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used as a salutation to a person about to eat.
Search the French phrase “bon appétit” and you’ll find a ton of translations, yet none of them include any in the English language. In Spanish speaking countries there’s buen provecho, in Croatia dobar tek and buon appetito in Italian. There’s even one in Icelandic (verði þér að góðu). Although there is no American or English translation available on the Google list, the English speaking country, Wales is listed as bon appétit.
Like many things in history, the U.S decided to follow the Brits, so bon appétit became the “blessing” du jour for our mish mosh melting pot of Italian pizzas, Chinese wontons, Mexican burritos and Indian curries. Although bon appétit literally translates into “good appetite” – in English it’s considered to mean “enjoy your meal.” Some say the phrase was made popular by 1970’s TV chef Julia Child but is actually considered to be a faux pas, in certain circles.
At one point in 19th century France, (obviously unbeknownst to Americans) the saying was shunned, during a time where talking about food had become taboo and deemed materialistic, favoring instead issues deemed more “intellectual.” According to a NY Times article, the phrase is considered a social marker of sorts and is actually not included in the beginning of formal meal…in France at least.
Which makes the American adoption of bon appétit more interesting. Why is the most overfed country in the world, supposedly at the forefront of modern food, choosing to adopt an antiquated and misunderstood phrase?
Furthermore, the majority of foods that Americans have an appetite for are not really a good match for the literal translation of “good appetite.” This is not to say France’s daily diet of cheese and bread is oh so magnifique, but I digress.
Does our failure to find a “food phrase” indicative of a larger issue with our relationship to food? Either way, no matter what we choose to put on our plates, or how it translates, wellness-wishing is always welcome.
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