This post marks and celebrates today the 1 year anniversary of Frenchie and the Yankee. Thank you to all of the readers!
It probably won’t come as a surprise if I tell you that American and French meal times are drastically different when it comes to dinner.
Yet, I still feel puzzled and completely surprised when I receive an invitation for dinner – or supper – requesting guests to show up between 4:30 and 5:00pm.
Most of the time by 4:00pm I am about to enjoy a light goûter and dinner is probably the last thing I have on my mind.
Explaining the concept and the idea behind le goûter to Americans can prove as difficult as explaining that the French eat dinner around 8:00 pm.
If ever in doubt when traveling, just ask What time are the News on TV? and you will have your answer for when people prepare and eat dinner.
French News are on at 8:00 pm. American News are on between 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the area. It really isn’t complicated.
So what is a goûter?
It’s simply a snack. A light meal. It allows kids to eat a little something between lunch and dinner – meaning between noon and 8:00 pm.
We call it le quatre heures in French – in other words, the 4:00 pm snack.
The Larousse Cuisine recently provided some background information with their own goûter piece by saying:
“It was once a real meal, usually eaten cold and made up of cakes, cheeses, fruits and wine. It was gradually phased out during the 18th century when meal times changed.”
In the 20th century, goûter was probably the best part of the day for kids of all ages! Even for my grandparents, seventy years ago, who all remembered their slice of bread with butter and shaved baking chocolate on top.
“Sometimes we had a chocolate bar of our own and an apple. But not always. Shaving the chocolate with a knife or a grater would allow for everyone to have a little bit of it on their bread and butter. It depended on the meal tickets we received.
And do not forget that I was 7 at the beginning of WWII and 13 at the end – it was the prime goûter age for a kid. We could only have water at that time. But les jour de fêtes (aka Sundays) we would sometimes make French toasts.”
Growing up it was the sweet treat that symbolized the end of the school day.
Running towards the school gate to go meet mum or dad. Heavy school bag but happy heart.
Hopefully they picked up a pain au chocolat at the boulangerie so goûter-time can start right in the street while savoring the chocolaty prized baked good on the way home.
Sitting around the kitchen table on a wooden chair with a firm thick pillow under the butt to raise the chin level from under the plate, delicious options are gathered from the fridge and the cabinets.
A piece of baguette, butter and jam. A classic!
And it just so happens we found mirabelle-plum jam at the farmers’ market last Sunday – an end-of-summer treat.
Milk, juice and water? Hot chocolate? Take your pick.
Teisseire fruit syrup bottles with colorful caps make their appearance too. Pink for grenadine, green for mint and purple for cassis.
Decisions, decisions. You can only pick one option.
Tu n’auras plus faim après… And where are the straws by the way?
A small chocolate bar with 4 little squares. And just one bar. Not two.
Dinner is coming up in 4 hours.
A bit of smooth salty butter inside a piece of baguette, four squares in the center – it’s a home-made pain au chocolat with a crunch!
Prends un laitage aussi ! How could I forget? A meal wouldn’t be a meal without a dairy product… and seasonal fruits – bien sûr!
A tiny strip of Gruyère or a slice of Camembert – not my favorite for a goûter.
Maybe hide it under the plate?
But goûter is not just for kids. Adults can also enjoy a light snack in the middle of the day with a cup of espresso and a piece of chocolate.
It’s like a treat you can’t talk about – a habit you keep hidden. Yes, le goûter has become a sort of It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.
We’re not children anymore, we don’t eat goûter!
Yet, a pastry and a coffee will always put a smile on someone’s face and sweeten the end of the day.
Call it a coffee break. Or allow yourself to call it a goûter. We’re all des grands enfants after all.
Thank you to Annie and Yves Noiseau for the pictures of the little guys.