What is a French gouter? Why a snack in France. Usually at 4pm. Let's look into more detail here at PumpjackPiddlewick

There’s a thing here in France called the goûter (pronounced goo-tay). It often happens about 4pm, but could be done really almost any time of the day. It’s the French version of the snack.

French Food

A goûter is usually something simple. A piece of fruit, olives or nuts, a piece of bread and cheese. Something you can easily reach for that will fill the hole of hunger, but not take away from being hungry for the later meal to come.

Sometimes it could be something you have prepared, like a little quiche, maybe a simple salad. Typically it is savoury, but not exclusively. Though the idea is that it is a healthy snack, not a sugary treat.

Why Goûter?

Goûter means to taste. Hence the idea of keeping it simple. A simple taste. The main meal in France is at lunch time. And the evening meal, which is much lighter, is often around 7 or 8pm. So the goûter is most often enjoyed in the late afternoon, a tide over between meals.

I remember when I worked at the Chateau, it was very typical for one of the kids to come in in the afternoon and ask for goûter. That’s when I first learned the word and concept. Usually a small pot of yoghurt was the go to snack for them.

The French Don’t Snack

It’s sort of a dichotomy that the French don’t snack and yet they have this goûter. What I mean by the non-snacking is that it is really not done, eating between meals. Particularly non-healthy treats. A goûter, therefore, is done with thought. Not simply a bored moment. Hunger raises it’s head and that is when a small snack will be decided upon.

This sort of ties in to the realisation that you never really see French people eating on the go. No one wandering around with a packet of crisps or chocolate bar in hand. Not even really a coffee. That is not to say these things aren’t enjoyed. But they are enjoyed with more intention. A 5 minute break to sit down and partake. Walking with food takes away from the focus on it and thus reduces the conscious enjoyment.

Goûter vs Apero

The similarity between the goûter and the apero is in the timing. An Apero is an aperitif. A short-ish moment shared with friends, typically around 5 or 6pm. It’s like a collection of goûters, and a glass of something. A shared fancier goûter, if you will.

This could be impromptu, as because the goûter is typical, there are always a selection of snacks one can bring out at a moments notice. But usually it is a bit more planned. Rather like the intentional snacking itself.

My Favourite Snack

I have a particular goûter I have come to enjoy. Sliced apple dipped in peanut butter. I make the peanut butter myself. (Always a large jar.) It’s super easy. Whizz peanuts in a food processor or blender until the consistency you like, adding a touch of oil to aid in the process. (For those who like actual recipes: Love and Lemons’ Homemade Peanut Butter.)

As I live in France, I have become more conscious of this not snacking. But it is a habit that is hard emulate when you are not used to it. Not so much the not eating, but the conscious side of it. Trying to imbue food with the focus it deserves, whether a beautifully cooked meal, or a simple goûter. It’s an enjoyable work in progress.

More French Stuff

If you enjoy my writings on life in France, check out my French Findings.

Or if you are particularly interested in food, my Food Findings.

If you like what you read and wish to join in and support Pumpjack & Piddlewick, do check out my Nourish page.

And here’s a taste from My Shop. A few items that may assist with your own goûters.

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2024-03-18

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