12 May 2010

Introducing Peanut Butter and Jelly to the French

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple of the great American lunchbox... The concept of the lunchbox is difficult for my students to grasp. If they stay at school to eat, they buy lunch in the cantine, but most go home to eat (lunch lasts nearly two hours in France.) Funny how even my American high school did not have an open campus for lunch, and how French 7 year-olds have more freedom than I had at 17!!!

The concept of sweet and savory in the same sandwich is a bit alien to French tastebuds. During a lesson about the differences between American and French lunches, my students wrinkled their noses at the thought of such a vile concoction. Most had never tried peanut butter. I was determined to enlighten them.  Undaunted, I enlisted the help of my fiancé Jim to prepare a PB&J for each and every one of my 170 little monsters in my eight classes! 

Per my request, Jim had brought several jars of peanut butter from the States, (a rare and expensive commodity in France!) Two days in a row, we rose at 5:30am to prepare sandwiches.

My students awaited their promised treat with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. As we passed them out, I instructed them to wait until everyone had received their sandwich.

We counted down in English, and everyone bit into their sandwiches at once with great fanfare. Most nibbled daintily at first, growing more brazen as they discovered how much their enjoyed the taste. 

Among my classes, the sandwiches were most successful among my youngest students, with about a 90% success rate. As the students matured in age (and tastebuds), the reactions ranged from delight to indifference to downright disgust... Many cheered and asked for seconds, while several literally spit it out in their hands! With the oldest kids, probably only a 50% success rate. However, not a single sandwich went to waste, since the ones who enjoyed the taste pounced on the uneaten sandwiches of less enthusiastic classmates.

If anything, it was a fascinating experiment.  Summing it up precisely, one of my students quipped "A chacun ses goûts." (to each their own tastes.) 

The most adorable quotet came when one of my students declared to her neighbor; "I think in America, everyone eats peanut butter and jelly when a couple gets engaged!" I translated her comment to Jim, and we both just grinned.



  1. hahahahah I hope that when I get engaged, I eat PB&J!
    Love your blog!

  2. French 7 year-olds may have more freedom than you had at 17 but at least you aren't a jerk. Well, at least I think you aren't - I don't really know you. I haven't met a nice French person yet.


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