Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

It’s true. French women have always been unfairly slender, with unfairly perfect skin, and even the sloppiest of French women are born with an inherent grace that most of us can’t even begin to fake. We can buy Chanel clutch purses , use Crème de la Mer, and even master the art of rolling our “R’s”, but there’s something about the French that we can never achieve.

Which is why, when I read a review about Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, my attention was immediately aroused. It was an extremely funny article, about how the French are the only ones not overly affected by the scary “R” word. They drink as much wine as ever, and take longer lunch hours than they ever did. In fact, this particular journalist, pointed out that the reason the French aren’t so hit by Recession is BECAUSE of their long lunch breaks. It makes sense. The French will wake up as late as they like, they’ll have a leisurely breakfast, and get to work. But, when they reach office, they are so relaxed and rejuvenated, they give work their 200%. While in the US and the UK, people will scramble out of bed, battle with ties and pantyhose, and drink at least 5 venti lattes by the time they reach work. Then they’ll proceed to update their Facebook/Twitter, play Solitaire, meet colleagues at the coffee machine and productivity is basically nil. The article was so brilliantly written, with such marveilleuse insights, that when the journalist briefly mentioned “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, I knew I HAD to get my hands on it.

The logic that Guiliano presented to the world appealed to me because Ive been following it all my life : Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Eat butter, white bread, chocolate, drink wine - just do it in moderation. If you feel like eating chocolate, and you immediately get your hands on it, you’ll end up eating a few squares. Your body’s demands have been instantly satisfied. However, if you try fighting your desire for chocolate, your body not only gets cranky, there comes a point when you stop fighting and youre cramming bars and bars of chocolate into your mouth like a crazy person. Never let yourself get hungry. Then you will never let yourself get stuffed. It is sound logic, and it seemed refreshing after all the calorie counting and banning of foods that other diets have strutted out.

Unfortunately, when Harry hunted it (and its sequel) down for me and it became my “Welcome home!” present, the book didn’t live upto my expectations, its review or its status as a present. While it’s a more entertaining read than most diet books, and its underlying logic is extremely sound, theres that certain something lacking that leaves the reader untouched. Its sequel on the other hand, “French Women for all Seasons” is a beautiful book, and one of my many books with a broken spine and many folded down pages. Guiliano seems to have put more of her heart into her sequel, with more personal histories, beautifully told with the occasional French phrase thrown in for poetic measure. While her first book tells you what to do and how to eat (including weekly menus!) her second book tells it like it is, which makes it even more a pleasure to read.

However, despite my criticism of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, I hail her moot point as genius. It is a relief to finally have the ultimate non-diet book that dictates “the secret of eating for pleasure” One of my favourite chapters in the book, is one dedicated entirely to chocolate. Apparently, many French women say “Je deprime donc je chocolate” or “When I’m down, I chocolate”

It was a refreshing chapter to read in a so-called diet book, and so, as a tribute to the chapter and my father, I decided to try one of the recipes : Chocolate-Espresso Faux Souffles. A very simple recipe, I think Guiliano has made it so many times, she forgot that most people attempting are doing so for the first time. I followed her recipe perfectly the first time round, and had to discard it and start from scratch, switching around steps. And while I spent the night cursing her and her book, this morning I got up and actually tried the soufflé. I died, and went to heaven. Unlike my parents who gobbled their unset soufflés last night, I decided that all my exertions deserved to let it set properly. It was good that I did, because its perfect. Firm on the outside and molten chocolate inside. The kind of chocolate that makes you want to open chocolate museums (which apparently, the French have already done, thanks to recipes like this)

To quote Guiliano, who quoted Colette, a table of food should be seen as un rendez-vous d’amour et d’amitie (a date with love and friendship) Enjoy your food, savour it, eat for pleasure, and you may never have to worry about getting fat again.

4 responses to "French Women Don't Get Fat"

  1. To be fair men have been doing this for centuries.
    We're awesome that way.
    And awesome about the souffles coming out perfectly! High Five.
    Incidentally, this is the perfect post for the label you used...


  2. Shut up, sexist pig. I know tons of men who weight-watch and calorie count. And who panic if they've eaten too much of the wrong thing. And YOU my fraand, are the wrong thing. Take that, you.
    P.S While being a wrong thing, you are also a High Five.


  3. Harry, man that's your second sexist comment TODAY. jeez. you need help.

    Kyra, great post. 'Eat whatever you want, whenever you want' - story of my life. my boy might disagree, cuz he insists i never eat with him, WHICH I DO. i don't know what he's talking about.
    and also, when i'm down, i chocolate too! doesn't everyone?


  4. Mehvash, I think its something they learnt at that school of theirs. Even mine insists that I dont eat/dont eat enough etc, while like you, I DO. Im telling you, I blame the school. And of course, their own special brand of insanity.
    And yes, about the chocolate, who doesnt? I just find it reassuring that the picture perfect French do so also.


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The All of us.