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The first time I went to  France I ate my way across the country.

I remember one particular time when I was invited to a family lunch by one of my students.

It was an idyllic French scene. We were about 20 around a large table, al fresco in the countryside.

 

French people value time together and often take a whole day for cooking and lingering over a meal.

 

The first course arrived — three large trays of Escargots de Bourgogne drenched in garlic butter.

Thinking this was the main course, I devoured 16 of these very large snails and at least half a baguette to soak up the butter.

Ok, maybe almost a whole baguette.

Funny how I remember the exact number but I was used to ordering a small appetizer of 6 tiny escargots in a restaurant.

 

Escargots au beurre d’ail et persillé|Snails with garlic butter and parsley

 

You have probably already guessed the rest.

That was only the first course.  There were nine more to come consisting of charcuterie, chicken, roast pork, lamb, vegetables of all kinds,  numerous salads, cheeses and then desserts, paired with copious bottles of different wines and champagnes.

That lunch which began at noon lasted 5 hours.

Thinking about that day, I am surprised that no one sitting at the table was fat.  Well, maybe our host, my student’s father,  had a bit of a belly but considering their access to such rich food, they ALL should have been obese!

I, myself, in the few months that I had been there, had already gained a few pounds…

The North American Versus the French Diet

I grew up with a mother who worked full days and made meals in a rush.  They were filling but not very interesting.  Remember things like sliced white bread, bologna, macaroni, junket, and jello?  And Campbell’s soups added to everything?

When I got to France in my twenty-third year and was on my own, I was thrust into one of the world’s most refined food cultures, where everything provided a taste explosion.

I cannot resist fresh bread every morning!

 

From almost the first day, I never saw a baguette that I did not like,  a croissant that I could refuse or a sauce that didn’t make me want to lick the plate, and sometimes I did when no one was looking.

Come on! I could not resist anything here!

Within three months,  my 108-pound frame ballooned to 135 pounds.

(I do not regret a single pound, and anyway, I lost the weight when I got home and went back to North American food.)

French Women Don’t Get Fat!

Obesity is apparently on the rise in France but mostly among children due to the arrival of McDonald’s and other fast food, and not from traditional French cuisine.

Still, in general, people don’t discuss their weight or what they should not be eating.

They don’t carry water bottles everywhere, obsess about smoothies, or eating kale or quinoa.

There are vegetarian restaurants but I have never heard anyone talk about meat being bad for you.

This would be surprising anyway as they eat pretty much every animal organ in some fashion or another.

We all know this right?

Still, with food and produce of such high quality and taste, why don’t the French gorge like I did so many years ago, and sometimes still do?

 

A very “satisfying” lunch I had in Paris!

Portion Control

There is much debate on this subject as habits evolve but I have noticed that the French are more interested in being “satisfied” than being “full.”

Taste and quality are supreme, and as a result, one is able to be satisfied with less.

Like that lunch I had way back when, people eat slowly. They take a little of this and that, and give more time to the business of eating.

I like that.

However, left alone and unsupervised with some really good French cheese and salami, and a fresh baguette, I might be tempted to eat myself silly!

 

 

French Women Don’t Get Fat!

No one has written more about French eating habits than Mireille Guiliano, the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, and The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook.

Her premise is that French women love food as much as anyone but it IS all about portion size, taking time to eat mindfully, and walking everywhere.

No one talks about getting their 10,000 steps. It just happens.

 

Both of these books are great fun!  You can purchase them by clicking on the title links above.

Mireille has a recipe for leek soup that she claims is the ultimate cleanse from overindulging.

You can find that on her website.  Click Here.

 

 

Please Share Your Comments Below

I am sure that you all, and especially my French followers, will have your thoughts about this subject!

Please share your comments with all of us below.

 

 

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29 Comments

  1. Carol Gendron on September 27, 2020 at 8:40 am

    I love reading your blog, Diana. It brightens up my Sunday morning during these rather dark times and makes me long to travel again.

    Thanks!

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:54 pm

      I know Carol. I have only my dreams of travel for the time being. Let’s just get through the winter, and then
      I hope there will some Light!
      Best to you and thank you so much for your comment, Best to Hubert! Diana

  2. Catherine Willis-O'Connor on September 27, 2020 at 8:50 am

    I’m hungry!

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      Yes sorry about that…many people are reading this post before breakfast.
      Diana

  3. Charlotte de Heinrich on September 27, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Diana, I just had to write to say that I laughed out loud with your descriptions of yourself indulging. Still chuckling. I certainly recognize myself.

    Like Trudy, who submitted a comment last month, I spent a summer in a university dorm in Aix-en-Provence, also in 1971. I discovered Salade Nicoise with baguette that summer, with a very large emphasis on baguette!

    • Trudy Van Buskirk on September 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm

      Perhaps you and I met! I was there in July or August. WOW!!! Small world.

      • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:55 pm

        To think that that was in fact possible..so cool! Diana

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:52 pm

      Oh yes, une bonne salade nicoise … still my first go-to in France — the best one I ever had was in Nice!
      I can still remember it.
      Best to you dear Charlotte, Diana

  4. Gretchen Greene O'Brien on September 27, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Food-Food-Food! I am salivating just thinking of all the past dishes I’ve enjoyed!! As a pre-teen, I loved JUNKET! And in Germany, I was a slave for morning bread fresh from the bakery across the street! Portion control is no longer an issue – as I age! Am not losing weight though – but I’m not walking as much either!

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      I can’t believe the number of people who are emailing me that they loved JUNKET… I hated it.
      But I loved my mother’s tomato aspic — go figure.
      Love hearing from you Gretchen!
      Diana

      • Lagatta de Montréal on October 11, 2020 at 7:11 pm

        What is junket? We never ate it at home.

        • Diana Bishop on October 12, 2020 at 4:49 pm

          “Junket” was a tapioca type of milk-based dessert that was pink. Absolutely revolting as far as I was concerned but some of my friends just loved it.

  5. Shardie Stevenson on September 27, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Oh Diana…. I totally remember visiting you that first time in France when I was travelling around Europe. When I I first saw you BFF…. I had to give my head a shake!! You had been there for a couple of months enjoying the baguettes, croissants etc!! Ooh la la ….. you had quite a few more curves than when you left Toronto! And who could blame you!!
    Good on France is wonderful experience for the pallet and the eyes! ❤️

  6. Margaret Ann Gendreau on September 27, 2020 at 11:08 am

    Sitting here on this damp and cold Vancouver Sunday morning and drooling! We have a fabulous restaurant within walking distance of our home that is run by a lovely French lady. I think it’s time for a visit. Close your eyes as you taste the homemade pate on the homemade baguette and you’re in France! Thanks for another wonderful Sunday morning read Diana.

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:47 pm

      Oh yes I will do that!

      Thanks for the comment, Margaret Ann. Diana

  7. Patricia Edwards on September 27, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Oh the memories you have evoked of being 22 alone in Paris and wandering into a little cafe for a lunch of fish covered by a white sauce . For the first time I was aware of fine food. Then forty years later , we rented and drove a boat on the French canals , docking in villages and waking up early to the smell of baking bread.. French memories are food memories.

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      Yes, I think that is what I meant to say, Patricia … at 23 I became aware of food!
      Weren’t we lucky?
      Strong memories that will last forever.
      Thank you so much for the comment. Diana

  8. Trudy Van Buskirk on September 27, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Seeing your photos of French meals, I’ve become hungry! I miss going to meet my mastermind group at Patisserie La Cigogne here in Toronto. I always had the same thing – pain au chocolat which I LOVE!

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      I know! I love that restaurant too for a nice hot cafe au lait and a buttery croissant!
      We must meet there together one day! Diana

      • CHarlotte de Heinrich on September 28, 2020 at 4:27 pm

        And I will join you two please! I’ll order what you both order. lol.

        • Diana Bishop on September 29, 2020 at 10:37 am

          A trip to Paris with you Charlotte would be a dream! And so much fun!

  9. Lagatta de Montréal on September 27, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    Fortunately my mother prepared much more “real” food, though it was simpler than fancy spreads in France (not everyone there cooks like that).

    I spent more time in central Italy than in France, but Perugia is atop a small mountain or high hill (about like Mont-Royal here) so I was walking up and down goat paths and steep stairs several times a day. The Mensa (café U) food was actually quite decent and there were cheap little boxes of local wine.

    There is far more vegetarian food tha 30 or 40 years ago, but it is true that moralising about people’s eating habits is simply not done. There is even more now in Germany (and the Netherlands): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/27/the-wurst-is-over-why-germany-land-of-schnitzels-now-loves-to-go-vegetarian Some of the products are remarkably good, especial the erzatz liverwurst.

    • Diana Bishop on September 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      Yes Maria, Moralising is the right word for it. It is an addiction here.
      Thank you for the link to the article. How interesting.
      Always love your perspective as a woman of the world.
      Best to you as always and thank you for the comment. Diana

  10. Tanya on September 29, 2020 at 6:06 am

    Hi Diana. Here are my thoughts! I think the reasons for this are as follows:

    French meat is better, we don’t use growth hormones, and there is a lot of free range. I think growth hormones make North Americans grow.

    Portions are across the board smaller

    The French do not snack.

    Sugar and fat are honest, in France, neither are as hidden as in North America

    Our fast food is not necessarily processed food. For example Picard which sells forzen everything is considered fast because you can have fantastic green beans cooked and served with butter in 10 min.

    Until recently kids ate the same thing as adults. There is no Chucky Cheese here and teaching kids about cooking, food, eating and sitting at the table are important. My kids when they were young would and were expected to sit at the table for the full 5 hour lunch and they did.

    Eating is not rushed. Even if you are having a pizza with a film crew and you are on a tight schedule they will set the table and take the time to enjoy.

    Meals are balanced. They is usually salad and vegetables.

    French do not pig out either on baguette or croissant. They are eaten very sparingly and as often or not cheese is eaten with salad.

    French do not care about or follow food trends. Which is wise, since I have been watching there has been a war on fat, on sugar, on cholesterol and I could go, on and on. We probably should have just declared war on processed food and taught people to eat balanced meals.

    We drink a lot of wine and it balances the meal and adds to overall satisfaction. Hardcore French like my husband would NEVER drink coke (he might have had 10 cans in his entire life).

    Finally while people are not as addicted to working out we don’t use our cars for everything, particularly in cities where public transportation is good and kids are fed real meals at school. There are no bagged lunches and you certainly don’t have snack time. Teenagers go to school from 8 AM to 7 PM with only 1 meal. They are NOT eating all the time.

    Everything I just said would apply more to middle class to wealthy families and sadly like so much else, inequality can be seen in weight! Also much of this is breaking down with younger generations. Mothers come into my boutique and gossip about how stunned they are by their children’s eating habits. Also the Sunday lunch with the extended family is dying now that there are less “traditional” families.

    • Diana Bishop on September 29, 2020 at 10:44 am

      Tanya…I knew this might elicit a response from you. You are sooo soo right about all of this. No snacking, much better quality of food, lack of growth hormones which are still used her for beef (not dairy cows) etc.
      I am so thrilled you wrote these great comments.
      For my readers, Tanya is my new friend in Paris who if you remmber was the subject of my blog about GORGEOUS SHOES with interchangeable HEELS. Tanya is a trailblazer who lives in Paris and yah! is collaborating with another shop in Mortreal to sell her lines —-check it out at https://tanyaheath.com

      Tnank you Tanya for this great post!

  11. Lagatta de Montréal on October 11, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Only one meal, but French school dinners are very good!

    Here is the menu for a month for schools in the 20th arrondissement (friends live there; it isn’t very wealthy:

    http://www.caissedesecoles20.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/10_Menu-affichage-octobre-2020-semaine-du-gout-DEF.pdf

    I’m trying to find the menu for collèges (secondary schools) but no luck. It is somewhat different and more “adult”. (No wine or espresso though!)

    French women do get fat, especially people in lower-income groups.

    • Diana Bishop on October 12, 2020 at 4:51 pm

      Well like many cliches about French women, not getting fat is a bit of a myth, but my Parisian female friends are all pretty svelte!

      • Lagatta de Montréal on October 14, 2020 at 5:49 pm

        I was working on immigration history and related social issues, so that took me to neighbourhoods that were still pretty rundown at the time, in Eastern Paris and nearby suburbs. Some women are svelte there, but I’d say the majority aren’t. Not as heavy as their counterparts in North America or some nothern European countries (including parts of Britain as well as the continent), but definitely somewhat overweight. Definitely related to social conditions and available of nutritious, affordable food.

        • Diana Bishop on October 15, 2020 at 11:25 am

          Outside of Paris proper is a whole different ball game for sure. Thanks for the comment Maria. Diaan

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