Bonjour to you lovely French people! How have you been doing employing the healthy living principles we learned in French Women Don't Get Fat? I have had a terribly American week, but I am mentally back on the plane to France as we speak! This month for French Fridays, we are reading Mireille Guiliano's second book, French Women for All Seasons. In it, she promises to give us little secrets and refinements to the French lifestyle that she "forgot to mention" in her previous book. She promises us little tips on living well, dressing well and enjoying life. This week, we will be discussing the Ouverture and Chapters 1 and 2. Does everyone have their fashionable silk scarves tied jauntily around their necks? Did you order your citron presse from the waiter? Bon, then let's pull up chairs in our cozy little sidewalk bistro and start our discussion.
In this chapter, Mireille begins discussing the clash between two cultures, the American culture (really the globalized culture) and that of the time-honored French culture. In America, we are so far removed from our food that often times we have no idea what we are putting into our bodies. We eat mindlessly and on the run. She gives a very sad example of an eight year old she met at the Greenwich village farmer's market who didn't know what an apple was. This contrasts sharply with Mireille's idyllic childhood of growing up surrounded by a wonderful garden and fruit trees from which her family would get the majority of their produce in their own backyard.
She also discusses the tale of two airports, that of Chicago O'Hare and the other in Paris. She witnessed the majority of people in the Chicago airport eating huge portions of food mindlessly at 10:00 am in front of their computers, or T.V. sets. "Why were they eating at 10:00 am anyway?" she wondered. Were they between flights and just needed to pass the time? Why were they eating and watching T.V. or on their computers at the same time? She contrasted this picture with that of an airport in Paris where the majority of people still sit down in a restaurant to eat with a fork and knife. Occasionally she will see someone eating Pizza Hut or McDonalds, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Questions to ponder after reading this chapter:
1. How many times a week do you eat mindlessly?
2. How many times a week do you eat just to pass the time?
3. How many times a week do you watch T.V. or work on the computer while you eat?
4. How many times a week do you actually sit down to eat with a fork and a knife?
If you start eating more mindfully, with a fork and knife, slowing down, not eating while distracted and emotional, you will naturally eat less!
Chapter 1: J'ai Oublie de vous Dire: Something I Forgot to Mention
In this chapter, Mireille had me giggling imagining some of her French friends up in arms at her for revealing their secrets to staying slim. Mireille would always counter, "Don't worry, j'ai oublie de leur dire..." (I forgot to tell them)....Fortunately, she is letting us in on the secrets now!
Mireille discusses one of the oldest women in the world, a 122 year old French woman, who only recently passed away. This woman dutifully rode her bike every day into her 100's. She had a very regional diet, ate at home three meals a day, drank wine once or twice a day and obviously was very healthy. She attributes this woman's longevity to staying slim, staying active, never eating fast food, eating locally grown produce, and enjoying life. A lot of diseases Americans suffer from stem from being overweight. How much healthier would we be if we could all stay slim our whole lives like the 122 year old woman?
This chapter also contains one of Mireille's "gems": the 50% solution to portion control. Basically, the 50% solution employs eating mindfully to control portions. Say you are at a restaurant and are served a dinner. Using the 50% solution, mentally divide your dinner in half. Once you have eaten half, stop and ask yourself, "Have I eaten enough to be satisfied?" If so, stop eating, if not, look at the remaining portion on your plate and again mentally divide it in half. When you have eaten that half, again stop and ask yourself, "Have I had enough to be satisfied?" If you continue to do this, you will never eat the whole portion because you keep dividing it in smaller and smaller halves, each time stopping, reflecting, and asking yourself if you've had enough to be satisfied. Mireille employs this principle not only with dinners, but with dessert, wine, even a banana.
Mireille also has some advice for the dreaded buffets (I could have used this in college!) to save on overindulging. First, make a pass by the buffet without your plate and see what is offered. Next, make a small pass (if it is a breakfast buffet, perhaps some yogurt and fruit). If you are still hungry, make a small second pass (perhaps for an egg or for oatmeal). Then, if you are still hungry, make a third pass. In this way, you must ask yourself each time you get up, "Have I had enough?" It is a stopping and reflecting point.
Questions to ponder after reading Chapter 1:
1. How can I utilize stopping points such as the 50% solution or the "pass by" system at buffets? Am I willing to try it?
Chapter 2: Au Printemps: Spring Into Life
Mireille speaks about French women being attuned to the changing of the seasons and being aware not only of culinary changes of the seasons, but changes all around them. It is in their celebrating of the season that leads them to better enjoy l'art de vivre (the art of living). She talks wistfully of the first spring flowers of the season and how to arrange small vases of them in our homes to enjoy their color and fragrance. She also discusses the first bicycle ride she takes of spring and how liberating it is to pedal through the French countryside. (It is not only liberating, but good for the figure!)
Mireille also speaks in rich detail about spring peas and asparagus, how to enjoy them, mixing them with pasta as a trick to eat less pasta, and gives us quite a few family recipes to try. (If anyone tries one, please let me know how it is!)
With the end of winter comes the shedding of the heavy wardrobe. Mireille gives us the fashion tips for spring using neutral colors, clean lines, classic tee's and signature accessories. She also gives us handy scarf tying tricks to be oh so chic. Here are three short clips that show Mireille demonstrating some of her scarf tying tricks. Isn't she so cute?
Mireille ends this chapter with some sample menus for spring.
Questions to ponder after reading Chapter 2:
1. Do I take pride in the way I dress?
2. What sort of image do I project to others?
So, are you ready for your new French week? Do you have your silk scarf all picked out? I want reports and reactions from your week of dressing French!
Every Friday in February I will be discussing the book French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. Next Friday, in my virtual Parisian bistro, I will be discussing Chapters 3 and 4. Please join me!
Don't forget: If you would like to pre-order the book for my March French Fridays to read along with me, I will be discussing the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.