Food for Thought

In French Daycare Centers, Toddlers Are Served Four-Course Lunches

In France, parents teach their children from very early childhood a process called the education of taste, or “l’éducation du gout.”

In the Western European country, pleasure, or “plaisir,” is not a dirty word. It’s not hedonistic to pursue pleasure. Perhaps a better translation of the word is “enjoyment” or maybe even “delight.” Pleasure, in fact, takes the weight of a moral value, because according to the French, pleasure serves as a compass guiding people in their actions.

The education of taste signifies teaching kids to appreciate and savor the wide variety of flavors in the world in order to eat properly at the table. This practice begins early in families and is reinforced in daycare centers, where even two-year-olds are served formal, but at the same time relaxed, four-course lunches complete with appetizer, main course, cheese plate, and dessert.

Cheese plate.

Taste education goes beyond just cultivating a child’s palate, but about stimulating the senses, mind, and emotions — an awakening of some sort. Some societies are taught to repudiate pleasure and exalt self-sacrifice and hard work, that’s why when people finally take time off to have fun, they often do things in excess.

Photo courtesy of Quartz.

The French idea of education of taste is more or less, similar to the notion of mindfulness. It focuses on giving yourself over to the moment and living it fully. If you’re going to indulge in your favorite food, really enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. Notice the intensity or subtlety of the flavors and savor each morsel.

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