Cultural Features Edition 4: Every Student Deserves Baguette

Emma Kingwell, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Hall Highlights

A typical American student’s “lunch” during class. For many American students, lunch is just a meal (or snacks) often eaten during class to keep their hunger at bay until dinner. (Emma Kingwell)

Everyone in high school has likely experienced either skipping lunch, shoving their lunch down their throat, or settling for small portions of mediocre school lunch. However, this is something that you would never see in France.

France’s food culture is unique not only in the types of cuisine they offer, but also in the fact that they emphasize lunch rather than dinner. While a 20 minute lunch break might seem standard in America, a lunch break of an hour and a half is not uncommon in France. The lunch break is one of the most valued parts of the day in France, and sometimes, it is even illegal to eat lunch at a work desk. 

During the long lunch break, many businesses like small markets might even close. Many people go home to eat lunch with their families. During lunch, the French eat slowly and savor each dish. There are often many courses, like an appetizer, a cheese course, a wine course, and dessert besides the main meal.

Students may get to go home for a period of time to enjoy lunch with their family and friends. Besides getting a break from their school day and getting to eat a nutritious meal, the students can socialize with their family at the table.

What about the students who can’t go all the way home? Even though students might eat lunch at school, you would never see dry chicken tenders, rancid milk, or limp and flavorless fries in a French cafeteria. Besides getting up to a 90 minute long lunch period, students have a wide variety of healthy meals to choose from. The school menu design process in France includes input from parents, politicians, school administrators, dieticians, food service providers, and chefs. The meals are created in-house.

At every meal, there is variety in the cafeteria, and multiple courses are offered. Some examples of meals that might be seen in a French school cafeteria include quiche, baguette, sweet desserts, fresh fruit, cheese, Italian pasta, grated carrot salad, breaded fish, baked potato with herbs, and more. Baguettes and cheese are daily staples in the meal.

The luxurious lunch times in France do not necessarily mean rushed dinners. Dinners in France are lighter and are eaten later, but they are still usually eaten as a family and include multiple courses. Meal times in general are more sacred in France, and this is partly due to the cultural belief that eating not only represents nutrition but also socialism and sharing.

Would you like to shift to doing lunch the “French way”? An escape from our stressful culture of shoving bland, non-nutritious, processed lunches down our throats in minutes seems not only beneficial for our mental health in school but also for our health overall.