Today,  Letitia Jett a femme d'un certain age , and I play a weekly game on our blogs. We share our views on our adopted countries, France for Letitia and The States for me, all the while comparing one and the other. We "come up" with a topic to "discuss" and we each publish our thoughts on the subject from our respective sides of the Ocean, never looking "at each other's sheet", so to speak.
There are some things we really love, others we miss. Some drive us nuts and sometimes we are very amused by something typical about our new homes. Whatever our point of view, we bring it to you on Mondays. This is what we interested us today...

A Taaaable!
The family meal is starting to disappear, or so it seems. The ritual of coming together to lunch or dinner as a family when father worked, mother stayed home to cook and clean and the children knew that meals were at certain hours, is no more.  The parents often both work now and children have multiple activities that interfere with any possibility of a family getting together around a table. Breakfast is often just as rushed as any other meal, leaving very little room for any kind of interaction and communication. 
This evolution in eating habits is more evident in the States, I have noticed, than in France. It's a question of the strong culture of savoring meals over there, I strongly believe.
When I moved to the States the first time, I was 11; we started school very shortly after arriving from France and that 1st morning, we had a fun time having no clue what on earth anyone was saying; we did understand things perfectly well when the bell rang at lunchtime. My sisters and I proceeded immediately to go home, only to realize that a number of our classmates were following us and seemed to be trying to tell us something. We in turn tried to convey that we did not know what they wanted and continued our walk home with them in tow. When we reached our house someone explained to my mother, who, thankfully, was better at English than we were, that no one went home for lunch and that we needed to bring something to eat in what they referred to as a lunchbox. 

No hot lunch at home? INCROYABLE!

Fast forward a number of years to Paris, where my assistant at the time made us laugh recounting how disappointing it was going home after school everyday. On her ride up the iconic rickety Parisian elevator of her parents apartment building, she  would smell, say, a blanquette de veau on the 1st floor, a boeuf bourguignon on the second, a roti porc au champignons on the 3rd, and then no smell of anything great cooking on her floor; This family had 2 working parents.

On the other hand I remember how stunned I was that my New York friends' children ate when they wished, what they wished even if dad or mom was not home yet.
In my family growing up, meals were what our mother decided. We did not choose; home was not a restaurant. And they were served at a certain time every day, come hell or high water. It's so much fun finding out about everyone's day a round the table, don't you agree?
I myself have always made it a point to wait for all of us to be together to have dinner, if it was not too outrageously late of course.( 8:00PM usually) with a little gouter- snack- after school to hold on until evening. Even during vacations.

BUTI have a confession to make: a new tradition has arrived at our house to the absolute delight of my (grown up) girls: on picnique ce soir maman? they too can at last eat what they want, when they want, on that day... but they don't mind the diner familial that much either, by the way. 
Another no no is eating in front of the TV- much to their dismay and the surprise of most of their friends. At their age they have ample occasions to do just that elsewhere; just in case you think I am a big bully...or the food dictator or something bad like that.
Lunch is somewhat different of course as the school and the office are not places where you can slowly savor a meal on a day to day basis. In New York City there are the ubiquitous food carts where you can buy a cooked dish usually of the deli kind,  sometimes of the exotic kind, always of the dubiously healthy kind. 
And I designed the offices of a company once who ordered in and paid for your lunch if you stayed at the office during your noon break.

While working on a few very large residential projects in the suburbs these last few years, I also found that food trucks come around to busy work sites to offer food and drinks to the workmen. Ah, the beauty of a service oriented society.
THAT, I have never seen in Paris or elsewhere in France. Good old American practicality. Now the discussion could be whether that is better, worse or just different than the good old French cuisine-ality. 

If you wish to add your voice to this topic, please leave your reactions and comments at petits commentaires below or , vite, go see A Femme d'un Certain Age 's take on all of this.

images gourmetproject, downtownpet, vincent fung, elle.fr, grumpywhenhungry

merci Letitia

au revoir.


  1. Now this, my chere Jeanne-Aelia, is a masterwork -- absolutely fascinating in all the details from your first days at school in the States to keeping your (I have to admit, I believe superior) approach to family meals at table with the all family members in attendance.

    Of course life is more complicated, but what I admire most about the French is the effort -- yes, sometimes enormous effort -- that goes into respecting certain traditions. Even when both parents work, it is the one time to catch up and slow down.

    Love your picnic exception.

    (I am certainly not stick thin. Certainly not. But when I realized I snack for all the wrong reasons -- anxiety, boredom,etc. and rarely hunger -- I've tried to eliminate them as much as possible. Not always easy. It's a sort of, "stop, think, then eat -- or not.")

    Great post.


  2. A great post once again, thank you! It really is sad, that even family dinners are now scarce. Even as far as here, in Finland. The xmas dinner must be one of the few gatherings around food we have. Some enjoy the drinking part of it more. Weekend meals, with all family members together, well there just is not much of that either. This has all happened during one generation. When I still lived at home, over 35 years ago, eating snacks was unheard of. But then there were very few restaurants too. Stores were not open 24/7.

  3. Reading about your adjustments to North America was thoroughly entertaining. Family meals together are still a pleasure in our home, although with the children grown and on their own, they are more infrequent. But we generally waited until we were all together to eat even during the busy teenage years. Our eldest daughter hates to eat alone and always waits for her husband to come before she eats.

  4. I wish meals here in the US were more like those in France. With that said I give my children 'kid style' meals and let them watch tv. I feel guilty about it, but I'm so busy and not the greatest cook. I will try to do better. I promise.

  5. Great post! So glad I stopped by! I stay at home, so dinner at the table happens often, but it is still difficult at times. Consistency and set routines seem best for my daughter and myself. I am a creature of habit. I like knowing that we will all be together at a certain time enjoying each other. My husband on the other hand, can handle complete chaos and eating on the run everyday. We seem to balance each other out :)

  6. Great post! so interesting to see our country through your eyes..the story about your first day of school is so revealing!

    I always enjoy your fabulous blog my friend!!


  7. Merci mes amies. We do each have time constraints and different lifestyles and various family dynamics. My posts are not meant to be judgemental in any way. They just say what I feel and see and experience. We all do our best every day, c'est certain.
    Now, if you could all meet for a nice long lunch...of any nationality...