to say not much more than a morsel was consumed save for the Italian owner’s plate; he demolished his with relish, much to the disbelief of his poor starving companions. Uuuugh! A round of toasted sandwiches was hastily arranged to stave off starvation!

      • Ha! Roddy that did make me laugh. I’m actually impressed that people could remain in situ with The Dish of Death (so brilliantly captured here by Grubworm http://www.thegrubworm.com/2010/12/andouillette-or-the-dish-of-death/) in the same room! If I see it advertised on an A board I just walk on by! Anyway – it’s lovely to ‘meet’ you …. I sort of feel I know you already from my interaction with Susan on her lovely blog that never fails to rally me to a comment or several. I’m hoping we can all link up at some point (at the moment I am your Eastern Polar Opposite in Grenoble but normally slightly further west in Cantal) ….there will be no andouiette nor tripe on the menu! Have a lovely weekend, all of you!

  • Incredible lunches and so interesting. Love the daffodils and the chickens, you have much better weather than we have in England!

  • I do enjoy the fact that the French do things their way and prefer to eat with the seasons. We still have kiwis and I love the fact that the garden comes to life really quickly here, but then we already have the fly swatter out too! I believe good manners and sociability comes with eating together and compared to children coming home and eating on the sofa alone, the French culture is definitely to be admired.

    • Totally agree with you, I love that children sit down and eat, it is a part of their education and so it is quite normal to them. We hit 20C today, it is fantastic just to feel so warm and to fling open all the windows and to air the house out after the winter, fortunately we have not had any flies here yet! But we have bees and butterflies in the garden, spring must be right around the corner now! xx

    • I could happily eat at school every day with the children, their food is utterly delicious! I think the most important thing though is the civilised way in which everyone eats, they take their time to enjoy their food and to enjoy it together, that is what makes for such a lovely lunch hour or two! xx

  • One of the highlights of our time in France was helping to provide a ‘British’ meal in a primary school canteen. Here’s what I said at the time: https://margaret21.com/2012/09/26/school-dinners-school-dinners/. I was so impressed by the social occasion that this meal was. And you’re right, their meals are pretty good – and several courses more than ours! Enjoy your first meals in the garden this year, said she, truly green with envy.

    • Now I have never heard that ditty before, but it pretty much sums up my school lunches when I was a child! Our school food was nutritious but quite disgusting!! I love that they get four courses here, all small, but if they don’t like something they will never go hungry because there is always something else to eat! Today we reached 20C, it was utterly fabulous to feel so warm outside, almost too warm in jeans! xx

  • just simply love all of this. we get a monthly mag with all the school menus and they make me drool….
    the pics are enchanting, you ARE ahead of us, especially this year where we are much later with everything! we are off to Lisbon for a wk’end in warmer weather and kind company 🙂
    have a wonderful weekend!!!

    • I could happily eat at the school dining room, the food sounds delicious and I am told by the girls that it is too! Everything is about a month later here than it was last year, so in other words back to normal! Hope you have a wonderful weekend in Lisbon, I know the city well from our Madeira days, I love the Portuguese and just know you will have a great weekend and enjoy the warm weather! We have friends in the Algarve at the moment, they are sunning themselves all day in shorts and t shirts! xx

  • I have been focusing on the often-neglected wonders of winter produce. We have a great choice of locally grown vegetables since it rarely freezes here. I have a wonderful recipe to share tomorrow.
    At my kid’s primary school, platters or bowls of food were set on the tables, and the kids were expected to serve each other, with older students taking care of the youngest ones.
    We had the windows open here today, but just a few days ago we actually evacuated as flood waters rose outside our door. Luckily our rental apartments, high and dry in town, were available.

    • I wrote at the end of January about the underrated winter vegetables and various ways to cook them to make them interesting as I agree there is plenty of choice and it’s all locally grown here too. Like you, we rarely get frosts, this winter has been something of an exception but we haven’t had the rain you have had, sounds a bit scary. We’ve had the windows open for a couple of days, it’s fabulous to air the house out and to dry the laundry on the line. Perhaps spring really is just around the corner! xx

  • I wish my daughters had school lunches like this, here in New Jersey it’s a very different story. Food is not given any thought at all, it’s purely a means to fill the stomach and satiate hunger, no one cares what they eat or how they eat it, there is certainly nothing sociable about eating a burger and fries whilst talking on the phone and watching tv all at the same time. Such a sorry state of affairs. We all need to come to France to learn a few vital lessons.

    • It’s one of the things I love most about France, they way people actually take their time to enjoy their food and to eat together and chat together in an unhurried relaxed manner. I hope it doesn’t die out here because certainly times are changing. xx

  • Thank you for this great insight into how things are some in France, another real eye opener and explained in your usual quite charming manner.

    • Thank you so much Peggy, it is one of the things I love about living here, the time people take to actually enjoy their food and I love that for children this is very much a part of their education. xx

  • Your part in France is more blooming than here in the southern Spain. Enviable. And indeed food like music is the
    most socializing thing. It’s all about good mood and the people around. I can hardly reject real good sweet after a meal ….and I am already 12+ years, haha.

    • We actually reached 20C today, it felt so good to be really warm, I was longing for snow, but now I have had a taste of spring I can’t wait for more! In small quantities I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little sweet thing at the end of a meal, it’s the simple pleasures!!! xx

  • Those daffodils are heartening to us in colder places!

    And I’m with you – I would gladly eat those school lunches every day. They look fantastic. One of the best things about working at home was being able to make myself a real lunch every day. Now that I am in the office more often than not, I am stuck with whatever I can bring along (and I really dislike the microwave, so most things I eat are cold). I need to get in better habits, and come up with some cold dishes I enjoy more to bring along with me so I can have real lunches.

  • I would love that sort of lunch menu in my day to day life! There is something so beautiful about a simple meal, different components and flavors coming together

    • I totally agree with you Lily, there is also something so lovely about people sitting down and eating together and taking the time to appreciate their food and enjoying a good conversation at the same time. xx

  • I have been busily trying to simplify my life and unsubscribing to unecessary emails and to things I follow on facebook, but Our French Oasis is such a calming, breath of fresh air, it is a “must keep.” Thank you for giving us a chance to “smell the flowers” and live life at a slower, more deliberate pace (albeit afar).

    • Thank you so much Cyndi, I think sometimes it is really good to try and simplify things, I frequently remind myself that I must slow down and really enjoy life and take the time to notice all the good things around me. I hope you have a wonderful end to the week and a lovely calm, relaxing and peaceful weekend xx

  • Even more than daffodils, the first violets make me think “Spring!”
    When I was in France last month, one of the things I noticed is how trim everyone seemed. Whether that’s from less time in cars or eating better or a combination thereof, it was notable.
    Oh, and Yay, Gigi!

    • The violets are everywhere here, I always worry I will squash them underfoot, but they seem to spring right back up! They are one of those flowers that one doesn’t see much anymore or hear much about, but they smother our lawn, planted by someone long ago no doubt. Interesting that you noticed how trim everyone is here, I think it really is probably a combination of so many things, hopefully you will notice it even more when you return in the Spring and everyone is out and about enjoying the warmer weather. Gigi is all packed and ready for the off! xx

  • Hi Susan, Thanks for that. I have great memories of French school lunches! When I was teaching at a lycee in Poitiers I was amazed at the quality of the food. No marmite sandwiches to be seen! Lol. Your photos are great too – we have heavy rain in Auckland at the moment…. it hasn’t been much of a summer at all.

    • Oh but Alison I do love marmite! I introduced a French friend to it last week and actually they really enjoyed it! We had 20C here today and 18C yesterday. It felt truly fantastic to be really warm and to fling open all the doors and windows. Maybe you will get a late summer or a gorgeous autumn? Pack your bags and head up to the Bay of Islands for a weekend, or is the weather as bad up north too? xx

  • I soooo second Cyndi’s comment above………your blog does indeed give us a chance to stop everything…….breathe in……….and “smell the roses”. It’s beauty. It’s therapy. It’s family. It’s food, flowers, nature, animals, coffee, plum blossoms, and soooo much more, and now we get to experience your part of France in Springtime………… glorious!! I’m soooooooo relaxed and renewed.
    Thank you ! Never stop.

    • Thank you so much, I hope spring will be here to stay, it’s been rather a treat feeling really warm this week, flinging open the doors and windows and eating outdoors. But it’s been such a strange winter, we could well be flung straight back into cold weather next week, who knows, so for the time being I am just going to enjoy every second of this!! xx

  • These lunches are remarkable, both in the variety of food served and the seating and presentation, demonstrating that education is more than the subjects taught in class, and that French cultural values are transmitted in this way. Who pays for these? Are they included in an annual fee? Do they employ local cooks or chefs? Australian children take their own lunches to school. Some large schools may have little canteens where children can buy something once a week- a sandwich or pie for example. Secondary schools always have canteens but again, the food is rather ordinary. Children are encouraged to take a healthy lunch but many end up with pre-wrapped supermarket junk in their boxes. No nut products at all are allowed in Primary school and younger children usually have a little fruit only break in the morning,

    • I know, they are fabulous and it’s one of the many things I love about France. Lunches are paid for by the parents, although those on very low incomes are given help. We pay monthly. There are two local chefs who cook everything in the school kitchen, but it is a tiny village school with just 70 children. The food is equally as good in the much larger school our older children attend, there they have a choice in the canteen and help themselves but still several courses are on offer and I have never had any complaints! Lunch for primary school children is very much a part of their education, it’s one of the things I love about living here, the way that even the youngest of children will sit happily at a table and eat and chatter and enjoy their food. xx

  • It so looks like spring there! Lovely. When I was in grade school, the school had a cadre of cooks who made lunch and the menu was posted weekly in the local newspaper. It was fabulous and I still remember the cinnamon rolls that went with one of the lunches!

    • I love cinnamon rolls, haven’t had them for years, Izzi used to make the most delicious ones, I must ask her if she will treat us to some when she comes home at Easter! The menu here comes home at the beginning of each month, so that parents can make sure they don’t duplicate evening meals. I wish I had had lunches like this at school, I would happily eat in their dining room every day! xx

  • IT DOES!LOVE SPRING!AS FOR MILK the ITALIANS will frown at you if you put milk in a coffee after 11 am!!!!!!They use the same expression “MILK IS FOR KIDS!”I ADORE MILK and cannot DO AN ESPRESSO!!!!!!!!MUST HAVE MILK!NO SUGAR BUT MILK YES!
    XX

    • We are peas out of the same pod! I love my slightly milky coffee, but I will admit I am learning to like it just a little bit without, not out of choice but because it’s either that or nothing half the time!! xx

  • I lingered for a while over your spring photos. I could feel the warm vibes all the way here 🙂

    I enjoyed your description of the inconsistencies in French behaviour. The bit about the candy being only for children made me smile … that lie makes them adorably human 😉

    • I can’t tell you how fantastic it has felt to be really warm outside in just a t shirt. I am sure we have plenty more to come of winter but this little taste of spring has been most welcome, a bit like a weekend away, it recharges the batteries! I had to laugh as the adults politely said no to candy, Gigi’s trainer, who is in his 30’s was quite happily munching away on his own supply!! xx

    • I can quite imagine, I have done years of lunch boxes too when they were in NZ and it is so nice not to have to do that first thing in the morning and to know that they will be eating healthily too. xx

  • Loved everything about this post. I had to share the school lunch menus with my husband who said, “That has to be an expensive private school!” Glad your weather has been beautiful. We’re looking at a week of beautiful weather to come. Can’t wait!

    • I agree, it looks like it should be from the menu, but this is just the local village school. Parents pay for the lunches, but those on very low incomes are supported by the government. Food is of major importance as you know here! Enjoy your week of good weather, it’s wonderful to feel warm outside again! xx

  • Your photos are always so charming, Susan. I’m happy that spring is showing its face a little, to cheer up your garden. Your children’s school lunches look far better than we used to get in the olden days in England. 🙂

  • Oh those daffodils, they make my heart sing for spring. Oh to live in your part of the world I’d love everything about it and if only I could eat at the school as well life would be perfect!

    • I could happily eat in the school dining room every day! It is wonderful to feel really warm and to have a little slice of spring sunshine, not sure if it will last, but making the most of it whilst we can! Have a wonderful weekend xx

  • I’m sure that the school lunches in France go a long way towards explaining the relatively good manners most French children seem to have in public – at least that Amy and I have noticed. I never fail to marvel at the way they sit in restaurants with hardly a murmur, eating what’s put in front of them, i-Pods, i-Phones and so on very much out of sight.

    Great menus, Susan. I confess I am of an age when my school lunches were spent behind the bike-shed exchanging Benson&Hedges while discussing 5-speed Dawes and possible liaisons with the opposite sex.

    • Ha ha, my school lunches were just beyond disgusting! Benson and Hedges, that would have meant instant expulsion! But I do agree with you I think learning to eat properly and the fact that it is just a part of everyday life is a big part of learning in French schools, I can cope with a lot of things, but using a mobile phone at the dinner table unless it is some sort of complete emergency is totally out or order in my experience, call me old fashioned but I cannot stand it, our children wouldn’t dare! Xx

  • What beautiful weather you are now having. Your photos remind me so much of our orchard in New England when we lived there. Of course, daffodils and wild violets would be buried in snow until late March or April there. I’m happy that France still serves wonderful lunches to the school children. After all, some of them will someday go on to cook for families of their own and in restaurants in the future and will know that healthy good food is all about.

    • I totally agree, when it is such a normal part of everyday life it becomes second nature to eat well and to all eat together, let’s hope it really does stay this way because even things in France are changing. I love seeing hte daffodils but even more so the violets because they are just a carpet of purple all over the lawn, they seem to be out in more abundance than ever this year, hard to photograph, but walking one nearly steps on them everywhere. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

      • Whenever I mowed the orchard, I left big patches uncut because of all the violets…they were just too sweet to cut down. Have you and the girls tried candying some of them?

      • Fortunately the grass doesn’t grow much at this time of year, so we can just enjoy them. I have never event thought of candying them, can we truly eat them? I am going to investigate this further, thank you and I shall certainly let you know! xx

      • Yes, if there has been no chemicals used in the area you can. I did a post about doing it back in May of 2013…I think it would be a fun project for the girls.

      • We certainly don’t use any chemicals in our garden and our neighbour on one side of us doesn’t either, the other side does, but I think certainly if I take ones from the side nearest to the neighbour who doesn’t use chemicals we should be fine. It will be a great project, we shall have a go this winter holidays! I can see a great cake in the making!! Xx

  • I’ve just read a news report today about a ‘tropical plume’ coming our way. I doubt it will be tropical when it gets here but it’s still been remarkably mild over the last few days. Unknown for February! Bulbs are popping out all over the place and I’m out in the garden every day. It certainly does feel good to be alive. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Anything in double digits is welcome at this time of year I feel, especially when there are some blue skies and sunshine thrown in for good measure. We have been out in the garden as much as we can too, everything is exploding into life. Just love getting into spring and the hope it seems to bring. Hope you have a lovely weekend in your tropical weather!! Xx

  • Any chance I can enroll in that school?! Holy cow, what fabulous fare and a marvelous way to reinforce the whole social connection. Spring is making its presence known here too with temps in the upper 60’s & low 70’s F this week. We better hope some snow is in the near future or there will be major water restrictions this summer. I even had to water the garden and new trees as it has been so dry. Have a fabulous weekend and enjoy the school holidays! ღ

    • Join the queue, I would happily eat there every day! The weather is all over the place, we were mid 60’s again today and all weekend too I believe it is forecast to remain gorgeous. Then next week rain! I am sure we will have a bit more winter before spring takes over yet. Enjoy your weekend in the warm weather xx

      • I know, I am always telling them how lucky they are. But then I am so happy for them, they love lunch, they all sit and chatter happily because everyone is content, good food, good friends, good conversation, they all go hand in hand, even in a school dining room! xx

      • The best part (in addition to healthful food) is the camaraderie that is being created especially in the fast paced life. Besides, it allows kids to learn how to interact with people rather than merely devices. Far too many young people here have minimal social skills. 😉

      • I totally agree, it is all about the camaraderie and learning that mealtimes are about being social as well as just eating, enjoying food and another’s company, a vital lesson. Xx

  • I always wonder about children with allergies. I’ve never found the answer to how (of if) they are accommodated. Any input? Also in the US there are children with ADD or on the autism spectrum. I’m sure they exist in France as well. Yet do they sit at the table and partake during the hour lunch as the other children? Curious as to how the French deal with a broader spectrum of children.

    • Very interesting Jacqueline, I asked our 16 year old daughter, Millie, what her take was on this also. She didn’t know of anyone with allergies or ADD or autism. I suspect that if you have an allergy then you eat at home. In all schools in France, there is the option to eat at home or at school, and I would imagine if it is a very serious allergy then home would be much the safest place. But I am sorry I really don’t know the answer. As for ADD, I believe it is treated in a very different way in France to the US, but again I am not an expert in any way at all. Autism is quite different and I would think that an autistic child probably goes to one of the larger city schools where they have teachers able to give proper help and tuition. So I am sorry I am really not much help at all, I can honestly say it is something that has never come up in any of the classes our children have been in at any French school and I am very inadequately qualified to answer properly. Not much use I’m afraid. All I can do is wish you a very happy weekend. Xx

      • Thanks for trying. No one has ever been able to answer this question, even my French mom friends! It seems that school trips or school events would surely have some accomodation but no one seems to even be aware of these issues whereas in the US they are very much part of every day life. But thanks for trying!

      • I am sorry I was no help, I really thought our soon to be 17 year old would have an answer, she is at a relatively large school, but even she drew a complete blank. If I ever do find out any more I will certainly let you know. In the meantime have a great week xx

  • `Long may the French traditions of eating and drinking prevail. When I first went to France – probably in 1956 (10 years old) – it was the aromas of food, coffee and the ways of eating that excited me even then. Over the years, I have come to love France and particularly anything to do with the food. The school menus show very clearly how well balanced the lunches are, and also I believe how important it is for children to sit at a properly set table where they can enjoy good food and conversation.
    Although we are not experiencing quite the spring weather you have, yesterday when I enjoyed a pub lunch with a friend here in Hampton, we did sit in the garden…and it was very pleasant. At this time of year, it’s always a very welcome respite. Love the pics and wish you a fantastic weekend – Janet. :)xx

    • I totally agree Janet, I have this weekend, yet again been reminded of how civilised the French are and how they eat, and of how everyone sits and chats and enjoys the social aspect of food as well as the meal itself. Long may it last here. So glad you finally got to eat outside, there is nothing like it and in February in the UK, that really is quite an achievement! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend xx

  • Dear Susan – I found your French Oasis via Gina and have really enjoyed reading your latest posts – how lovely to be able to sit out in the February sunshine.
    Two of my grandchildren have grown up in France and have always been impressed by their school menus.

    • So happy you found me and I really hope you have enjoyed having a look around! It is such a treat to be able to eat outside in February, it’s rather like a little balm for the soul in the middle of winter, it totally recharges the batteries. If you have grandchildren who have grown up here then I am assuming you are a regular visitor and of course you know how lovely the school food is and the general attitude towards food. Have a great week xx

  • What lucky children they are, to have such a civilised school lunch! I wish they would do that here….. How I envy (oh dear, that word again, not good!!) your lovely chicken garden, what a sight for the soul that is, to see the hens happily wandering around amongst the daffodils! I so wish we had the space to do this, I do worry about them in their run, although they are laying and seem happy enough. My husband loves them and goes out to chat to them whenever he’s home and has been looking after their every need whilst I had an op that prevented me from doing it. And this weekend, we had my daughter and the two little boys to stay. The youngest, Jack, has really taken to the hens and wants to go out with Opa to collect the eggs and give them treats. I saw his little face yesterday when Clive opened the door and there was an egg! Made my heart sing! But this morning, his elder brother, Charlie, decided he too wanted to go out to collect an egg – oh no! only one egg!! I had to take it back out and put it back in the nest so he could also carry it carefully back to the kitchen!! Jack was not impressed with this idea and a few tears were shed!! But with promises of more eggs next time, he went off home with a grudging smile!! No snow here but the wind is back! Have a lovely week. x

    • Oh how difficult it is to satisfy multiple siblings, I know the situation only too well! I am sure your chickens are extremely happy in their run, because you look after them so well and if they weren’t happy they wouldn’t be laying. Enjoy every second of them, who knew that chickens could bring so much enjoyment! I certainly didn’t until we got ours! It has really felt very springlike for a week here now, temps in the high teens and loving every second of it. Blossom out all over the place and there is a definite feeling of spring, we are able to sit outside which is incredible. Even if it doesn’t last it’s been a great way to recharge the batteries for a few days! have a lovely week, your grandsons are so lucky to have you. xx

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