When we first arrived in France over 20 years ago, it was noticeable how slim French people were. Coming from a stint in Florida where, aside from the surgically produced ‘beauty’, the average size of a family of two parents and 2.2 kids took up an eight metre space if walking side by side, it was genuinely refreshing to see so many people who clearly took care about what they put into their bodies.
Obviously that was before people had even heard of the phrase ‘le binge drinking’, and before I realised that the women existed on coffee and cigarettes in between light meals. Teenagers and people in their twenties didn’t spend all evening in the pubs. They might pop in at 7pm after work, but more likely they went home and had a sociable apero, followed by a sensibly-sized meal, a couple of glasses of wine, and then stopped there. It was a place for the family to get together and talk about their day. No-one read at the table, the television was off, it was a serious business. Across the waters, a similar age group of people were downing shots and beers, followed by kebabs and chips at midnight, a quick check out of A&E following a fight for the taxi cab, and then wondering why they didn’t look as chic as the women in France.
OK, that’s a stereotype, but urban myth or not, it’s changing slightly here isn’t it?
According to a survey carried out by Credoc (Centre of research for the study and observation of living conditions), it’s less of a taboo to indulge in ‘le snacking’ now. Historically young children had a snack, or ‘ Le Goûter’ at 4pm to combat their hunger until the evening meal. Generally it was encouraged for children to grow out of that by the time they reached their teens.
However, the study shows that 86% of French people no longer think that ‘le snacking’ is a bad thing, and 38% of the people interviewed indulge in it at least once during the day. This compares to 20% eight years ago.
France is one of the highest fast food consumers in Europe, so we must be seeing the impact of that. It’s now not uncommon to see a larger sized person in the streets in France, but it’s still a long, long way from the obesity that you can see in the UK or the USA.
Thankfully, the art of socialising over lunch and / or an evening meal, is still alive and kicking here, and long may it continue. Let’s not yearn after the days when you had to face a cloud of smoke in most public places, and the women were anorexic-thin, let’s instead embrace the culture that still exists today, where a meal is an event to get everyone in the house together, at the same time, eating the same things. Let’s not lose that, it’s too precious.