Sunday, July 15, 2012

The French and the Joy of Food

Despite the steely resolutions of Druckerman's friends, who all lose their baby weight within three months of giving birth, the French enjoyment of food comes across in the book. French parents want their children to appreciate the different flavors of fruits and vegetables. They encourage the children to revel in the different tastes and textures of food. On weekends, they spend time teaching their children how to bake, and the process of making the cake is treated as equally enjoyable as eating it.

Druckerman's female friends keep their weight down by not eating bread during the week. Their snack is a cup of black coffee (I'm sure unsweetened). Yet they allow themselves to eat what they want, in moderate amounts, on the weekend. This prevents them from feeling overly constrained in their diet, and they don't have the urge to binge eat.

Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, first published in 1989, started a trend of travel writing/memoirs (especially about France). I personally like the first sequel, Toujours Provence, as much as the first book. What sets these two books apart from other travel memoirs is Mayle's vividly written, genuine enjoyment of long French lunches, house wines, fresh produce, olive oil, cheese, the melons from his own backyard trees, and bread that is matched to the meal. When I read his books, I don't get the urge to go to France - I get the urge to visit my local produce store and bakery.

There is a description in Toujours Provence when he visits the Les Halles market in Avignon, gets really hungry after looking at the produce and other foods on sale, and desperately wants to chow down on a sausage sandwich and a litre of wine. However, since it's early in the morning and he hasn't done any genuine physical work, he cannot justify this breakfast, and just gets coffee. Whenever I read that passage, I get hungry and make coffee. It also comes to mind whenever I visit an NYC farmer's market. Unlike some other travel writers, he seems to focus more on his personal experiences rather than on shopping or accumulating possessions.

Mayle mentions in one book that he and his wife have lost weight since they came to Provence. He credits their fresh, unprocessed food, use of olive oil instead of butter, and the fact that they walk constantly for helping them keep their weight down. They've learned to focus on the experience of eating, to really taste their food and savor the textures of what they eat. As a result, they do not overeat, and keep their weight down. He predates French Women Don't Get Fat by twenty years.

I've noticed over the past two weeks that this blog is getting an increased number of hits from viewers in France. I know that Peter Mayle was viewed as writing about France in a condescending manner when his books first came out. All I can say is that as a New Yorker, I've had to deal over the years with literally hundreds of  tourists while at work, commuting, or merely roaming the streets. Tourists can be annoying (I stay OUT of Times Square because it is impossible to walk). However, I've also been a tourist myself in other countries. I do my best to direct tourists, offer them safety tips, and cheerfully walk around them. Although they drive up real estate prices, they also fuel the NYC economy. I suspect that Peter Mayle gave a boost to that of France back in the 1990's because he made Provence so appealing.

Happy belated Bastille Day!


Good Food said...

Unprocessed food may be a reason to lose weight not sure but olive oil instead of butter a good way to lose weight..

brooklyn bakery said...

Baking at home with the kids is certainly a great way to get them involved in cooking and test their creativity. Not to mention, a fun activity for a family to bond and share special moments together.