Eat your frog…

When in France, do as the French do. Right? So during our recent family holiday to France, we picked up a new eating habit. We stayed with some very good friends and their kids and were quickly absorbed in a very different approach to eating and mealtimes. Astounding, really, how a little cultural and geographic difference can foster so much diversity.

Anyhoo, the aspect that amused and confused us most in equal measures to begin with was the salad course. Obviously, being well conversant with restaurant etiquette, both hubs and I were aware that apparently some people like a salad before their meal. However, salads aren’t normally the kind of starters we’d order, both of us being more of a prawn/paté/bruschetta person. As for the kids… *snortles*

But there we were, being given our greens before every meal apart from breakfast, obviously. The salad course seemed a little alien at first but quickly became an enjoyable habit. And the best thing? The kids ate their salad too. Not all of it, by any stretch of the imagination, but green leaves, tomatoes, raw peppers, cucumber and all manner of other crudités were being consumed by my green-adverse offspring simply because there would be no second course until the first one had been cleared.

The leaning tower of salad... Getting ready for the salad buffet can be entertaining!

The leaning tower of salad… Getting ready for the salad buffet can be entertaining!

The logic is obvious. Everyone sits down to a meal hungry. Faced with a choice of nothing or something green-and-healthy (“eeek!”), “nothing” is infinitely less appealing than “green-and-healthy”. Reluctantly but without complaint, green-and-healthy is being eaten in a kind of communal rite-of-passage before the main event. Everyone eats green stuff, therefore there can be no complaining. Nobody is being singled out. Nobody faces their green demons alone. We’re all in the same green boat.

We call it eating our frog–a novel interpretation, perhaps, on time-honoured advice supposedly first formulated by Mark Twain, but absolutely fitting considering where we picked up the habit. And guess what? We’ve kept it up for weeks and weeks now. Okay, I’d be lying if I claimed I put a salad course on the table every day. Some days are simply too hectic, what with a twenty-minute turnaround between school and music lessons or some such. But most days have a salad course, and the ensuing main meal is so much more relaxed because the kids have already eaten their greens and can actually simply enjoy the rest of their food without parental nagging by way of, “come on, just four more peas.”

Our salad buffet. The rule is: everyone has to eat something out of every bowl except one. Salad dressings are available but optional... each to their own!

A sample salad buffet. The rule is: everyone has to eat something out of every bowl except one. Salad dressings are available but optional… each to their own!

What about the winter, you ask? Good question. I’m sure we’ll stick with the crudités for some time yet; courtesy of global markets, cucumbers, peppers and such like can be bought any time of year. And perhaps I’ll experiment with vegetable bakes and rissoles during the colder winter months. And obviously a good old-fashioned roast lunch will always come with vegetables, salad course or not. But still: we will keep eating our frogs. Long live the salad course!

Over to you. What do you think of eating your frog?

10 responses to “Eat your frog…

  1. Great idea! I also liked the strawberries and blueberries at breakfast when I visited. I am going to try and follow your good example and include more fresh fruit and veg at meals.
    Have a rockin’ healthy week! 🙂 xx

    • LOL way to go! I’d forgotten about the strawberries and blueberries at breakfast… that’s become second nature by now, so we must be doing something right. Atta girl on the healthy eating, let me know how you and Gordon get on! XX

      • Karen Soutar

        Funnily enough, G is not keen on salad, although he likes fruit and cooked veg. And he’s the healthy one at the moment! Did you see his ‘before and after’ running pics yesterday? Talk about weight loss! I really need to make an effort. 😉

      • I did! (And so did Jon… um… hint!) I discovered that I prefer raw peppers etc, I can’t stand cooked veg although I will eat it. Let’s make an effort together! 😀

  2. Ooh I must confess to not knowing about this salad thing (obviously I know about Salad – just not that it is served before each course!). I like the idea – I think I may well have to try it with our kids…

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one caught by surprise here! I’ve found the trick to making this work is the ‘pick something from everything APART from one,’ which means you can give them a safe way out for the most hated veg whilst sneaking in a few… um… not-so-faves, shall we say. For example, mine will eat tomatoes as a trade of with chicory, or cucumbers as a trade-off with tomatoes. Depends what I put out on offer every night… *cue evil grin*

  3. Chortle! Your children are obviously more obedient than mine, as after four years in France mine still refuse to eat salads (younger one will have some crudites but older one only eats cooked veg). At the school canteen they simply outstare the salad starter (and hate the dinner ladies who make them eat at least one leaf – a dying species, I fear). But another interesting fact is that their main course is typically meat or fish plus vegetables, NOT potato, rice or pasta. So some greens will go down them somehow…

    • Wow, I’d like to see that! I’m told French dinner ladies are vicious! And yes, I noticed there’s a lot fewer carbs being served in France. Maybe they reserve their carb allowance for baguettes? As for cooked veg versus crudités–I actually have to confess I personally loathe cooked veg (although I never said that) and will gladly have the crudités any day… Thanks for visiting and commenting, Marina! X

  4. That’s a great idea to eat a bit more veg. We don’t do starters at home ever, so I think I’d struggle with the timings so that the main meal isn’t cold by the time we eat it! I hope you’re all well x

    • Hey Anne, how lovely to hear from you!! Yes, I hear you, and when the little ones are really little, that can be a challenge. I tend to put the ‘salad course’ out when whatever else is cooking requires another twenty minutes or so. Or, if I’m making pasta or something similar, I’ll put the pasta in to boil while we sit down to eat the greens. It does require some planning but we’re actually finding it’s making mealtimes more sociable as well. **If**, that is, and it’s a big if, we have the time, which, as previously stated, isn’t always the case. Would love to see you all again soon, let’s fix a date? (with or without salad, LOL!) XX

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