Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat

French WomenFrench Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano is certainly an eye-catching title, even acknowledging that it’s more likely a generalization than an absolute statement.

Mireille Guiliano was born and raised in France. When she came to America as an exchange student in college, she put on weight, and even when she went back to France, the bad habits she had picked up led to more weight gain. Her concerned mother took to to a doctor.

His prescription was first to write down everything she ate for three weeks. Then he sat down with her to evaluate her eating habits.

Like an addict’s, my body came to expect too much of what had once been blissfully intoxicating in small doses. It was time to enter rehab, but fortunately Dr. Miracle had never heard of cold turkey. (The French don’t much care for dinde at any temperature) (p. 22).

For the next three months I was to pare back, finding less rich alternatives, reserving the real thing for a special treat–as it is intended. This was less deprivation than contemplation and reprogramming, because, as I would discover, achieving a balance has more to do with the mind than with the stomach…(p. 24).

After cutting back for three months, she could gradually start adding items back in, in moderation. But she was to begin with 48 hours of nothing but water and “Magical Leek Soup” (which she says is delicious. I’ll take her word for it.)

Obviously, if one is overweight, there’s no getting around the need for cutting back somewhere. But the emphasis in this book is in the subtitle: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. Rather than dieting, guilt, and deprivation, she advocates balance, eating foods fresh and in season, and truly enjoying one’s food, concentrating on the food and taking pleasure in it rather than eating mindlessly while doing something else. The most pleasure we get from food is in the first few bites, so savor those bites. Aim not for a certain size or number, but rather “‘well-being’ weight, the one at which a particular individual feels bien dans sa peau (comfortable in his or her own skin)…the weight at which you can say, ‘I feel good and I look good'” (p. 23).

She says that for the most part, French women don’t go to the gym, preferring to incorporate more movement into everyday life. “It always astounds me to see people who live no higher than the fourth floor taking the elevator” (p. 211).

A few other principles that stood out to me:

Do not eat on autopilot (p. 31).

On the whole, “offenders” are foods we tend to eat compulsively, with less actual pleasure than you might think. Often they are poor versions of something better (p. 32).

French women never let themselves be hungry.
French women never let themselves feel stuffed (p. 254).

French women typically think about good things to eat. American women typically worry about bad things to eat.

Learn to say no, with an eye to saying yes to something else.

Seasonality (eating the best at its peak) and seasoning (the art of choosing and combining flavors to complement food) are vital for fighting off the food lover’s worst enemy: not calories, but boredom. Eat the same thing in the same way time and again, and you’ll need more just to achieve the same pleasure. (Think of it as “taste tolerance.”) Have just one taste experience as your dinner (the big bowl of pasta, a big piece of meat), and you are bound to eat too much, as you seek satisfaction from volume instead of the interplay of flavor and texture that comes from a well thought out meal (p. 118).

She shares recipes, seasoning information, different tips for different stages of life. This being a secular book, some of its philosophies and principles I would not ascribe to, like the information on alcohol and meditative breathing.

As an adult, she divides her time between France and America, so she’s well familiar with both mindsets. She has shared these principles and practices with others through the years who have asked how she can “get away with” seeming to eat so much yet staying slim, and they have found them successful as well.

While I wouldn’t minutely follow everything she says (I don’t think I could ever get “hooked on the sensation of that tender grayish glob of seagoing goodness sliding down your throat” [p. 100] – oysters), I’ve marked some recipes to try and gleaned quite a lot of good thoughts and especially attitudes.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Chapter 8: Food

Chapter 8 of The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, which we’re discussing a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris, is about food.

Once again Edith emphasizes that in this area as in all others, we have to balance time, money, energy, and priorities, and there will be times when food has to take a back seat to other things going on. But God has created a variety of foods that are both nutritious and beautiful to look at and has given us the taste buds, sense of smell, and eyes to enjoy them. She has some interesting observations on the manna that God provided the Israelites with during their travels in the wilderness, and notes that God could have made all food like that – nutritious compact packets – but that was just temporary “traveling food,” and for all the rest of time He’s allowed a great variety to enjoy.

Food is a major aspect of hospitality, and she emphasizes that the people Jesus said to include are not just old friends or people we’re trying to impress, but also “the least of these.”

I have to admit that I am relieved that this chapter is not what I thought it was going to be. I remember learning how to make radish roses in a high school Home Ec. class and thinking it was such a waste. She is not talking about providing extravagant meals or elaborate garnishes, but enjoying simple food prepared and offered with the simple artistry of a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Although my husband appreciates the effort behind a nice meal, I think he would much rather have something simple and peaceful than something that takes hours and wears and stresses me out.

On the other hand, Edith describes a tramp coming to her door to ask for food, and instead of reluctantly thrusting whatever was at hand out the door at him, she made him a tasty and nice-looking sandwich and soup on a tray complete with flowers. Those little touches and efforts can convey, “You matter, and I care.”

Food cannot take care of spiritual, psychological and emotional problems, but the feeling of being loved and cared for, the actual comfort of the beauty and flavour of food, the increase of blood sugar and physical well-being, help one to go on during the next hours better equipped to meet the problems (p. 124).

One of the most well-known quotes about Edith herself, though I don’t know the source, is “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons!”

I confessed some years ago that I don’t really like to cook a lot of the time, but I like to eat, and they sort of go together. 🙂 I recognize that it is a ministry to my family and part of my job description, and once I get going I’m ok with it. I just usually dislike having to stop whatever else I am involved in to go make dinner, but we all have to do things like that. I’m sure my husband doesn’t feel like going to work every day, either, but thankfully he does.

In discussing the last chapters, I’ve showed pictures of things I am pleased with: this time I am going to show you some of my epic fails, because I have had more of those in cooking than anything else. Enjoy. 🙂


One day I posted just this picture with the title “This is how my day has been going.” That was supposed to be for a ladies’ function at church the same night, so I had to come up with a plan B. I did dig the rest of the cake out of the pan, put it on the platter, covered it with glaze, and we enjoyed it as a family. It did taste good even if it didn’t look so good!


These were supposed to be little Muppet-looking cupcakes, but the runny green icing made them look like baby swamp monsters.

Cake decorating has never been my forte, but I used to be able to spell.

And then there was the green gravy. One day years ago I was trying to make gravy that wasn’t turning as brown as I wanted it to. I had heard somewhere that mixing red and green make brown, so I added a few drops of red and green food coloring into the gravy. It turned green, and no amount of added red food coloring drops would change it to any other color. That time, instead of crying into my gravy, I started laughing hysterically until my husband came to see what was going on. But I couldn’t eat it. The strange greenish color was revolting. (I rarely make gravy, but these days I eat it whatever color it ends up being.)

And then there was the time I reached for the cinnamon instead of the chili powder for chili mac. That turned out….interestingly. And the time I accidentally grabbed baking soda instead of corn starch for teriyaki – that made it foam like a science fair volcano. I scooped out the foam and tried to rectify it, but it was still so salty that we were drinking fluids all evening to counterbalance the extra sodium in our systems, and my husband can’t eat my teriyaki to this day.

Thankfully I’ve had more successes than failures, and though I’m not the best cook in the world, my family likes it enough to keep coming back for more, and we appear to be relatively healthy. 🙂

Some other cooking-related posts here that you might enjoy:
Cakes Are My Culinary Waterloo.
Cooking style.
Cooking experiences.
Food flashbacks.
Encouragement for Homemakers.

Recipe Round-Up: Side dishes


Recipe round-up is a monthly meme hosted by different bloggers with a different emphasis every month. More information about it can be found here. This month’s focus is on side dishes and the hostess is The Accidental Pastor’s Wife.

I had actually thought this was coming up on Thursday, so I an running late!

To me deciding on a side dish is almost harder sometimes than deciding on a main dish. Here are a few of our favorites.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

1 bag frozen cubed hash brown potatoes
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8-oz. carton sour cream
2 T. minced onion or 1 small onion chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 sleeve of Town House, crushed
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Combine ingredients in large bowl; spoon into 9 x 13-inch pan. Combine 3 tablespoons melted butter with about 1 sleeve crushed Town House crackers. Top casserole with crumbs. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Yield: 8-10 servings.

(I usually start it in the microwave before adding the crumb topping, stirring every five minutes for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then top with the crumbs and bake in oven for about ten minutes. This is a family favorite but probably pretty high calorie.)

Vegetable Medley

(I developed this as a way to eat broccoli without adding cheese sauce, which is the way I originally learned to like them, then added cauliflower and carrots later.)

1 1/2 c. fresh broccoli cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c. fresh cauliflower cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c. baby carrots, sliced
1 T minced onion
1/2 c. water
1 T. instant chicken bouillon

Mix all ingredients. Microwave on high 3 minutes. Stir. Microwave another 3 minutes. Stir. Adjust cooking time according to how well-cooked you like your vegetables. We like ours between crisp and mushy. You could try different vegetables as a variation.

Carrot Coins with Thyme

4 cups frozen sliced carrots, thawed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter, cubed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, saute the carrots and onion in butter until tender. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, thyme and pepper; heat through. Yield: 4 servings.

(This was adapted from a Simple and Delicious magazine recipe. I used raw carrots instead, which worked fine except that it took a little longer.)

Find more great side dish recipes here.

Food meme!

*Before I start, I have a question for you. A visitor who arrived at my site as a result of a search e-mailed me and said it was “so busy” it took a long time to load. I don’t have a problem with it loading on my computer except that the header picture sometimes take an extra couple of seconds to show. I do use Mozilla Firefox to view web pages, don’t know if that makes a difference. If my blog takes a long time to load for you, would you let me know? Thanks. 🙂


I saw this food meme at Melli’s, and, food being one of my favorite things, I borrowed it from her. 🙂

1. How do you like your eggs?

Most often scrambled, but occasionally I like a ham and cheese omelet or a fried egg on toast sandwich.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea?

I have to have everything decaf due to a heart rhythm problem.
Coffee: decaf with creamer (preferably the non-dairy powdered kind).
Tea: decaf, iced, unsweetened. I don’t like hot tea.

3. Favorite breakfast food?


4. Peanut butter – smooth or crunchy?


5. What kind of dressing on your salad?


6. Coke or Pepsi?

Diet decaf Pepsi

7. You’re feeling lazy, what do you make?

Some kind of sandwich or something on English muffins (tuna or ham topped with cheese, toasted in oven til cheese melts).

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order?

I like pepperoni and sausage, a couple of my sons like ground beef and extra cheese, so we order one of each.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make?

Oh, it depends. Spaghetti and lasagna are family favorites.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories?

This will sound really strange to some, but my mom made a spam casserole that a comfort food to me. Also when my dad was away Mom would make a simple meal of hot dogs cut up into tomato sauce with macaroni and cheese as a side dish.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories?

Once at an aunt’s house she made me stay at the table all night until I ate the green stuff on my plate. I think it was spinach, maybe turnip greens. They made me gag.

12. Is there a food you refuse to eat?

Liver, oysters.

13. What was your favorite food as a child?

Steak fingers. There was one drive-up restaurant (like Sonic’s) we went to often, and that’s what I’d always get there

14. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like?

I don’t remember hating broccoli and cauliflower as a child — I don’t remember ever having them as a child — but I had them for the first time in college and didn’t care for them. I earned to like them smothered in cheese sauce. 🙂 Then once when trying to lose weight I learned to like them without cheese sauce.

15. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate?

Not that I can think of.

16. Favorite fruit and vegetable?

Fruit — probably bananas or red delicious apples.
Vegetables — corn or broccoli

17. Favorite junk food?

Any chocolate chip cookie or Swiss cake rolls

18. Favorite between meal snack?

Chocolate chip cookies or chips

19. Do you have any weird food habits?

Not that I can think of. I used to eat hot cereals with salt and pepper rather than sugar. That garnered me some strange looks in college. Then I discovered I like them with brown sugar.

20. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on?

Carrot sticks or grapes.

21 . You’re off your diet. Now what would you like?

The favorite junk foods listed above. 🙂

22. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai?

As mild as I can get it. I’ve only had Thai once and didn’t like it, but I have liked the Indian food I’ve tried.

23. Can I get you a drink?

Decaf unsweetened iced tea or decaf diet Pepsi, please.

24. Red wine or white?

Neither, thank you.

25. Favorite dessert?

Devil’s food cake with chocolate fudge frosting

26. The perfect nightcap?

I don’t drink alcohol. I usually have a few swigs of iced tea before bed.

Feel free to borrow this, too, and let me know if you do.

(Graphic courtesy of Creative Ladies Ministry Graphics)