French Women Don't Get Fat, written by Mireille Guiliano:
As I write this post, I've just finished off a very generous portion of a dense, fudgy chocolate cake, with a scoop of ice cream on the side. So, I wouldn't say that I'm particularly concerned about my body size (although I should be thinking about it....swimming-suit-season is just around the corner). No, in the case of this book, I'm more interested in the French culture: how do the French eat, what do they eat, how do they shop for their food, etc. I'm a true Francophile and consider France to be my long-lost homeland, although I don't have a drop of French blood in me, alas.
In the book, our author demystifies the French and their cuisine. The French blessing for being svelte basically comes down to this: a system of checks and balances. If a French woman has a full course dinner (usually served at lunchtime), complete with wine (or champagne) and dessert, then she will scale back her supper and maybe just have a moderate bowl of soup and a piece of bread. Guiliano tells us that throughout the day, every day, French women use their minds over their stomachs.
I can buy into this to a certain degree: up until dessert. The author tells us that every French woman knows that the first three bites of dessert are the most satisfying, and after that the taste buds are too used to the taste and texture. She tells a story of how she takes her three bites and then sends the rest of her dessert back with the server (when at a restaurant, of course). I'll tell you, I could never do that! But, I could probably work the checks and balances in elsewhere, maybe denying myself dessert for the week, and then fully enjoying my one dessert on the weekend. I guess you have to do what works best for you, as long as you are being mindful of what you eat and that everything balances out in the end.
One thing to consider is Mireille Guiliano's job: she is the CEO Clicquot, Inc. - a champagne maker. So, as she explains, she is constantly dining out with clients, enjoying fabulous meals and champagne constantly. Oh, the life! But by limiting herself to tiny amounts of alcohol or dessert, she is able to stay thin and healthy (and sober on the job)!
I really enjoyed the book's look into French women's lifestyle. Most French women dislike formal exercise regiments, but incorporate physical activity into their daily lives - things like taking the stairs or going for a stroll after lunch. I also loved hearing about how the French shop for their food: little shopping trips, just to get enough for the next couple of days. And you will not pick out your own produce, but the grocer will do it for you, after determining when you'll be eating it and in which manner you're planning on preparing it. French women only enjoy wine or champagne with their meals, and most never drink hard alcohol. I must admit, I was a little confused on the snacking issue: sometimes, our author leads us to believe that French women don't really snack, but other times we're told to pack up emergency snacks in our purses.
In addition to lots of insight into French culture, there are recipes throughout the book for simple, healthy meals. I tried the Apple Tart Without The Dough, which was yummy, but I prefer to cook my apples on the stovetop, in a pan, instead of cooking them in the oven. The Bachsters really enjoyed this healthy dessert, too. I also tried the Magical Breakfast Cream from her companion book, The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook. It was alright, but I would cut the amount of flaxseed oil if I were to make it again.
This is a great supplement to the French Women Don't Get Fat book, with lots of recipes and sound advice. I think I'll try the Potage d'Hiver soup next, which is simply potatoes, carrots, leeks and parsley. I gather from both of these books that French women still make a great amount of their own meals homemade, or dine at restaurants that use top ingredients - there are not a lot of food additives, preservatives or chemicals in their foods. In fact, she states that the French government has limited the number of supermarkets allowed, thus preserving the farmer's market or neighborhood market that seems so integral to their culture. Vive La France!
I desperately want to go back to France. I want to shop for my next meal at Rue Cler, and fumble through my limited French vocabulary. But until that day comes again, I can at least eat as if I were in France: allowing yourself reasonable amounts of decadent food and drink, as long as you are mindful of your consumption and keep the system of checks and balances in place. In France, it seems, you can have your gateau and eat it too!