Six Tween Grandchildren Discover Parisian Food

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Six Tween Grandchildren Discover Parisian Food
Six different trips, six different grandchildren, and six different culinary journeys that will remain with them forever. My husband spent twenty-seven years of his adult life living and working in Paris, the last four with me by his side – at least, mostly. We returned to live in the United States at the turn of the millennium, in time to watch our six grandchildren grow from tiny to teens. When we first returned, differences in culture, especially attitudes toward and experiences of food, surprised us both, but especially David. I knew that our grandchildren could not fully appreciate who their grandfather was until they could grasp ways that Parisian culture had molded his sensibilities, personality and tastes, so we decided to introduce each one to Paris during a school vacation the year of their 12th birthday. Our guidelines. Because the experiences and discoveries during our own romantic returns to Paris have combined with restaurant introductions and recommendations from friends, allowing us to remain mostly up-to-date on the quickly-changing Parisian food scene, especially in the quartier where we stay, we have been able to establish basic guidelines for these trips. First, we do not expect a tween trip to mirror our honeymoon-style visits, marked by experimentation, indulgence, and the return to our favorite haunts. Second, we were aware that each child had a unique temperament, complemented by their own short history of habits and preferences. As a psychologist, I knew that their reactions to novelty would also vary, as would the pace at which they could embrace whatever felt foreign. Third, while they each brought their own approach to food, we hoped that each would return home with at least one major discovery, something that would endure as they continued to grow, learn, and appreciate a broader range of tastes and temptations. The basic structure: The first or second night, depending on how tired they were, we took each grandchild to a restaurant where we could introduce them to classics, like escargots, typical French fish preparations, carré d’agneau, and duck. The tween would select three courses that appealed to him or her and we chose other dishes so that they could taste a variety of appetizers, main dishes and desserts. When they preferred one of our selections to theirs, we were happy to swap. We selected a range of restaurants and eating styles so that they could experience everything from a simple museum cafeteria, boulangerie, sandwich shop, or lunch assembled from a market, to a traditional three-course meal in a restaurant with white linens and uniformed waiters. Of course, the red-checked tablecloths frequently found in traditional brasseries were a must as was, later in their trip, a more creative bistro with unique combinations and presentations. We organized our days around leisurely lunches and longer dinners, underscoring the concept of dining as opportunities for pleasures of the senses and a basic ingredient of social life. We carefully observed how and what each child was selecting, and then tried to honor individual culinary requests, making choices based on what seemed to appeal to each. The primary takeaways from six very different trips: 1. Variety was usually an attraction, unless duck and chocolate were options. Our oldest grandchild, open to any new taste experience (any new experience at all, really) but aware of her initial preference for pasta, was immediately smitten by snails, eating six off the plate of 12 I had ordered. She also traded her ravioles for my husband’s confit de canard. All but one lunch and dinner she found a new chocolate dessert to order. The first exception was lunch at l’As du Falafel, when, after our Middle Eastern sandwiches, we ended with an excursion to a nearby chocolaterie. The second occurred our last evening in Paris. Asked what she might want to eat for dinner, she announced without hesitation, “I haven’t tried frogs!” La Grenouille it was, with frogs’ legs in both entrée and plat preparations. The Farandole de desserts sampling that ended her meal did include mousse au chocolat. 2. Variations on sushi and seafood. Two years later, we knew that her brother liked sushi and so expected he would enjoy all manner of “tartare de la mer” – and he did! The dinner when we ordered three different variations of moules-frîtes, one for each of us although of course we shared, was one of his favorites. But he can still list the ingredients in his last lunch in Paris, underneath the stained glass cupola at Printemps, where he demolished a shrimp dish. He became an expert in spotting Amorino gelato stores and evaluating the morning’s pain au chocolat. 3. Feast your eyes as well as your taste buds. The next grandchild had her first French dinner during a Passover seder in an elegant catering hall on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. Dresssed in her prettiest outfit, she sat in awe, studying the details of each course’s presentation. She discovered Daurade Royale, unlike any fish she had known, as well as classic French service. Aware that she might never again attend a Passover Seder where she was served by attentive waiters wearing immaculate tuxedoes, she knew that she could confidently continue to discover new fish dishes. On subsequent nights, she chose one fish main course after another as we wound our way through the city. As much as she loved the food, she was equally intrigued by the careful and attractive ways in which it was presented and displayed. We took photos of windows in patisseries…

Lead photo credit : Photo credit: David Griff

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Roni Beth Tower, author of the award-winning memoir "Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance", is a retired clinical, research and academic psychologist and a dedicated Francophile.


  • Susan
    2020-02-18 19:26:07
    Thank you! So thankful to have found this post. In 2 weeks I will be travelling to Paris with my 12 yr old granddaughter, my Bat Mitzvah gift to her (really the best gift to myself). You have given me great ideas for dining with sweet Ella. ??


  • Martinn
    2018-08-23 12:44:56
    Wonderful article, thank you for sharing this great family experience. Will forward to some of my gourmet guests willing to share French culture with their grandchildren ! I am also happy to read you went to Berthillon as I do not like Amorino that much Very warm, emotional and delicious post. Merci !


  • Nancy Gladstone
    2018-08-17 12:32:36
    Nancy Gladstone
    When can I be your grandchild ?? xxoo Nan