It’s no secret that the French are a superior people. They don’t gain weight. They speak the language of love. They invented the modern “haute couture.” And now, of all things, they are being applauded on their parenting philosophy.
I read Bringing Up Bébé (by Pamela Druckerman) when Rinn was only a few weeks old and threw out every other parenting book with his dirty diapers. It’s less of a manual and more of an American journalist’s insight into the world of French parenting. I have since adopted the French philosophy with amazing results. Rinn has slept through the night since 3 weeks old, he eats four times a day (8am, noon, 4pm and 8pm) and at only seven months, is capable of entertaining himself thru an adult meal with minimal interruption.
Believe you me, there are parts of the book that had me in a fit of jealous rage; such as their free government-subsidized day cares and preschools, the fact that French mothers receive a minimum of four months paid maternity leave and the national insurance covers the cost for vaginal and abdominal physical therapy postpartum; of which, the United States’ equivalent is sending new mommies home with a plastic bag full of ice diapers. Gee whiz, remind me to write the hospital a generous thank you for frozen underwear.
If that isn’t enough, higher education is funded by the state (yep, that’s right, French parents aren’t bothered with saving for college) and the “state even helps pay for some tummy tucks, usually when the mother’s belly hangs below her pubis, or when it’s inhibiting her sex life.” (Bringing Up Bébé, 185.) That alone is reason enough to consider an international relocation. If they start handing out free diapers I plan to call up Rosetta Stone, order the entire French language on CD-ROM, and move my whole family to France for the complimentary cosmetic surgery and I’ll spend any college tuition we’ve managed to save on baguettes and Dom Pérignon. Oh to hell with it, we’re going even if the only French I know I learned from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. We will make do.
Other lessons the French engage in are baking projects. Almost from birth, children assist in making what the French call gâteau au yaourt, or simply yogurt cake. “Baking is the perfect lesson in patience” says Bringing Up Bébé. How, in my right mind, could I pass that up? Plus I like cake, so sue me. The recipe seemed simple enough; using the empty yogurt containers to measure a number of the other ingredients. With that said, Rinn and I proceeded to make the recipe below; with caution of course, I still have the tendency to botch a box of Stove Top stuffing so I am pretty apprehensive when it comes to adventures in the kitchen. At this point, Rinn simply watches but sitting idly by as I put together an entire cake is a feat most infants don’t manage, so I can only assume we are on the right track.
My finished product resembled a pound cake which concerns me since the dessert description uses the words “light” and “not-to-sweet.” I think the key is strictly adhering to the part about “mix[ing] gently” and not over mixing. I cheated and used my hand mixer, so very American of me, damn it. I probably didn’t set the best example for patience either when I can’t even take the time to A.) follow simple directions and B.) stir the ingredients by hand.
I get an F for the “lesson in patience” and a solid B- for the actual cake (this part I’m assuming since the cake was actually eaten) so that averages to what, a D+? Meh, at least I passed.
Not so much interested in making yourself unnecessarily jealous of the French but want to try your hand at gâteau au yaourt? I've provided the recipe below. Godspeed, or as the french would say "bonne chance."
Rinn can't even enjoy the cake yet (no teeth); he's just ridiculously excited to supervise (or he just crapped his pants. That also makes him ridiculously excited.)
2 six-once containers plain whole-milk yogurt
(don’t throw away the empty containers, you’ll use them to measure the other ingredients)
2 containers sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Just under 1 container vegetable oil
4 containers flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Créme fraîche and powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
Use vegetable oil to grease a 9-inch round cake pan or loaf pan.
Gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix gently until ingredients are just combined (don’t overmix). You can add 2 containers frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like. Bake for 35 minutes, then five minutes more if the cake doesn’t pass the knife test. It should be almost crispy on the outside, but springy on the inside. Let it cool. Serve with powdered sugar or crème fraîche.