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Sharing food

We'll be in France with our 6-year old daughter in September - traveling through Dordogne, Provence, Cote d'Azure, Paris. We're not big eaters at night, and our daughter tends to dabble at her food. Is frowned on to order a few items and share them amongst the three of us? Likely dining at cafes and bistros for the most part/

Posted by
6 posts

Good question! We left Spain where they didn't mind us sharing, then we traveled in France for one month in cities and small towns. I am not a big eater anytime. In the beginning we went to dinner at cafes and we soon learned that one person ordering the menu and two people sharing it was frowned upon. After all you are "renting" the table and can stay as long as you would like. We learned from French locals that if one adult gets the menu,( appetizer, entrée, and dessert) the other adult should choose something a la carte, soup or salad. I'm not sure what the expectations are for children sharing with their parent. However, we found out that sharing is okay when you go to a deli and choose hot or cold items and sit in their establishment if there are tables to use. Eating at delis worked out well for us. Lastly, some French people don't understand the "doggie bag". We were told that when you take food home that has been on your plate it should go to the dogs.

Posted by
33116 posts

If you have those needs, and if you would like to do something definately French, go where the French go with their children, to Flunch http://www.flunch.fr/

Everybody can share, have as much or as little as they like, sharing or not, and dessert can be different. Or Ice cream from the ice cream bar. Both adults and children like that they can see the food before they put it on a tray, and for the food cooked to order there are big photographs at the cash desk.

We eat there often, and they are scattered around France. Inexpensive, tasty, not fancy, and you get your veg.

Posted by
3551 posts

It is good that u are asking before u get the firm "no share".

Posted by
5837 posts

French portions seem to be on the small side. I doubt that you would be criticized if you consumed what your daughter didn't finish.

Posted by
8161 posts

It is not acceptable to share a menu but you can often improvise. We have found many less formal places that will let appetizers be shared and then people order mains. I often get the two part menu -- plat and dessert and my husband gets the two part menu entree and plat and then we share the appetizer and dessert a bit.

Sharing a menu is not done.

With kids we order an appetizer and then shared beyond that. The two year old we traveled with could tuck into a pate with zest. With a child as old as 6 you should order a little something for her e.g. eggs mayonaise, or other small appetizer.

You are not going to be taking a small child into a fancy restaurant with 2 3 hour dinners and fixed elaborate menus anyway and in brasseries and bistros you will be able to adjust orders to fit your party. The trying to share one menu is the thing that is likely to provoke negative reaction outright refusal -- other strategies less so.

Posted by
10288 posts

Chefs will put together something they think your child might like--fresh pasta, a vegie plate. That has been our experience from years ago. Ordering a la carte or doing as Janet suggests are probably best.

Posted by
6607 posts

I've been in places that let you order the menu ("formule") for sharing, with a surcharge for the second plate. Probably more cost-effective for the second person, or both, to go a la carte. I'd go a la carte for the daughter, or let the waiter/chef suggest something as discussed above.

Posted by
8585 posts

Don't assume that a restaurant expects a pizza to be shared either.

Posted by
8161 posts

This is truer in Italy than France. In Italy a pizza is usually personal sized and it is common to expect them to be individually eaten. I have had pizza a few times in France and they have always been served to the table when we dined as two people. It was assumed we were sharing and taking home the leftovers was never a problem as pizza places do take out.

Posted by
1340 posts

I respectfully disagree with the pizza comment above. I've never seen anyone in France share a pizza. They're usually individually sized. While take out places do exist for pizza, one usually doesn't see people take home doggy bags in France,

Posted by
8161 posts

I have eaten at several pizza places in Paris -- in the 11th and in the 17th -- they all have boxes for take out and are happy to send the leftover pizza home and we were not the only people doing it (and in the 17th the other diners were French). The pizzas we had at these places were not 'personal sized' but were large and shared. We have also ordered take out pizzas from these places. We have spent about 6 mos total in Paris and another couple elsewhere in France.

While doggy bags are not the norm in France -- pizza places are an exception and places that do a lot of order out business are also able to accommodate doggy bags.

Posted by
11 posts

Sounds like a la carte may be the best way to go. I wouldn't be interested in getting a menu and sharing it among the three of us. Rather I was thinking of my wife and I ordering a few things off the menu, then sharing with our daughter. I remember pizzas being of the individual type in France, much like Italy, and those aren't that "sharable".

Posted by
10288 posts

For Alexander-- pizza is going US style in some restaurants. We first saw this, and the large boxes, being delivered on the backs of motorbikes in 2006.

Posted by
1340 posts

Fascinating, Bets. I haven't seen that anywhere yet...But I was last there a year ago. I'll see what I encounter this winter. Interesting indeed... and sort of makes me sad. I'm a huge French pizza fan.

Posted by
6 posts

This is an interesting topic about sharing food in French restaurants and taking home left overs. I'm glad so many people responded with their experiences, because it helps me learn about cultural differences. One way isn't better or worse, it is just different. I agree, ordering a la carte works for the smaller appetites. The Flunch suggestion in Paris reminded me of our lunch at the Paris Galeries Lafayette department store on Blvd. Haussmann. The cafeteria is awesome and we ate in the sun at their outdoor viewing area. We've recently returned from our summer adventures in Europe. Last week we were fine dining and I couldn't finish some of my delicious meal. Later, I sheepishly asked the waiter if I could take it home with me? My husband thought it was hilarious how conditioned I'd become from our European travels. Bon Appetit!

Posted by
11294 posts

Just a clarification: the word "menu" has a different meaning in French than in English. In France, the carte is what we call the menu. A French menu is a fixed price meal with a set number of courses (usually three - appetizer, main, and dessert); a formule is two courses (two of those three; sometimes you get to choose which two, sometimes not).

It is not considered acceptable to share a menu or formule, unless it says you can do so for an additional charge. Sharing items from the carte is not as taboo, but if you're not that hungry, it's best just to order what you want from the carte, rather than plan on sharing. Particularly in less formal restaurants, there will be salads and other "smaller" items. (Of course, the formule may work for you too, since it's less food than a menu). Before going in, do look at the menus (I'm now using this word in its English sense, and they're always posted outside), so you're not stuck. Some restaurants will not have a carte, but only a menu; you'd have to pay for all the courses whether you ate them or not.

And as said above, once you see French portions, you won't worry so much about leftover food.

All of the above applies to adults. I don't know for sure how it works with kids, except that some places do have a special children's menu (usually specifically labeled as being for those 10 and under). I imagine that asking for an extra plate and letting your child eat some of your a la carte items would not be a problem. But again, I don't know for sure, so don't quote me on that - ask first before assuming.

Posted by
9429 posts

ourtern, when you asked to take food home, how did the waiter respond?

Posted by
10344 posts

FWIT: Over the years, we've consistently had reports on this site that, in general, French eating places aren't as open, as other countries, to "food sharing" of this type.

Posted by
681 posts

As two seniors with smaller appetites, we we simply ask if we can share items (but certainly not fixed price menus). We very rarely are refused and, more often than not, we're met with surprise that we'd feel the need to ask. This includes many pizzas in France and Italy. It seems crazy to me to order more food than we can eat. And, we're finding that the portion sizes in Europe have gotten larger and larger over the years.

Posted by
6 posts

Susan, we never asked to take food home, because at the beginning of our visit in France we were asked by our French friends, "What's with Americans and their doggie bags." We decided not to ever ask.

However, we learned the hard way that one person ordering the fixed priced meal (usually three - appetizer, main, and dessert) or a formula, two courses (two of those three; sometimes you get to choose which two, sometimes not) and sharing was not done. When we were in Carcassonne, France having dinner at a middle level restaurant in the walled cite we started with a bottle of wine, my husband ordered the three course fixed price (salad, entrée, and dessert.) and I said, "Nothing for me, we will share." The waitress, abruptly grabbed all of my silverware and said, *"Rien" (nothing). Later the young waiter delivered the Crème Brule dessert and he smuggled out a spoon without me asking for it. After that we started asking the local French for the cultural norms. If you have a small appetite order a la carte.

This incident was a tiny blip. We spent a month in France and loved it!

Posted by
8161 posts

You can finesse the problem you had by the first person ordering the two plate formula and the other person ordering an appetizer. I am a small eater and have often ordered less than my husband. Splitting a set meal is just viewed as exceedingly cheap and gauche. But one ordering the first and second course and the other the second and third and sharing a bit tends to be no issue in most places. There are upscale restaurants where this would also not fly.

Posted by
7562 posts

We're not exactly small eaters, but the 2 of us want to experience as much great cuisine as possible, so we often strategically order different things, so we can share them. That hasn't been a problem, and while we generally each order separate mains, or more than one course between us, or different dishes on a varied set-price menu, if there's just one salad or appetizer or dessert, we've easily gotten an extra plate/fork/spoon, often without asking. This was true throughout southern France this summer. One place in Castellane and another in Nice specifically mentioned a nominal fee (maybe 5 euros) for an extra plate for a split main course, so that can be done, as well.

A particular pizza place in Saint Remy de Provence this July served ready-made pizza by the slice, or whole pizzas for carry-out (or delivery) in big boxes. When I came back 10 minutes later to pick up our (enormous) pizza-to-go, they asked if I wanted it sliced! When I said "oui," they opened the box and sliced it into eighths. Even folded New-York-style, if left unsliced, it would have been too much to handle!

Posted by
23412 posts

It is frown on in France. Last May we (two couples) hit a pizza place for a light, late lunch at a recommended Steves' place. It was around 2 pm, no one in the place, owner very friendly and chatty. We indicated we want a very light lunch, order a couple of salads to share plus two pizzas and a bottle of wine. He seemed OK with it. When the bill came we were hit with two 4.50E charges as second plates. We didn't say anything but assumed that was his tip. The concept of shared meals and doggy bags is not well established in Europe.

Posted by
8161 posts

It wasn't his tip because you don't tip in France beyond a little rounding up. It is not uncommon to charge for sharing but it should be noted on the menu card.