Last week in my English conversation course I used horses and cows as virtual visual aids in an effort to explain what we mean when speaking about “grazing” as it applies to American eating habits. My students were appalled. They understood grazing, they understood snacking, but they most definitely did not understand how the two concepts intersected.
If snacking is part of a French woman’s daily diet, which often it is not, it is reasonable, low calorie and almost always includes a cup of hot tea — no milk — to quell any hunger pangs that may occur between lunch and dinner at 8p.m.
As I believe I mentioned before, even the healthiest of in-between-meal nibbling like yogurt, for example, when advertised on TV is accompanied by a small line running across the bottom of the screen cautioning viewers not to abuse non-meal associated eating. It’s similar to, though not quite as menacing as, the warnings on alcohol and cigarette labels.
So here again is what my subjects told me they eat at four or five o’clock in the afternoon. Out of the 24 women I questioned, five said, “nothing,” three said “only hot tea” and you can read what the others said below. When I asked if they didn’t get hungry from time to time they said yes, but they could wait for dinner. “Snacks in the afternoon are for children,” one proclaimed. “Not for adults.” (Again, my subjects are between the ages of 40 and 70.)
Edith: Tea and one piece of whole grain toast, no butter and a half-teaspoon of homemade jam.
Cristel: A cappuccino and two squares of dark chocolate. (Remember a real cappuccino has no whipped cream, just low-fat milk steamed into a frothy mousse.)
Christine: A clementine or any other small, seasonal fruit like a plum for example.
Sophie: A cup of tea and two small cereal biscuits from the health food store.
Claire: A small bowl of homemade applesauce, no sugar of course.
Anne-Françoise: A cup of tea and two slices of a pear or an apple — no skin.
Danielle: In the winter occasionally a cup of hot chocolate.
Claudie: A café au lait and a yogurt.
Françoise: A hard boiled egg.
Ava: An apple.
Chantal: A large glass of water and a cigarette. (Note: I considered not including this one, but thought it so stereotypically French I couldn’t resist. Plus, I know it’s true.)
Anne: Cappuccino Minceur Natural Scientific. “I drank it between meals, for three months to help me lose four kilos I gained after a series of parties. It’s miraculous and delicious,” she said.
Caroline: A cup of tea and sometimes with my children I have one inch of a baguette with a little bit of Nutella — but not often.
Marie-Christine: An espresso and two Thé cookies from LU, “they have the least number of calories and give me the impression I’m having a real treat.”