February 9, 2005

French Women Do Get Fat

Leek & Potato Soup

By now, you've been assaulted senseless by the hype around the pompous author and chairman of Clicquot, Inc., Mireille Guiliano, and her much talked about book, "French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure." (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) If you haven't, read Elaine Sciolino's write-up in the NY Times of the Madame and her book. Here is a little excerpt from the article.
Self-deception and sensuality are the secrets of how to eat well and stay slim,
according to Ms. Guiliano's bonbon of a book. In her world, Frenchwomen
instinctively understand the centrality of food as a tool of seduction. And
seduction, she writes, "figures prominently in the Frenchwoman's sense of

To that end, Frenchwomen eat small portions. They eat whatever
they want - even chocolate - but certainly not every day. They use ultrafresh
ingredients and avoid processed foods. They drink a lot of water, but never take
wine without food.

Frenchwomen are never too busy to go food shopping several times a week or to make their own yogurt from scratch. They are never too cash-strapped to buy farm-fresh items from open-air markets. They never eat in front of the television or standing up. They eat slowly, savor every bite and make dining a ritual - using all five senses and enjoying multicourse meals on separate plates.
Parenthood is no excuse for inaction. "People say they are busy with three young kids," said Ms. Guiliano, who does not have children. "Well, there are choices to be made. Maybe you can't watch your reality show for 20 minutes."
When questioned, she confesses that Frenchwomen with bad eating habits and excess adipose do exist. "There are plenty of Frenchwomen who are fat," she acknowledges. "But all of my friends are like me."
But there is a steely discipline behind her pleasure-loving approach. One of the main goals of staying slim is to remain appealing to men, and that is hard work. No matter that decades of feminism have taught women to think and act for themselves.
Uh, right. In my past as a parisienne, I've known enough French women whose ideas on food, weight and self-esteem were a sad combination of neurosis, depression and anxiety. And I knew many French girls who loved McDo as much as any red-blodded American girl. It's less than heartening to see that such hackneyed derivative on stereotypes can actually get a book published and become a cause celebre. Of course, worse is the effort to subject the pleasure of food to the degradation of appealing to men, which is something that our sexist society can't get enough of.

And, of course, the fact that someone like her is able to have a book deal and parade on numerous communications outlets says more about American fascination and fetishization of France -- its women, its feline seductive women! -- than anything about the writer or her book, I'd say.

The writer's mission in life, these day, is to exhort the slimming benefits of a leek purge called "Magical Leek Soup." Whatever. If I want to flush out my system, I'd rather do it with water and lemon. I do like leeks, however, and at the risk of sounding cute, I have to confess that Leek & Potato Soup was a staple in my diet when I lived in France. It was cheap, easy and went well with cheap but good bread. I hadn't thought of making it for a long time but the book's hype brought back memories of eating it.

So tonight, I made this soup. This is what I ended up eating by myself since M is off at his monthly fly-fishing club meeting this evening. He can partake in my leek-y meal when he returns.

Leek & Potato Soup
2 Tbs. butter
3 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced. (I had about 200g)
2 medium size potatoes, cubed. (I'd use equal volume as leeks. I used about 400g)
1 c. chicken or vegetable broth (I usually use bouillon)
1 c. milk (or water if don't like milk)
water as needed
salt & pepper as needed
parsley or chive, chopped, optional

Melt the butter and saute the leeks until soft. Stir in potatoes and broth/water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If you are adding milk, do so at the end after the potatoes are soft. Add water if the soup is too thick. Add salt or pepper to taste. If you use broth, you probably don't need any salt as the broth itself contains enough sodium. Sprinkle chopped parsley or chive if desired.
Great soup to eat in cold weather. Some eat this cold, but I've always had it hot and I like it that way.


Anonymous said...

French women do get plump. I have seen this in old French films, those women in the background were thin to pplump. Perhaps French women do get overweight. It is true they don't have the amount of over eaters there as they do here. However, my American grandmothers and other older folks in the US who are in their 80's-90's lived a life very different from ours. They had freshed food, less chemicals and fat in their diest, less credit cards,less clothes, less, less. We live in a society that says to over stuff our living rooms with bloated couches,debt is the norm, everyone has it,from McMansions to McDonald's, it's all accepted and a rule even! This book is a reminder to think differently, consider a better way of life.

Anonymous said...

I am currently reading FWDGF. I have taken to heart her idea of loving AND eating good food. About 6 years ago I stopped eating Mc DO and lost 22 lbs. Over the last 6 years though I had replaced fast food with junkie other foods like mac n cheese and white pasta white bread. just food that was fast. I put the 22 + back on. Now, I have been reading this book, and have lost 5 lbs. I like the leek soup. I also have shrunk my portions and eat more often. I dont settle for something that will just fill me up. I choose super yummy stuff like cheese and crackers, great salads with gorgonzola or goat cheese, and yes I have champers when ever I feel. I just dont hog out like I used to. I slow down and ENJOY it. I used to eat like I was in a race. Now I just slow down and enjoy. I dont take everything she says to heart. I am proud to be American and I have never been to France. I think her advice is good, if you are going to eat, make it the best you can. you are what you eat.