In France, only a bumpkin would say, ''Bon appetit'' at the start of a meal, says The New York Times (subscription required).
The BBC correspondent writing from Paris cheekily reminded readers of the same thing:
"Wishing someone bon appetit is seen as very vulgar in polite circles . . . I realized to my horror that I must have wished almost every French person I have ever met at a meal "bon appetit".
eGullet readers aren't so sure this is always the case in France or here. What do you think?
As a host, I do appreciate a quick nod about the food I've prepared, but I can see where the taboo could have sprung from. Talking about the food (or anything else that was once alive and now is not) can quickly become not-while-I'm-eating nauseating.
"Where did you buy this paprika, it's so smoky?" and "Did you de-bone the chicken or did the butcher do it?" start to take away from the community aspect of the meal and start putting too much attention on the host. And that's surely not polite, in France or here in the USA.