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What shall I feed my French exchange student to prevent a repeat?

(34 Posts)
Spidermama Tue 07-May-13 14:38:33

Last year DDs exchange student from Germany ate practically NOTHING I offered her the entire week. Nightmare!

So my heart sank on learning from his form that this French student's parents are 'hoteliers et restauranteurs'.

DH - the usual chef of this household - is away all that week. angry
So I need to do three evening meals and we'll eat out for the fourth.

Also, and perhaps more of a challenge, four packed lunches.

Bearing in mind I work full time and have four children of my own, ANY ideas of how I can do my best to make sure this boy eats would be very gratefully received.

happygardening Tue 07-May-13 14:55:47

We used to have au pairs who were fussy I am enormously accommodating and a pretty ok cook and I just serve then what I eat. My DS1 is pretty fussy as well and I wouldn't expect any special treatment for him if he went on an exchange. We also used to have a boy to stay all the time who only ate 6 things he just had to muddle through. She's only with you for four nights she wont die if she doesn't eat much.
IME many fussy people eat toast/bread, teenagers drink fruit juice like its going out of fashion, a variety of breakfast cereals seems to also hit the spot, pasta with butter and margarita pizzas.
You say her parents are restauranteurs years ago we had a friend who was the "executive chef" at one of London's most famous restaurants he loved fish fingers and baked beans.

apatchylass Tue 07-May-13 16:33:40


Only suggestion is, do meals that are more buffet style than usual. Put out roast chicken legs tossed in olive oil and herbs, garlic bread, salads and some cheeses then he can help himself to what he likes.

Or do a trad English roast: beef and yorkshires or chicken and roast potatoes.

Maybe a couple of other UK staples: spag bol is a national dish, as is curry. Try him with a mild biryani or dare him to try chicken tikka masala.

In my (distant) memory from having a childhood home full of a constant stream of French students, they love UK baking: scones and jam, white sliced toast makes them drool as the bread they get there just isn't the same, ordinary English chocolate cake, teacakes, muffins etc - they loved all that.

Packed lunches - just do the usual: sandwiches, wraps or crusty rolls with good cheddar or red leicester or ham, crisps, fruit, smoothies and yogurts/ wrapped biscuits. They like Tunnock's wafers and shortbread. Used to fill suitcases full of the stuff to take home.

bachsingingmum Tue 07-May-13 17:15:37

We had great experiences with our French and half French half German exchanges. They were really adventurous in what they would try - didn't like everything, but more than willing to give it a go e.g. marmite, English mustard on bread(!), Yorkshires with gravy etc. I think this might be even more the case if she is the daughter of a chef - she'll have been brought up to try anything. Good luck!

booksteensandmagazines Tue 07-May-13 17:22:01

The only meal I found difficult was breakfast - the French exchange students we had liked hot milk with their cereal and also hot chocolate. Otherwise they ate what we normally had - they were happy to try most things. Which is part of the exchange experience I guess.

Moominsarehippos Tue 07-May-13 17:30:17

Make sure you have lots of lovely cheese and bread! Crudites and salads with nice cold cuts always go down well. Who doesn't like pizza?

I'm wracking my brains on what DS's french mates eat - usually pasta, pizza and roast chicken are faves! Mashed potato does not go down well (very odd in my book!) nor does hot spicy food. Custard (bleuch) goes down well too. Bottled water too.

Can you ask in advance what he will/wont eat?

Moominsarehippos Tue 07-May-13 17:33:40

I had a chat to a chap who'd been hosted by a UK family - he is from the Philipines. He hated the 'full english' breakfasts and found most of the food unpleasant. France is a doddle then!

Chocolate breakfast cereal. French people do love their chocolate. I wouldn't try croissants unless you have a really good and authentic bakery nearby. Chicken escallope is another that goes down well (with rosemary roast potatoes and creamed spinach).

Abra1d Tue 07-May-13 17:37:00

I always have cold chicken breasts, which can be dressed in olive oil and herbs, or sliced for sandwiches. I often buy a French loaf from Waitrose, as well.

They all seem to eat lasagne and coq au vin/chicken casserole-type things.

The French always love fresh green beans and green salads.

And second the baking. I usually try and make a cake as many days in the week as I can.

GirlsTimesThree Tue 07-May-13 20:33:06

I've always found our German exchanges pretty good at eating whatever I put in front of them - one we had for a month who was vegetarian which really challenged my culinary skills, being a family of carnivores, but she seemed grateful for my efforts!
The one we had the most difficulty with was a Romanian girl who I made the stock spag bol for. I served the pasta and put the sauce on for my girls when she said 'I just have sugar' and proceeded to put a tablespoonful of sugar on plain pasta! At least she ate it. My poor DD was given pasta with warm milk for breakfast when she went there!
If you can plan ahead I'd make some easy chicken casseroles, bolognese which you turn into lasagne, chilli etc and just pull out of the freezer in the morning.
For lunch I've just given them what I give my lot. They all seem to bring plenty of money with them so they can fill up on chocolate etc if they don't like what's been packed.

NulliusInBlurba Tue 07-May-13 20:49:01

We have a French exchange student with us right now and she's an absolute dream with the food - much less fussy than either of mine, and in fact she's encouraging them to be a bit more adventurous in their tastes. We cook a fairly broad mixture with a fairly high level of fruit and vegetables anyway, and she seems to hoover up the healthy stuff as much as the deserts. We do tend to rely on good quality basic ingredients, though - extra virgin olive oil, good parmesan, butter not marg, freshly ground salt and pepper, etc and have very few frozen or pre-packaged meals - I can imagine a French person might be shocked if you served up Iceland horse beefburgers and frozen lasagne.

Saracen Wed 08-May-13 05:20:27

As a foreigner, I agree with moomins - the only really difficult traditional British food to choke down if you aren't used to it is full English breakfast. Large quantities of fried food are an acquired taste and can be especially stomach-churning daunting early in the morning.

Oh, for the same reason a huge plate of fish and chips can be too much of a good thing as well, but it would be OK if helped down with some other non-fried food on the side.

I'm sure you'll be fine!

Madmog Wed 08-May-13 10:32:58

We are also having a french student for two weeks in the summer. My daughter is fussy herself, so usually cook two different meals. I'm going to offer the student whatever I'm cooking from fresh for me and my hubby, but if she doesn't like that I'll give her a couple of choices out of the freezer with veggies and put bread on the table. If she doesn't like any of the choices will tell her I'll give her one try and see how she gets on. I do our main shop on the day she arrives, but hopefully after the first week I'll have more of an idea of what she will eat!

As for breakfast, it'll be cereal, toast and fruit juice/water/hot drink (what we have). If she really doesn't want them, the alternative will be fruit and a yogurt which are always available.

LIZS Wed 08-May-13 10:38:44

Fish and chips, roast, shepherds pie, stew with dumplings, "make your own" pizza

Lunch rolls and ham/cheese, yoghurt, chocolate biscuit (Penguin or Kitkats), fruit, Hula Hoops or Walkers , juice or water

NotTreadingGrapes Wed 08-May-13 10:44:46

I am course leader for a group of (mainly) French students over the summer and the biggest complaints we get are about the food.

They aren't so bad about breakfast, but I can guarantee 200 packed lunches get binned and they run to Burger King. The biggest biggest horror for them is sliced bread, they get their lunches out, flop the floppy bread around and then just hurl the lot into the bin.

Ergo, baguettes/ciabatta bread is the way to go. Ham and cheese (together, no butter) goes down best.

They like to try fish and chips and a roast dinner. The more adventurous will try a curry or a Chinese. They cannot understand the idea of a pizza with anything else (ie chips) Pizza toppings rigorously simple.

A mixed green salad with most meals, but on a different plate, in the middle of the table. Ditto the veggies. Dp (Italian) explained to me how Italians also find the whole "mother serves up onto plates" thing odd and a bit daunting, because then they feel obliged to eat the whole lot.

bread with every meal, water with every meal and lots of fruit. (our kids always ask us where they can buy fruit, because one piece isn't enough for them)

lainiekazan Wed 08-May-13 11:32:15

crapeau dans le trou (sp?) went down a storm with ds's French exchange (toad in the hole!).

lainiekazan Wed 08-May-13 11:36:33

Your French students sound rather difficult, NotTreadingGrapes. Ds's partner and those of his friends were all charming, very polite and ate everything. The other mums I spoke to were very impressed with their manners - particularly the jumping up to fill the dishwasher after a meal. Ds's exchange school is in the Dordogne - very rural. I think the kids from there are very unspoilt.

NotTreadingGrapes Wed 08-May-13 11:55:47

Ours are mainly Parisian and filthy rich. So you may be right. grin

NotTreadingGrapes Wed 08-May-13 11:56:37

(In fairness to them, they are also paying £3,000 for 2 weeks so have certain expectations!)

dreamingbohemian Wed 08-May-13 12:13:27

I think NotTreading is spot on in terms of likes (I live in France, not Paris).

If you can, invest in decent bread, cheese (not just cheddar), fruit and veg -- and a jar of nutella smile This way she won't starve at least. Otherwise just cook normally, it is supposed to be an exchange after all.

I do think French everyday cooking is a bit 'less is more', compared to English -- a salad for example is lettuce and tomatoes and a dash of vinaigrette, not ten ingredients and lots of dressing. Sandwiches are ham, a bit of cheese and butter, very simple. So if anything, don't worry about making anything fancy, just keep it simple.

lainiekazan Wed 08-May-13 12:15:48

Good lord! £3000 ! What sort of homes are they expecting to stay in for that money? Downton Abbey? And no wonder they're turning their noses up at Mother's Pride and spag bog.

slalomsuki Wed 08-May-13 12:26:46

Just recovered from our French exchange student and here is my experience.

We had some issues with curry and Chinese which didn't really help that the school arrange an evening event at the local Asian buffet restaurant and he ate chips. He loved fish and chips and that was eaten 3 times over the course of the week.

For breakfast I bought some of these part baked baguettes and baguette style rolls and heated them up every morning for breakfast. That was a winner and when they had cooled I used them for the packed lunches with ham. Fromage frais was also a winner for breakfast and I agree with the nutella comment. He loved all the chocolate biscuits we have and went home with some Tunnocks caramel wafers. Crumpet was also a big hit as a snack with butter and these also went home with him.

For tea apart from the fish and chips we did a roast chicken on the Sunday and lasagne one evening which was OK. Did deli sandwich tea one day on the way to something else and he choose a brownie to go with it. We also did a steak pie meal with veg and potatoes and a bolognaise with pasta meal one night. It was cake or ice cream for dessert as he said he didn't like anything else but a couple of nights I did muffins for a packet mix and these were a hit.

Like the OP I work full time and it took a bit of pre planning and effort hence the short cuts but we were quite lucky I think as he ate
pretty much what he was offed.

mothersanonymous Wed 08-May-13 17:58:26

Can't you just ask what he likes and dislikes? We've always been given an email address before the exchange.
Apart from that just cook as you normally would. Nobody can starve to death in that time.

BranchingOut Wed 08-May-13 18:45:47

Just smiling at the thought of the trendy French teen going home with a packet of crumpets!

agreenmouse Wed 08-May-13 20:52:42

I was going to suggest having a pot of nutella, but somebody has already put that.
Also yoghurts ... and plenty of fruit.
Simple good ingredients and un-fussy food.
And maybe drop him and your dd at the supermarket for a stroll about choosing cereals he might like to try (with or without milk), and a chance for him to pick out some jam, lemon curd, tea, or something else he might like to take home to his parents.

You could also ask him if he has ever had or heard of crumble. Some French people think English crumble is great, and I have seen a book of different crumble recipes published in French - worth asking first before you go to the trouble of making it.

RiversideMum Wed 08-May-13 21:25:06

We've had 2 French kids to stay. One ate everything from full English, bangers and mash to curry "all traditional English food" and politely said it was delicious. The other more fussy but as DD went to France first we knew and were prepared. So like others have said, lots of buffet type stuff. Bowls of salad (she didn't eat) but always happy to eat chicken, cold meats, cheese, bread ... And liked pizza and pasta.

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