‘Are we having armpit bread for tea?’ My friend was bewildered at first by her son’s request during a French camping holiday. Then the euro dropped! Every morning, they visited the village bakery for their bread and the children were allowed to carry baguettes carefully home. And where did they put them? Under their arms of course!
Letting children visit local shops and try specialty foods is an important part of any foreign holiday, and Normandy offers multiple ways to feed tomorrow’s discerning diners. Give them a few euros each and let them make their own purchases from colourful market stalls laden with plump fruit and vegetables, home-made jams and local honey. A great chance to speak a few words of French, learn about regional produce, and use a different currency. And who can resist the temptations of a baker with all those scrumptious patisseries, regional biscuits, and the smell of freshly baked bread? To a generation of children more used to supermarket aisles, small independent shops can be a whole new experience.
But what if you’ve got a fussy eater? Fortunately few children today believe French diners feast solely on frogs and snails whilst wearing berets, but foreign food can make a holiday anything but relaxing when your children refuse to try new dishes. My own daughter dismissed on principle anything that arrived in a shell or sauce, but life changed the day she reluctantly agreed to try a plain roasted duck breast in a French bistrot. From then on, she ordered magret de canard at every meal!
Every region of France has its own food specialties but Normandy offers some of the most child-friendly. Few children, or their parents, can resist a sweet or savoury pancake (crêpes and galettes) with a topping of their choice. The ultimate Norman fast food. And try setting a Fruit Challenge to see how many different ways they can eat Normandy’s famous apples and pears. Explore the Cider Route around Cambremer in Calvados or follow the Route des Fruits along the south bank of the Seine and you won’t hear too many complaints at farm-fresh apple juice, scrumptious apple tarts, and savoury apple jelly with picnic meats and Normandy cheese.
Sunday lunch is an institution in France and in 2010, the French Gastronomic Meal was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a celebratory event that brings people together over good food and drink.
French restaurants generally welcome young diners, but if yours are of the fidgety variety, it’s probably wise to opt for an informal eatery. A plate of crisp crudités with fresh crusty bread perhaps, or an omelette with their favourite filling. If your young diners are interested in what they eat, let them browse one of Normandy’s many fish markets, visit a farm producer, and help buy ingredients for picnics or self-catering. If it’s me who’s after a smaller portion, I’ve often looked wistfully at the children’s menus in France, or simply asked for a smaller portion of something on the main menu.
It’s easy to feed children healthy fresh produce with low food miles in Normandy, but leave room for a sweet treat too. Local dairy produce is the essential ingredient for crisp butter biscuits, rich confiture du lait caramel spread, and gooey caramels. Head to Caramels d’Isigny to see them made and stock up in the factory shop. Well, it would be rude not to…!
About our guest writer: Gillian Thornton is widely known in the travel journalism industry as a France specialist. Particular interests include gastronomy, history, heritage, walking, nature and wildlife. Regular commissions include Women’s Weekly, The People’s Friend, France Today, Voyage and Silver Travel Advisor. To read more of Gillian’s work, visit her website.
For information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo © Unsplashed | Text: G. Thornton