My slender French colleague Chloe narrows her eyes as she looks at the new book on my desk. “They should have called it French Women Don’t Get Fat in France,” she says. “I’ve gained 4 kilos since I moved to New York!” She has a point. New York is a land of beyond plenty, and even French sylphs can be tempted by the abundance of Italian restaurants, burger joints and bagel stores, not to mention the French pâtisseries that dot every neighborhood, enticing passersby with macarons and croissants oozing chocolate and sprinkled with almonds. You can buy a slice of pizza at 4 am, and if you’re too tired to cook when you get home from work, well, there’s always Chinese takeout. What’s an egg roll or four? But then again, it’s certainly hard to resist overeating on vacation in France, where one often feels just one coq au vin away from a popped button or two.
“The French paradox,” observes Michael Pollan, “is that they have better heart health than we do despite being a cheese-eating, wine-swilling, fois-gras-gobbling people. The American paradox is we are a people who worry unreasonably about dietary health yet have the worst diet in the world.”
Luckily, Mireille Guiliano, former president and CEO of Clicquot Inc., and the author of the phenomenally successful French Women Don’t Get Fat, is back, buoyed by the seemingly endless American appetite for diet advice, and for all things French. This time around, she presents American readers with the adorable, cheeky, and quite appealing The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, offering up inventive recipes beyond Weight Watchers’ wildest dreams, including Veal Scaloppine à la moutarde, Chocolate Mousse with Cardamom, and Spaghetti with Lime and Arugula. Guiliano extolls the values of fresh food, portion control, and the pleasure principle.
Her approach isn’t rocket science: the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet is based on a long and enlightened tradition of eating good, fresh food in moderate quantities. But Ms. Guiliano brings true French flair to the subject rather than the Spartan earnestness Americans are more likely to encounter, continually reminding her readers that le plaisir is key. Planning meals, reading recipes, shopping and cooking fresh produce can be as enjoyable as the meal itself. Guiliano’s Magical Leek Broth aside–a version of dieter’s Cabbage Soup that strikes a rare punitive note–this is a collection aimed at sybarites, not ascetics. And you’ll certainly be in a better mood after your lunch break when you’ve just dined on Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Red Snapper en Papillote, instead of Lean Cuisine pizza with Tasti D-Lite for dessert.
The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, Mireille Guiliano. Atria Books. Released April 27, 2010.