As we get into our own back to school routines, I thought it might be interesting to check in and see how school children in France, typically spend their day. Traditionally, the school day runs from 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Schools are closed Wednesday and Sunday, and children often have a half-day of school on Saturday. Would you like your kids to have Wednesdays off but go to school on Saturdays? Many after-school activities take place on Tuesday afternoons since there is no school on Wednesday. Recently though, France has begun to change to a more universal school schedule, with school days being Monday through Friday. This has been a difficult change for many and is still being worked out in different parts of France. Even though they have a longer school day, the schools have been struggling to keep up with other nations, which is why they are making changes.
The importance of France’s food culture begins early and school children are certainly immersed. A typical school lunch may consist of a lentil salad with tomatoes, roast pork or turkey, with peas and carrots. For dairy there is brie cheese and a kiwi for dessert. Another school lunch might be a cucumber salad with vinaigrette, salmon lasagna and organic spinach. Cheese fondue with a baguette to dip and organic fruit for dessert. There is a very interesting blog from author Karen Le Billion. In her blog she follows a year of school lunches from a school in Paris. She calls it her French Kids School Lunch Project. You can find more information about it here: http://karenlebillon.com/tag/french-kids-school-lunch-project/
After school snacks are also a part of this food culture. The after school snack time is called goûter. The french word goûter is defined as either a verb meaning to taste, or a noun meaning a light meal in the afternoon. Goûter is incredibly common in France; it is similar to tea time in Britain. It begins somewhere around 5pm, for the children when they come home from school. Keep in mind, dinner is not served until 8pm or so. Here is the catch though, it is all sweet treats!
At its simplest, le goûter includes something with bread. There are many variations but it typically includes a baguette spread with butter, sprinkled with sea salt (preferably fleur de sel) and then a sprinkling of grated dark chocolate. The baguette is put under the broiler for a few seconds to melt the chocolate and warm the butter. A pain au chocolate (basically a chocolate croissant) is another very nice option. How does that sound? My kids really would like to adopt this French tradition in our home.
Some other sweet treats that French children enjoy are Grenadine diluted with water. There is also the refreshing, Perrier-Menthe, which is Perrier mixed with a sweet mint syrup. Lastly, there is my personal favorite, Citron Presse, or fresh squeezed lemonade.
Must head off to pick up my little ones now. Wish I had a wonderful French bakery close by, for some reason I am craving a croissant…au revoir!