Wednesday, March 09, 2005

do French women really not get fat?

A few days ago on Chicago Tribune, there was a column on the latest diet fad "French Women Don't Get Fat," with extremely unreadable phonetic spellings imitating what seemed to be English with French accent. (I'd be happy to place a link to the article if the Tribune Company weren't that anal about subscription and archiving. From a week after an article's first publication, the article gets stored in their archive, where one has to pay to get in.) Anyway, the writer should have learned in school that phonetic spelling isn't a good way to engage her readers in what she writes, and that it requires skill to employ phonetic spelling effectively without turning readers off. Even after I read the article to the end, I didn't get what she meant at all. And I'm sure it was not because I'm bad at English.

As for the diet book, I can tell what its recomendations are, even though I haven't read it: eat a small amount of high-quality food. While I was in France this winter, with the exception of Strasbourg, all the restaurants served a pinky amount of food in American standard, but they were satisfying. One simply doesn't want more. The reason is simple: they were extremely tasty. The complexity and richness of taste compensate the amount. The ingredients (epecially produce and seafood) were nowhere near the rotting (oops, sorry) heap found in most American supermarkets, their treatment inventive and exquisite. Same is true with French pastries and cakes. Their chocolate cakes are so rich and full in taste that you actually CAN'T eat the amount you might eat of its pathetic American cousin. There, healthy diet isn't a stoic self-torture as it is in the U.S. It's a natural part of delightful life. No need to console oneself, saying "I'll be slim and gorgeous some day, so this meager amount of balnd food is not for nothing!" All that sounds impossible here, doesn't it?

When it comes to the validity of the bold statement that no French woman gets fat, it contains some seeds for doubt. When we entered the German-influenced part of France, namely Alsace, the percentage of large people skyrocketed. They aren't thin as stylish Parisians in tasteful clothings strolling Cartie Latin (in our imagination). They look... well, like Americans. We wondered at the sudden change of the people's body shape, whose mystery was instantly solved when we went into a restaurant for lunch. The food mainly consisted of a huge chunk of meat, either boiled or broiled, with a similarly huge heap of potatoes. Sounds familiar? Yeah, that's the way we eat here! No frivolous frills, just the plain blessings of the mother nature! Haha, you could put it that way, if you want. The causal relationship between the types of food French people in different regions consume and their body shapes was so clear that it was almost scary. There are lessons to be learned, folks, (including me). *As a little side note, I am obliged to add that Alsacian knackle ham, pot au fue, sausages and saurkraut, and crude ham were all very tasty, if not as exquisite as the food in the other parts of France. And they're such a perfect companion for a mug of beer! Uh-oh, now we understand why that's not the right kind of food...


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