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Let them eat cake ... French women's eating habits


Gifted Gourmet
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Observer Guardian UK article

In Chic and Slim: How Those French Women Eat all that Rich Food and Still Stay Slim, Anne Barone seeks to unravel the puzzle. As it turns out, it's all about knickers. 'Never underestimate the power of a black lace garter belt,' she writes. 'Even French women's lingerie helps to keep them slim, [it's] a constant reminder to make choices that pay off in slimness.....  there are almost as many lingerie shops in Paris as bakeries.' Vanity, it seems, is a very useful vice if you want to fight the flab..... they do enjoy a sensible, sensuous way of eating. Just watch them, dipping mussel shells into mariniere broth at any brasserie in Saint Germain. They savour their food. They are passionate about food. They have a national heritage devoted to and founded upon food.

What a superb engaging article this is!

If you are a woman of any nationality, this article will appeal to you ... is the root of everything, in fact, vanity, as the article implies?

Do you tend to "linger over your food"? Find it sensuously pleasurable? Treasuring each bite, savouring each flavor? :rolleyes:

the French are taking smaller mouthfuls, resting their cutlery between bites, discussing the food - often because it is worthy of discussion.

The individual French women interviewed at the end of the article have some profound, and occasionally, not terribly deep, observations ... from their unique perspective ... enjoy the article ... but slowly... chewing each "bite" with pleasure! :wink:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Yes...it is an amusing article! When I lived in Paris the thought often occured to me while shopping (for clothes) that they truly had the smallest underwear and the biggest earrings for sale, of anywhere!

Every French woman I have known has a very clear and strict idea of what it is she will eat...and for the most part, this is followed. Even the word for 'diet' has a different intonation. It is not a 'diet', it is a 'regime'. Different outlook...more of a maintenance thing rather than an unhappy guilt-ridden sudden enforcement of changes in eating patterns.

I have to admit, though...one thing did make me a bit cranky about the article. Almost every woman interviewed...seemed to be around 28 years old.

Uh huh. At that age I...well. I'd better stop while I'm ahead. Finish the sentence yourselves, as you wish... :laugh:

Heh heh. The only good thing about getting older is that it will surely happen to everyone eventually... :biggrin:

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The individual French women interviewed at the end of the article have some profound, and occasionally, not terribly deep, observations ... from their unique perspective ... enjoy the article ... but slowly... chewing each "bite" with pleasure! :wink:

smoking 10 cigarettes after dinner probably doesn't hurt either...

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The nice part of the article is about savouring the food. Indeed, using your sense of taste to its full extent (which amounts to developing it) does wonders. Not considering good food a sin does even more wonders. That's not quite enough to actually stay slim but that's a lot.

The silly part of the article (or rather the book) is about garter belts. Nobody wears them anymore.

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Also you may have noticed that like women in Italy and probably lots of other places, at a certain age - and seemingly suddenly - many French women seem to shrink a few inches in height and redistribute those inches to their girth, becoming a bit more 'ronde'. Like the rest of us, they're no impervious to the effects of their indulgence, whatever form it may take.

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As Anne Barone puts it: 'The French woman sees herself as a beautiful woman despite her physical flaws. She is worth the effort of eating well, taking care of herself. She deserves to be slim and healthy.' And she deserves that a whole lot more than she deserves a portion of pie.

I think that's a very good point, and one that is often overlooked. People tend to assume that French women eat everything they want to eat and stay slim. I say that in France a lot more thought is put into what they eat, and they do keep a priority of maintaining their figure.

'For France, a meal is a very particular moment, in which you share pleasure, the food as well as the conversation,' says L'Hermite. 'From an Anglo-Saxon point of view, food is just fuel to give energy to your muscles.'

I think this is a rather exaggerated statement. I am always wary of French researchers who generalize like this with the term "Anglo-Saxon". I'm not sure what the British members think of this, but I imagine that they do have dining room tables and use them. If this were such a non Anglo-Saxon concept, this eating together and enjoying their food, would the Anglo-Saxon culture not have done away with dining tables long ago? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that contemporary culture has abruptly changed in the latter half of this century to less tolerate the time spent in communal eating activities. But then again that's not so provacative, is it.

I think the article was well written, the essay does its job - makes me want to go out and get the book.

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Observer Guardian UK article
In Chic and Slim: How Those French Women Eat all that Rich Food and Still Stay Slim, Anne Barone seeks to unravel the puzzle. As it turns out, it's all about knickers. 'Never underestimate the power of a black lace garter belt,' she writes. 'Even French women's lingerie helps to keep them slim, [it's] a constant reminder to make choices that pay off in slimness..... 

What a superb engaging article this is!

Interesting concept here. Are the slimmest and most attractive Parisian women all wearing lace underpants. Certainly there's an investigation to be done.

The silly part of the article (or rather the book) is about garter belts. Nobody wears them anymore.

Please, research should be conducted without prejudice.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I was curious when Ptipois mentioned in an earlier thread about the orange juice after dinner question....and agreed then that THAT particular 'cultural occurance' seemed strange.

But garter belts....uh...someone is buying them. They are even more commonly for sale 'everywhere' now, and in greater variety, than in past years.

Someone is buying them, and someone is wearing them. ( :biggrin: )

Interesting topic for research, Bux. And again, all to do with food...for as they say in the article...garter belts and stockings can not be worn too comfortably well by those who have overindulged themselves into the way of avoirdupois.

Do inform us of your findings.

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Garter belts and stockings are a great option here in the Southeast, where the summers are just too hot for pantyhose. And yes, they're more comfortable if one is slim, but then so is everything else.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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But garter belts....uh...someone is buying them. They are even more commonly for sale 'everywhere' now, and in greater variety, than in past years.

Someone is buying them, and someone is wearing them. ( :biggrin: )

I agree, even my local Champion supermarket sells stockings (as opposed to pantyhose) so I think they must be pretty popular.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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I agree, even my local Champion supermarket sells stockings (as opposed to pantyhose) so I think they must be pretty popular.

May we please be clear that rolling said stockings to just under the knee is NOT the look we're talking about here. (shudder)

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I agree, even my local Champion supermarket sells stockings (as opposed to pantyhose) so I think they must be pretty popular.

May we please be clear that rolling said stockings to just under the knee is NOT the look we're talking about here. (shudder)

I dunno. Does someone want to post a photo?

:rolleyes: < That is an angelically smiling smilie face.

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Hellllooo! Can we please stop snapping those stocking garter belts and return to the true intent of the article under discussion?? :sad:

the French way, even today, focuses on the careful preparation of unprocessed foods. It's why French women ration themselves to one rich, dark square of real chocolate rather than hogging-out on a preservative-laden, pre-frozen, half-chemical wodge of pseudo-foodo. Snobbery, alongside vanity, is an asset in the war against weight.

Do you ration yourself to one square of real chocolate because of vanity?? :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Please, research should be conducted without prejudice.

Hehe, just try and buy one in a lingerie shop in Paris! And then tell me about it. :biggrin:

Honest, I can tell you this is an archeological item.

Whoops... my mistake. And my apologies.

I got it all wrong.

I mistook "garter belt" for "girdle belt". It's girdle belts that are archeology. Garter belts are everywhere of course.

In the context of "keeping slim", the idea of girdle belts jumped immediately to my mind and I thought that was what the article was referring to. Hence the confusion.

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But going back to the article, it strikes me that the French women given as examples are mostly young, affluent and elegant Parisians picked in the milieux of haute couture, headhunting, advertising, etc. Those women, with rare exceptions, are all slim. But, I think, so are their equivalents in London, Barcelona, Milano, Berlin, NYC... Whose lifestyles are pretty similar.

This represents in no way the French female population of suburbs, provincial and small towns, rural areas, i.e. most of the population in fact. Where women are not particularly thin and not particularly fat (though obesity is gaining ground in the suburbs, especiallly with children).

And no mention is made of the food paranoia that, in France too, plagues many young women and teenage girls, through the propaganda of women's magazines and their anorexic models. Young girls - as slim as one would dream to be - irrationally thinking they are too fat and developing food psychosis (each bit of food becomes evil, an enemy, eventually food becomes some sort of poison). And young and middle-aged women always thinking they should lose weight when they're perfectly allright. And the look of fear in their eyes when they meet a woman even slightly overweight (fear to become the same). Indeed, the social pressure on women's weight is very strong in France, though it is very rarely expressed. Not being slim means having done something wrong, gaining pounds brings silent disapproval. Not that the situation is only French, but it does exist in France, and to a large extent. Only it tends to be more acute in the higher classes.

That makes me skeptical about the existence of a so-called "French paradox" in this context, for the slimness of the women described in the article probably has nothing to do with their being French. Or, rather, there may be such a thing as a French paradox but I'm not sure this is the right way to identify and study it. I think it does have to do with our cuisine and wines, our eating habits, the development of our senses and therefore of our sense of proportion, our produce, some aspects of provincial lifestlye, and even with some cooking techniques. However we see no point in calling it a paradox, because to us it only means "eating normally".

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Whoops... my mistake. And my apologies.

I got it all wrong.

I mistook "garter belt" for "girdle belt". It's girdle belts that are archeology. Garter belts are everywhere of course.

In the context of "keeping slim", the idea of girdle belts jumped immediately to my mind and I thought that was what the article was referring to. Hence the confusion.

Oh, dear, I'd forgotten all about those hideous contraptions. I remember my mother wearing one. I'll also remember my aunt giving me one when I was about 17 (and very thin---5'6" and 104 lbs), the idea being that one didn't want to be the slightest bit "jiggly".

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Of course there's always the possibility that this is a trivial article from a very trivial, celebrity oriented magazine, i.e. a wasted opportunity.

Are only French women (of a certain age and class, judging by the photographs) affected by this phenomenon or are all French men slim too?

It gets very boring when global generalisations about food in France are held aloft as self-evident truths from which conclusions can be drawn.

I spend quite a lot of time in France and people look much the same to me in terms of shapes and sizes as they do elsewhere.

And I know that the featured women would not be buying their knickers (can I say that?) at Monoprix, but the brand-name of that store is DIM.

Best wishes,

Mick

Mick Hartley

The PArtisan Baker

bethesdabakers

"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)

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lace..shmace...It is a load of BS dumped upon the female of the species to endure more pain and suffering over and above the usual quota of bloodletting/ trauma from childbirth. Can someone tell me which bird brained, chromosomally deficient idiot came up with such demands. I have 2...get that..TWO Xs in my dna. I want a shrine. I want offerings. I *expect* to be worshipped. Garter belts!!! sheesh! I am still waiting for some enlightened being to explain to me the merits of shaving my limbs...eight years and still counting, people.

I am Indian and we didnt need no stinking lace to breed a billion of us...now that the Afghan women have been liberated, some serious rescue efforts need to directed towards France. I will take care of the Frenchmen. Singlehandedly, of course. It's a dirty job, but *someone* has to do it. No need to thank me. Ladies, you can all work on re-educating the womenfolk.

Lalitha.

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without contradicting any of the above comments, this what I got out of the article:

1. savour what you eat & eat slowly, enjoy, resting cutlery between bites

2. meals should consist of several courses, but fairly small

3. eat less, try to take longer (when able)

4. "real" food, e.g., unprocessed, not "invented" or "processed" foods.

5. do not snack

6. no fried foods, except steak frites

common sense or the French way?? who knows, but if follow the simple, but difficult rules, one "should" lose weight, regardless of male or female. its almost impossible to lose weight in the US. we huge processed portions very fast, lots of fried foods, super-sized soft drinks, snack on junk all day, & feel screwed if portions are on the small size in restaurants. next time, notice how many rest their cutlery between bites. no wonder 60% of US are overweight!!!

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We hear so often of "the French paradox" but when I reflect on our experiences I think that it is more aptly titled "the French inigma". If we could decifer it, we would probably lose our mystical infatuation with the French.

Our frequent hostess in the south of France is the epitome of the French woman that has been described in this thread, with the exception that I haven't a clue of her age, perhaps somewhere between 45 and 65. She has obviously been extremely beautiful in her early youth, and has lost little if any of her attraction in some 20 to 40 years. She is tiny: probably 5'4", hopefully 100 pounds. She is dressed by a local designer, and to the nines. She is, to make it short, adorable and tres tres chic.

We have been at her table often, and, to my amazement, she "chows down"! But not by American standards. The meal is either choreographed in her kitchen or carefully chosen by her at a restaurant, also carefully chosen by her and her husband. She does chew each bite with relish, and does not hurry her meal, and engages in fascinating conversation throughout the meal.

Taking this thought one step forward, I think so often about a man we met this summer. He was an American citizen by fortune of having been born in Mexico of a Philipine mother (the Philipines were at the time of his mother's birth an American territory). His father is Iranian. He lives with his French wife in Prague. At this point, my eyes began to roll! He engaged us in a discussion of current politics in America (and I really don't want to go there), and continued to share his description of the quintessential Frenchman. I am sorry that I didn't have a taperecorder to cement his comments, because although I was struck dumb by his brilliant description, in no way can I accurately relay it.

In essence, he said that a Frenchman got up in the morning and started to celebrate his person. This person husbanded his resources throughout his day to bring the best benefit in terms of toilet, fragrance, simple breakfast, pleasant avenues to his work, alternatives of both place and company for lunch, and on through the day. Essentially, this person spent extraordinary time choosing from the best he could afford to wear, eat, drink, experience whatever his budget, or non-restrictive budget.

This is perhaps what separates us from the French. The average American has a much more "snatch and grab" mentality to any single unimportant day. The French realize that no day is unimportant.

eGullet member #80.

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