Archive for the ‘France’ Category

The art of eating like a Frenchwoman

In book, diet, food, France, health on February 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I came across an interesting book recently and I had to buy it. Written by Mireille Guiliano, the CEO of Champagne Veuve Clicquot, French Women Don’t Get Fat claims to recondition eating habits so that you think and eat like a slender French mademoiselle. She has a point, I mused. On my trips to France, I only recall well-dressed, glamorous, slender ladies, and if this was going to help me join their ranks, well it was worth a shot.

So far, it’s making a lot of sense. Mme Guiliano is quite clear – the reason so many people are overweight is due to bad habits and big portions – shovelling food in while watching TV, while working at the laptop, grabbing breakfast on the go or by missing breakfast altogether and reaching for quick-fix snacks.

Her recommendation is to keep a food diary for three weeks so that you can spot patterns and ‘offenders’ in your diet, before undertaking a two day ‘Leek Soup’ preparation. You then enter the ‘recasting’ period – three months of changing your eating habits gradually.

I’m not yet half way through the book but I can see a great deal of logic in Mme Guiliano’s approach. Some have criticised her for being arrogant and accusatory, but as someone who is not overweight, but striving for improvement, I know I’m guilty of a lot of the ‘offences’ she flags up. My learnings so far, which I plan to start regulating pretty soon, are…

Turn meal times into an experience: Set the table, use glassware, napkins, candles. Make sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience to look forward to. Take care of presentation, use more than one plate to choose from. Eat a little of each food, on its own, first, before you mix the flavours. Enjoy the flavours. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls. Chew. Taste. Savour.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this could work on so many levels – if you’ve gone to the trouble to make up a table for dinner, you’ll want to spend longer there, not wolf your food down without really tasting it. I do love creating ‘restaurant’ style table settings, but it’s something I only do for guests, yet sure enough, we’ll sit at the table and chat and eat for ages, rather than eating a whole meal in less than ten minutes. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch today, but I know I ate it at my computer. It might seem daft to make an effort for one person, but it’s something I’m going to try next week and see if it works. Mme Guiliano says TV, newspapers, books – multi tasking of any kind at mealtimes is not allowed, enabling you to concentrate on what you’re eating and how it satisfies you.

Shop for fresh produce every couple of days rather than doing a bumper monthly shop: This means you’ll pay more attention to the type of food you choose and its quality.

Shop at markets rather than supermarkets, and look for in-season foods: This is all about the quality of the food we eat. Looking, inspecting, choosing plump, rosy tomatoes rather than pre-packed versions. That, teamed with the added time you’ll be spending eating and enjoying the food, will, she claims, make you begin to appreciate quality over quantity and enjoy the preparation of a meal to savour more.

Drink more water – a big glass before bed and a big glass in the morning, in addition to your existing daily intake. We all know we’re meant to drink at least eight glasses of water, but many of us don’t. By adding just those two glasses will help ward off dehydration and aid well being – all part of recognising what our body needs as opposed to what it doesn’t.

So far, I’ve gathered that French women don’t forbid themselves from indulgences, but they do counteract them. Mme Guiliano says that if we want dessert and wine with dinner, of course we must have it, but try to resist the bread basket, or ensure you do 30 minutes’ exercise the following day.

Without keeping a diary for three weeks, I know what my ‘offenders’ are. Bread will always be a massive draw for me, but according to this guide, that doesn’t mean I can’t have it, it just means I should choose really beautiful, fresh bakery bread and limit my portions so that it becomes a luxurious treat that I’ll savour, rather than eat bog-standard slices of everyday off-the-shelf bread. Sounds damn good to me. Mme Guiliano says that if someone eats four slices a day, maybe they cut it back to three, then two. Eventually, she says, I may discover I only really need one to feel satisifed.

The same rule applies to chcolate. Mme G says that instead of compromising on taste and scoffing mediocre bars, choosing a small piece of really excellent quality chocolate and savouring each bite, will go a long way – that much I do agree with; my Dad gave me a box of miniature Green & Black’s bars in my Christmas stocking and one of those tiny 15g bars lasted through an entire movie, while a bar grabbed in the supermarket or petrol station would last a couple of minutes.

I think it’ll take a bit of discipline, but I think if I stick to it, I could make some pretty significant changes once I’ve finished this book. I’ll keep you posted…







(An expensive, but) Nice day in Nice

In France, Travel, Uncategorized on May 8, 2009 at 8:50 am

Having  written a letter of complaint to the travel agents about the disappointing changes to the itinerary of our hol, I’ve calmed down a bit now and I can start to talk about some of the more impressive parts of my holiday, which in short, was the time we weren’t on the boat, kicking off in Nice.

We headed out of the port at once to hit Monaco, home to Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie.

The buildings in Monaco are gorgeous, the streets clean and the gardens beautifully tended. Views over wondrous hillsides, crystal clear blue seas reflecting dazzling shards of light from the burning sunshine…I know we saw it at it’s best, but I imagine the people who can afford to live in Monaco have some kind of deal with the rain gods where he takes a cut to make sure it only rains between the hours of 2-5am to ensure the greenery remains lush.

St Nicholas Cathedral, where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, is a stunning church, perfect for the wedding of a film icon and Princess in waiting, while the principality’s courthouse sees very little use – essentially the domain for divorces now. Monaco does have a prison, where there is one prisoner – and as criminal addresses go, that’s not too shabby.

St Nicholas Cathedral

St Nicholas Cathedral

The prince’s palace itself, now inhabited by Grace and Rainier’s son Prince Albert, enjoys 24-hour security from terribly chic marching French guards, and is close to the enviably grand homes of daughters Caroline and Stephanie. The public gardens opposite their homes are beautifully kept, and could easily be the location for many lazy hours of relaxation if the lure of Monte carlo wasn’t just a few miles away.

Right now, the Grand Prix track is being set up in Monte Carlo, ahead of the race later this month, and we proceeded to the famous casino – which fortunately didn’t open in time for me to go a drop a load of cash.  The world famous Hotel de Paris lies alongside the casino, with rooms costing 1,000 euros a night, and those overlooking the Grand Prix track later this month will go for 10,000 euros a night, my my my, Monte Carlo requires some wealth to enjoy its luxuries.

Casino, Monte Carlo

Casino, Monte Carlo

We compromised by enjoying a beer and a coke at the Cafe de Paris, and having received a 21 euro bill, I got my money’s worth by keeping my Hotel de Paris coaster and drinks stirrer as evidence as the most overpriced coke I would ever drink (I was wrong, by the way, see Venice at a later date).

We headed back to Nice to amble along the chi-chi pavement cafes, bask in the sunshine and playing my new favourite game: “If I won the lottery, I would buy that yacht. No, that yacht. the one with the helicopter on it.”

The one that I liked best was a snazzy little number with blacked out windows and a blue helicopter, which I later learned I could hire for a week, if I could get my hands on 67 grand.

Elton John has himself a rather swanky yellow house high in the Nice hills, which I spent some time squinting at through binoculars as we left port, but I didn’t see him anywhere. Oh well, I was later to learn he has lots of yellow houses, all over the place, so I didn’t give up hope.