French children have an inner alarm clock that goes off around 4 p.m. each day. At that instant, everything they are doing is put aside and snacking becomes top priority.
I’ve scanned the playground after school to see what French kids indulge in for le goût. I’ve seen a little bit of everything but there’s a certain commonality among all snacks – something chocolate with bread. Whether they’re eating a slice of baguette with little blocks of chocolate bar or schmeared with Nutella, or pre-packaged chocolate-y treats, every kid seems to be given some combination of the two. Some of these are complemented with healthier items ranging from fresh fruit to carrot sticks. Whatever the snack of choice is, I’ve never seen children take food to the face quicker in my life.
The ravenous side of le goût is at its height on the weekend or on vacation, when life is a bit more relaxed. When the clock strikes 4 p.m., the pantry swings open in full force and each shelf is rummaged through. The next thing I know, I’m wiping up Nutella stains and crumbs of all kinds from the table. Cookies, bread rolls, more Nutella and chocolate – you name it – is consumed in the blink of an eye.
What I find most interesting about snack time is how ritualistic it is. These children exert so much self control throughout the day, saving their urge for sweets until le goût. It’s inspiring because even at 22 years old, I’m still tempted to break off huge chunks of chocolate and grab a handful of cereal as I pass by the pantry.
And as for American children, they’re constantly snacking. I’m sure there are moms that establish a strict snack time, but most of the kids I’ve been around can pick and nibble as they please throughout the afternoon. I’m jealous of the French eating regime because if I’d been taught at the ripe age of five that I could only snack at 4 p.m. everyday, I’d probably be snacking a lot less now and not feel so guilty for indulging so much.
Here’s a collection of the most popular goût items – from the ones I see kids snacking on everyday to the ones I can’t resist each afternoon…