One of our ongoing projects here at Feed Me…I’m Hungry is our ‘World Food Tour’ where we take time to find out more about culture and food from around the world by exploring recipes, cookbooks, memoirs and more. Right now we’re enjoying the fine food of France.
I’m fascinated with what books tell me is the French parenting style. If you’ve been reading for a while you already know that I adore memoirs set in France (particularly those of the food related variety). This seems to have blossomed into a fascination with French parenting as well. I came across “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by way of Amazon. Amazon has that neat feature of suggesting books based on other books you read. In this case Bringing Up Bébé was suggested because of my French memoirs and other food related books. Like every parent I want my kids to be happy, successful, creative, polite, kind, and listen to me! In pursuit of these goals I am one of those Mom’s who reads endless parenting books. I’m always trying to adjust my “style” to achieve the best results for, of course, my kids, but also for the peace and well being of our entire household. So this book seemed like a perfect suggestion, parenting wisdom combined with more tales of France and food.
The French parenting style described in Bringing Up Bébé ended up really striking a chord with me. The first thing I liked was that this book wasn’t a dismissal of all aspects of American parenting, nor a book of culture bashing of any type. I also enjoyed the authors witty writing style and the stories of her families daily life in France. Many chapters also included classic french recipes which I was delighted by. I ended up finding this book had a lot of parenting wisdom mixed up in a fun memoir. It has actually become a go to book for me. Re-reading it now and again helps refresh my resolve to continue handling many aspects of parenting with some of her suggested methods. So a little more about the book in case anyone else might want to read it and then of course the books chocolate mousse connection…At the beginning of the book the author is not even sure she likes living in France. Yet she does notice that French children do seem to behave well in public, be very polite, listen to their parents, eat all kinds of things most American children won’t, and are very self sufficient for their ages. For most of us I think these are traits we would really like to see in our children. Though, of course, not at the expense of creativity, freedom of choice, or other desirable traits. Nor would we want the traits to be the result of a overly strict “children should be seen an not heard” parenting philosophy. As the book unfold the author shows us that the modern French parenting method is based on neither of these things. French parents certainly don’t want to oppress their children nor stifle creativity. But, they do expect their kids to behave well. (And eat well!)
At it’s root the French parenting style has a very different foundational belief then many American styles. The French operate on the assumption that children are rational despite being children. If children are rational they can be taught to behave in public, listen to their parents, and eat like a grown up, because they can think and learn. How you view children, of course, directly affects how you proceed in handling them. If you believe they are rational, you will work to teach them to behave correctly and expect that over time they will do so. If you don’t believe they are rational you try to “keep them under control” until they hit a point where they can be rational and learn to behave.
I personally have found the French approach (though it should be noted this approach does appear other places as well) to work well with my own children. They are smart! They understand a lot, and are capable of a lot when you believe they are and give them a chance to show you. One area where I have definitely seen this apply is in relation to food. My older son certainly has his likes and dislikes. Currently he isn’t too impressed with potatoes, taco casserole, and beef stew. He thinks sausage, chocolate, cherry tomatoes, and pasta, are the greatest foods in the world. However, he is an extremely open minded eater for a four year old. He likes salmon, muscles, calamari, food smothered in gravy, sour cream, lentil soup, foods with heavy spices… But perhaps best of all, 99% of the time he will try anything with a minimum of fuss.
I feel like this openness to food came about because of how we’ve handled food with him from the beginning. Actually, long before I found Bringing Up Bébé, when my son was getting ready for baby food, my Mom advised me to feed him what the rest of the family eats as much as possible. (In a modified way for a baby of course.) I thought this was very wise advice and tried to do this as much as possible. When I made a pot of chili, he ate pureed beans, pureed meat, etc. When he was a little older he ate the chili, spices and all, pureed. Then as finger food… you get the idea. He started eating normal food early and I believe as a result eats normal food now.
As he got older we also set up the expectation that is normal to taste everything. We try to model this for him by trying everything ourselves and asking him to do the same. He doesn’t have to like it, finish it, but he is expected to taste it. We aren’t completely ridged with this “rule” if something just throws him we let it be and try again another time. But, generally he will taste most things on his own without being asked because he is used to it. If he doesn’t like a food we will generally re-introduce it again at another meal or in a different form. He has grown in and out of love with all kinds of food, but over all he will eat most things without complaint. I believe if I had expected him be capable only of eating the “traditional” baby and kid foods, that’s most likely all he would eat.
(Just a side note here: My experience I’m sharing here is what has worked well with my children. I am not trying to tell you how to feed yours! You know your own children and what works for them.)
But enough about parenting and on to the chocolate mousse connection! If you hadn’t guessed from the beginning of the post, Bringing Up Bébé has a recipe for chocolate mousse included. For a long time I only had chocolate mousse in restaurants. It always struck me as a fancy dessert, and I assumed it would be too difficult to make at home. I remained intimidated by the dessert for a long time. But, when I read Bringing Up Bébé I discovered this just wasn’t true. Though I still think chocolate mousse seems kind of elegant, it is actually a fairly simple dessert to make. It takes a couple bowls (3) but can be pulled together in about 15 minutes (not counting chilling time). Which is fortunate as one of my absolute favorite deserts is chocolate mousse. I have a thing for that cloud like texture in general. Tiramisu, cream puff filling, whipped cream and chocolate mousse. In my mind there isn’t a desert that can’t benefit from some whipped up creamy sugar mixture. Since I know you all agree with me on that one I give to you my adapted chocolate mousse recipe! Pretty much everyone you make this for will adore it, even your kids, regardless of your food policies and parenting philosophies. So enjoy!
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 oz semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1. In a large bowl using a wire whisk (or use a stand mixer with whisk if desired) whip the cream until it begins to thicken and form peaks. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- 2. In a second bowl whip together the eggs and sugar until they become thick and fluffy. This will take about ten minutes. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- 3. Melt chocolate over hot water (using a double boiler or a heat safe mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water). Mix frequently to prevent burning.
- 4. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly but not re-solidify. Too hot a chocolate will ruin the final dessert. Stir the chocolate into the egg mixture using a rubber spatula. Then gently fold in the whipped cream.
- 5. Distribute the mousse mixture into serving glasses or a container for chilling and storage. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours until firm. Garnish with fruit, whipped cream, crumbled cookies, etc. as desired. Keep mousse in the fridge until just before serving.
- Use quality chocolate for this if possible. You will notice the difference.