Food Friday: The French Paradox

When I returned home from my trip to Paris, I was delighted to discover that in two weeks of rich eating, I had only gained about six pounds.  This might shock other people, but I put on weight quite easily and I had not attempted to control my eating habits during my stay: bread, wine, cheese and desserts were all literally on the table. Additionally, much of the gain was (likely) water weight as I’ve already dropped four of those pounds in the few days since returning to my normal eating habits.

So how is this possible? How could I have eaten croissants, pain au chocolate,  macarons, pastries, cheese, baguettes, multi-course meals and wine and gain only about two pounds net?

I have some theories:

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Paris Trip Wrap-Up

I’m back!

The trip was wonderful as is always the case when I’m in Paris.  This time around we:

  • climbed the Eiffel tower (underwhelming, but I’ve wanted to check it off my bucket list for some time)
  • visited Sacre Couer (another bucket-list item — lovely but lots of aggressive trinket vendors)
  • visited the Saint Ouen Flea Market (where I found a lovely vintage Limoges gravy boat for 25 euros and a bunch of inexpensive frilly lingerie)
  • had dinner with some French friends (had to pull ourselves away at midnight so we wouldn’t miss the metro!)
  • visited a whiskey bar (Golden Promise — exquisite!!)
  • and took a walking tour of Paris from the perspective of the Nazi Occupation and the Resistance (good concept, poorly executed: The Mister has already sketched out how he could do a much better version of the tour)

We also took a day to look around various arrondissements as potential living areas.  While it’s still early in the game — and ultimately, costs will be a major determining factor — we came to the conclusion that we did not like the Marais in the 3rd (too noisy) or the 11th (too sketchy) or the 16th (too high-end).  However, we both fell in love with the 15th.

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Classic Literature

A favorite website of mine is The Art of Manliness. Seems odd, but many of the classic “gentlemen” traits and concepts can be equally applied to refining oneself as a lady as well.  In any case, it’s nice to know that chivalry is not entirely dead.

Recently I noticed that on the site, AoM lists 100 books every man should read , many of which are books that I was assigned during middle and high school. I’ll be honest – for most of them I don’t even recall the plot lines, only the emotions they evoke (e.g. “Call of the Wild” = sad). But there are quite a few I’d always meant to read.

I’ve been wanting to up my intellectual game for a while, if only to allow me to become a more interesting conversationalist. I adore homemaking and my Pinterest projects, but there’s only so much fodder for discussion, particularly with The Mister or other non-homemakers. I read a lot, but mostly domestic and personal improvement self-help guides, which has the same drawbacks.  And while there are some bright spots in the pop culture medium (I’m looking at you, Westworld — kisses!! ), the vast majority tends to be both banal and addictive.

Thus, I’ve decided on my Great Book a Month project. Beginning immediately I am going to select a book from Art of Manliness’ list to read each month, and then post a review of it on the site.  First on the block? The Great Gatsby: always heard about it, never read it. And it sounds like it would be entertaining.  Look for the review to be posted next week!


Food Friday: Three Meals a Day

One of the big no-no’s in France is, apparently, snacking between meals. Nearly every Francophile book and blog mentions it, not the least being Mireille Guiliano’s  (in)famous diet tome French Women Don’t Get Fat.  Snacking between meals is both socially impolite and ruins your appetite for your mandatory 5-course lunch.  Another non-French book I’ve been reading lately, Bright Line Eating by Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, advises the same: eat three healthy but hearty meals and don’t snack between them.

In preparation for my trip, I’ve been attempting to do just that. I don’t know if I’m not eating enough at each meal (although my total calories for the day seem to indicate I am) or what, but I am hungry midway between breakfast and lunch, and again between lunch and dinner.  I’m so hungry it’s difficult to focus, and usually by late afternoon I am completely out of willpower and end up having a snack, followed by a large dinner, followed by dessert.  And surprise, my calories are way over what they should be.

How do these women do it?

I’ve tried ensuring I have plenty of fat, protein and fiber in each meal. I’ve tried drinking water and tea with and between meals. I’ve tried “appreciating my hunger” and “allowing my hunger to season my meal”… instead it just makes me inhale my next meal so I don’t even taste it.  Nothing works, I’m still hungry.

My next attempt is to bulk up the meals by adding in low-starch vegetables so there aren’t many more calories but the bulk fills my belly.  We’ll see if it helps tomorrow.

If not … any ideas?


Vintage vs French Chic: More Similar than Different

When I get interested in a subject, my default behavior is to dive into research mode.  I scour the internet, book stores, magazines, and experts in an effort to get the widest amount of information possible.  It was no different when I began “nesting” — i.e. getting interested in fashion, home decor, entertaining, etc.  Fortunately there’s been a bit of a resurgence in homemaking and decor in popular culture, providing me with plenty of fodder for my inquisitive mind.

One avenue, of course, was that of “French Chic”: chic clothing, chic homes, shabby chic, Provincial chic and so on. But equally popular I discovered was Vintage or Mid-Century chic: 1940s and 50’s clothing, home decor, even cooking and other domestic skills.

While I was equally enchanted by both aesthetics, I hadn’t thought about the similarities until one of the blogs I regularly visit — Modern Retro Woman — pointed it out:

…I was struck by the fact that what [Francophile] authors are writing about are the same things that Home Ec teachers were teaching in the mid-century (at least, the textbooks and advice books I have from that time period say the same things):

– Make mealtimes special
– Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
– Go for quality, not quantity
– Spend money wisely
– Always look your best
– Good grooming matters
– Create a capsule wardrobe instead of being a victim to fashion fads
– And so on and so forth…

I was blown away when I read that because she’s absolutely right! Mid-century housewives were encouraged to take pride in their femininity and personal appearance, believed that making one’s home into a sanctuary was worthwhile, and felt cooking attractive and nourishing food was (or could be) an art.

Now that my eyes have been opened to the parallels between French and Vintage chic, I am an equal enthusiast of both.  I’ve even begun collecting mid-century homemaking books to add to my library — they usually have at least a few useful tips, and if not, they’re usually hilariously chauvinistic which is good for a laugh.

If you’re curious and want to learn more about Vintage / Retro lifestyles, you can find several links on my sidebar.

Standard Vintage Disclaimer: Appreciating certain aspects of mid-century lifestyles such as fashion, homemaking and decor does not in any way condone less savory aspects such as racism, misogyny and other problems of that era (this should be obvious, but apparently vintage buffs get a LOT of pushback claiming they want to return women to chains in the kitchen… (sigh))

Review: French Toast

When I travel I try to be as inoffensive as possible in order to avoid the “Ugly American” stereotype. Not only does it feel more polite (and less stressful) to try to assimilate to the existing culture, but I figure if I am going to live there for a year, I need to start learning as much as possible as quickly as possible.

In pursuit of this goal, I recently picked up the book French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French by Harriet Welty Rochefort. I was hoping to pick up some cultural cues and hints, as well as background information, i.e. why do these cultural norms exist.

What I got instead was a big dose of terror.

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Food Friday: Healthy Travel Food

One of the most difficult parts of the actual traveling process — for me at least — is food. If I have not conscientiously plotted out exactly what I’m going to eat and when, I tend to devolve to food court pizza and whatever bland trans-fat laden treats are passed out by the airline.  This time, however, I want to be a little more proactive.  I figure I’m going to eat enough on my vacation, I don’t need to start it off with calorie-laden but mediocre garbage. My calories are going to be worth it, damnit.

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Two Weeks, Two Countries, 1 Bag

I loathe checking bags. It’s bad enough that it takes forever to get off the plane, but then you get to wander around until you find the baggage claim and wait even longer for the carrousel to start. And natch mine tends to be the last one out.  Ugh.  So as often as possible I try to fit everything into a carry-on bag and tote.

I’ve been perfecting this system for a couple of years now, and it’s helped along by the fact that I have also been using a capsule wardrobe.  Essentially I just stuff everything I own into the bag and I’m done.

Okay, it’s not quite that easy, but it can be done.  Click the link below to see photos of what I’m bringing on my trip to Paris & Malta, and get a free travel checklist to go along with it!

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Review: Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life

My interest in all things French got its start with Shannon Ables’ The Simple Sophisticate podcast. I’m always looking for new things to listen to while commuting or walking the dog, and I’d recently developed an interest in fashion and home decor.  The Simple Sophisticate’s emphasis on living simply while still feeling elegant struck a chord as I — like so many others — am always balancing budget with material desires.  Beginning with Episode 1, I proceeded to devour it. While not all the episodes were particularly interesting or relevant to me, the vast majority were entertaining, thought-provoking and filled with ideas to improve my life.

Learning there was a corresponding website, The Simply Luxurious Life, I commenced scouring it as well.  I was particularly drawn to her Francophile section with its integration of French je ne sais quoi into every day life, revolving around the idea that living well does not necessitate living expensively.

When Ables released a book, Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman’s Guide, of course I pre-ordered it immediately. I was not disappointed. While many of the same points and ideas are covered in her podcast and blog, the book condenses the same information into a cohesive and highly readable package.

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Food Friday: Shopping for One

It’s grocery shopping time!   I mentioned last week that I’ve developed a capsule menu for those times when The Mister is traveling and it’s just me at home. In addition to those dinners, I also have a stock breakfast (hot grain porridge, berries and yogurt or protein powder) and stock lunch (large salad with legumes or sardines).  I also often eat a snack or dessert of seasonal fruit and nuts during the day.  So, let’s go shopping!

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