06 February 2009

February French Friday #1

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. 


Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Hi Amanda!

First, congrats for your "almost" 100th posts!

In my country we've inspirations of both cultures American and French…baguette and croissants for breakfast and burger with fries and crispy onions for dinner…;)

Totally agree that if you want to lose weight the fist step is to know what you eat and do it slowly, because fast implies more and doesn't help.

Thanks so much for your visit at my blog and I wish you a nice weekend!


Anonymous said...

I love your French Friday series, Amanda :) Your summaries are so helpful.

I agree that mindless eating is so destructive. One thing I realized when I first moved to the US was that the portions were HUGE - bigger than anywhere I've travelled to before, and after a while one gets used to eating these enormous portions. The 50% rule makes so much sense -- we should put the rest in a doggy bag or something and have it the next day.

Scarves are fabulous -- they can play up any outfit :)

Lori said...

Separation from our food is such a huge issue - where it comes from, why we eat it, how it was prepared. It is sad how far we've gotten from this in the States. I think the key to eating mindful is to get back to respecting our food and where it comes from.

Eating seasonally is something I'm really trying to embrace. It is easy where I'm living now, but much more difficult in the States. Basically because sometimes I just want a cranberry in June and a strawberry in December, darn it! :)

Sarah said...

First of all as I mentioned before I love these books, I have always been facinated with france nad love to travel there whenever I can! I have definately used some of the tricks of the french woman. I love scarves, they make everything look more chic ( I own various burberry and a few chanel)I always feel more stylish with them on. As for food, I find my self eating more fresh veg's and bread and less starches and heavy meats. I try and cook in season, and always split my meal in half when dining out. Desserts are still my weakness, though!:) Have a lovely day.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm eating lunch while reading this post, so I have to answer "yes, I eat in front of the computer". I don't normally, though, since I'm concerned about dribbling in my keyboard. And I am eating mindfully -- it's very flavorful chicken-rice soup.

On the 50% rule ... when I have a meal in a restuarant, I usually PLAN to take part of it home for "lunch tomorrow", and I eat first the things that don't save or transport well -- like salad. Ordering and eating with that in mind means it's easier to leave a good portion on my plate, so it's enough for the next meal, as well as plenty to satisfy me now. Otherwise I find it easy to just have another bite, and another bite, and another, and then it's almost all gone.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I just receive the book from the library. Can't wait to start reading it and adding my comments.

Tangled Noodle said...

I can best relate to the 50% rule - it took me a long time to realize that I didn't have to finish my restaurant dinner at the restaurant! And my solution to buffets? I no longer go! The problem for me was my preoccupation with value - I would eat past the point of satiety because I wanted to get my money's worth! How's that for mindless? 8-)

The other part I enjoyed about this post are the tips on scarf style. My mother always tried to impress on me and my sisters that being concerned about one's appearance wasn't necessarily about vanity. I try to at least put a smear of lipstick and wear a colorful scarf when I go out of the house (unless it's 5 below zero, then all bets are off). Looking good reflects feeling good!

I look forward to next French Friday!

Anonymous said...

I try to talk more with my husband or our friends if we are eating out with others. That way I'm being more social and not wolfing down my food.

I'm a total mindless eater and can't seem to stop, especially when in front of the computer or watching TV. I've made a new rule in my house - no food next to the computer. If I want a snack I have to step away from the computer table.

Taking pride in the way you dress... totally believe in this. If I make a little extra effort with my outfit or makeup I think I make better food choices that day... goes with the image!

Enjoyed your post very much!

Lynne Daley said...

I love your French Fridays and have ordered one of the books from Amazon. One point about the airport food analogy-we hardly ever get a decent meal or any meal in fact aboard an American carrier. I fly Delta frequently and you can buy food on some flights, but on most you're stuck. I guess some of these people stuffing their face in the airport probably don't know when they will see their next meal. I do wish there were more decent restaurants in the airports. I just bought a new scarf and when I first wore it, my self esteem climbed up a notch.

Robin said...

Ooh La La ! I need to get out some of my pretty scarves and be French. I guess a candy lei doesn't count? Ha! I need to get this book I think it will do the trick for this coming spring and my wardrobe!