Sunday, February 10, 2008

Slimming down the French way

I have only recently read the mega success book French women don't get fat, in its French translation. You could ask, as I did, if I really needed this book, what with being French myself and all... the answer is no. But it did no harm to be reminded of a few evident facts one tends to forget.

While Guiliano's book would make me abhor French chicks if I weren't one myself, with her authoritarian look at life, self-disciplined and self-righteous pedantic monologue, it is full of the common sense derived from a 1950s bourgeois education in the French provinces. Which is probably why I cringed a lot while reading it. It took her far, up to the top position of CeO of Cliquot US, but it left no space for a bit of humane understanding of the human condition, which accounts for a lot of the overweight people, and especially women, carry around. But there are shrinks for that!!!

OK, so I've started to jot down all the food that passes my lips while simultaneously reducing its amount and improving its quality. I try to walk a lot. A bit more than usual. I started fantasizing about going up the stairs in my building at night when no one's watching since I only live on the first floor and don't get to use them much since I usually push a stroller about.
I have taken up riding my exercize bike again when I can (I balance my ibook on the handlebars, not very easy but it hasn't fallen so far).

As for the diet phase itself, well, I still haven't got that far. I don't know if I will. The idea is to kickstart it by detoxing with leek broth and boiled leeks for a weekend. Then you get rid of all the naughty habits -the ones you have been able to monitor with your food diary- for three months until you have lost most of the overweight. Then you get on a stabilizing phase where you gradually re-introduce your favourite things in small portions. And if you've been a bad girl, you detox the next day, or walk a couple of extra miles or something.

Mmmm, perhaps it helps. But it also means being in control all the time. Being on a diet all the time. More or less. That can't be healthy. Meanwhile, there's another book I intend to read by a French doctor that suggest you can eat whatever you want if only you are hungry and stop eating when you've reached satiety. He then helps you as you struggle to find the point at which you're full...

As for a recipe, there's a delicious dessert, which I'd say is French, but whaddyaknow, and that has found its way in Guiliano's collection of recipes. But I find her version too pricey or less practical than the recipe from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, only I used less sugar.

What we often forget when not thinking about diets and healthy eating, is that quite often the craving for sweets is curbed when we include more fruit in our menus. So a light dessert with fruit is possibly one of the healthiest treats.

Poached pears adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

Bring to the boil 1 cup of white wine, 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup sugar to the boil, turn down to a simmer, add half a cinnamon stick, half a vanilla pod (opened and seeds scraped) and three strips of lemon peel. Put two peeled conference pears (leave them whole with their stems, but cut out the blossom) into the barely simmering syrup. Cook them until they're soft but still have a bit of firmness (test with a knife). This will take anything from 20 to 45 minutes. I like to trun them around in the syrup to make sure they cook evenly but you could add water to cover. Let cool and chill. I love to drink the accompanying mulled wine, after eating the pear.


Foodfreak said...

I felt the same about the Giuliano book, it could be dubbed the control freak diet, which is exactly what she claims it isn't... and all those "bien sur" and other oh-so French tidbits are a little overused in this book. Her "oh but WE the REAL women of France do things THIS way" attitude is arrogant, and her understanding of nutrition is poor... ;)

Kelly-Jane said...

I've not read you book, so I found it interesting to read your summary. I might give it a miss ;) but your pears look lovely, and something sweet now and then is really necessary!

Sandy said...

This is a great post. It is such an interesting topic when we love food so much.
The poached pear is beautiful. I think if we are lucky enough to be at a weight we are happy with, that desserts like this should regularly follow our meals. :)

Deborah Dowd said...

Your review does not make this book sound too appealing, but the pears look great all the same.