Frenchie and le Goûter

30 Sep

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.


15 Responses to “Frenchie and le Goûter”

  1. amelia from z tasty life September 30, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

    j’aime pain au chocolat!!! Italians are the same way (so I relate and understand!!)… except we call goûter “merenda”.
    Happy blogiversary David: you are doing great!


  2. Donna A. September 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

    Joyeux Anniversaire! Le Gouter sounds more civilized than SNACK 🙂 but nonetheless, a delightful tradition. I don’t know about you, but CNN (24 hr news) has me all…famisched (fuh-mished), fachadick, in other words, confused! Sometimes I have dinner at 5, 6, 7 or 8. In America we sometimes joke about, or equate, “early dinners” with getting old. Do the French start eating earlier than 8pm as they get older? You’ve sparked my curiosity thanks!


  3. olivier September 30, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

    Great article; but I don’t see in any of your pics my Teisseire bottle. Too dented?
    Happy anniversary!


    • David Santori September 30, 2011 at 4:56 PM #

      @ Donna: they actually keep the same habits. So usually, they don’t eat earlier.

      @ Olivier: it just didn’t turn out well.


  4. julie October 2, 2011 at 9:12 AM #

    la merenda!


  5. Etienne October 3, 2011 at 7:18 AM #

    You’re right, goûter is what separates adulthood from chidlhood. But since i had kids, i started again having goûter 😉 and i confess i can’t go without a goûter even when i’m alone and away from my home at goûter time!


  6. Corey Frye October 3, 2011 at 9:28 AM #

    Yes, vive le goûter! One of those French traditions any foreigner is happy to wrap his/her head (and lips) around. My French wife has a goûter religiously and ALWAYS has the same exact thing: a piece of baguette with butter and a slab of chocolate. If there’s no bread and chocolate around, she passes on snack time. Thanks for the cool post! Take care.


    • David Santori October 3, 2011 at 9:37 AM #

      You can’t go wrong with bread, butter and chocolate.


  7. Rodger October 3, 2011 at 5:28 PM #

    Can you have a goûter when you are 76?
    I have one about every day.
    Congratulations for your first anniversary, David!
    And for the pictures, specially for the kids ones!


  8. A*** October 4, 2011 at 8:55 AM #

    Bon anniversaire Frenchie et longue vie au blog !

    Hum ! Un bon bol de chocolat bouillant au retour d’une promenade lorsqu’il fait très froid.
    Une délicieuse citronnade sirotée, à l’ombre, en plein été.
    Et les crêpes dévorées, après la baignade, les pieds dans le sable, sur les plages de Bretagne ?
    “Pas trop quand même. Tu ne mangeras plus au dîner !”


  9. Lex October 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM #

    Love this post. It was so sweet. Was smiling the entire time I read. 🙂


  10. Nicole October 12, 2011 at 9:32 PM #

    When I was an au pair in Paris, I loved taking the kids to the patisserie for their gouter after school. Now that I’m a mom (of a petit francophone) he adores his gouter, although it doesn’t involve a lot of sweets, at least not yet, anyway…


  11. Béatrice October 17, 2011 at 8:02 PM #

    Just to say that i agree with every word, every photo. I still have my goûter with bread and butter but no chocolat as I eat only Rye bread now. The DARK chocolat is good only with white bread (any, but baguette is the best). Yes I love to have diner at 8pm but the autralians have it between 6 and 7! I read that it is link in every country with the TV news….The timing in France is logical : 7am breakfast, 12 to 1pm lunch, 4pm goûter, 8pm diner !…. and after the theatre at 12am it is the souper…. in one of the ancient Halles famous restaurant….. Ah, douce france, chère pays de mon enfance….


  12. Isabelle LENNE November 14, 2011 at 5:24 AM #

    Quels bons souvenirs David ! Les goûters avec ton oncle Yves sur la plage de Loctudy après la baignade : tartines de beurre et barres de chocolat que nous nous préparions chez nos grands-parents avant d’aller à la plage.Nous les mangions avec délice emmitouflés dans nos serviettes de bain et grelottant tant que tant (expression bretonne) !
    C’était beaucoup plus sain que tous les biscuits chocolatés et gras que l’on donne aux enfants aujourd’hui.
    Bon les coutumes changent mais ils nous restent les crêpes de froment !!!

    Allez bon anniversaire !!!



  1. Frenchie and la Bretagne « Frenchie and the Yankee - February 21, 2012

    […] laughing at all of us, the seagulls were eyeing the crêpes we had brought for a tiny goûter break while enumerating the fascinating adventures we had just witnessed on the beach pier […]


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