The Art of Eating and Going to the Palengke

Diet books are the subjects of my masterful abhorrence. To my mind, I don't need to know the calorie of each spoonful of rice I put into my mouth, to the number of hours I will need to burn them off running or doing core exercises. Dieting {in slang} provides displeasure in eating and much as I am not a big eater, I don't like feeling guilty while doing so.

I had the same iffy dislike upon the initial idea of reading Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat. It is for the same reason that I took to reading her other book,

Women, Work and The Art of Savoire Faire and French Women For All Seasons because I didn't think I needed to go on a monitored diet and two, I had no desire for lounging in the kitchen to cook.

The book had been by my bedside for a good number of months and one day, when I was in need of a remote topic to read about, I picked it up, readied my glass of Shiraz by my bedside and started to devour Guiliano's delightful, delicious words about the French way of eating and yes, going to the marche , or our local version of palengke.

Stylish, convincing, wise, funny, and just in time: the ultimate non-diet book, which could radically change the way you think and live – now with more recipes.French women don’t get fat, even though they enjoy bread and pastry, wine, and regular three-course meals. Unlocking the simple secrets of this “French paradox” – how they enjoy food while staying slim and healthy – Mireille Guiliano gives us a charming, inspiring take on health and eating for our times.For anyone who has slipped out of her Zone, missed the flight to South Beach, or accidentally let a carb pass her lips, here is a positive way to stay trim, a culture’s most precious secrets recast for the twenty-first century. A life of wine, bread – even chocolate – without girth or guilt? Pourquoi pas?

It was laughably funny how it came to Mireille that she had to go on a diet --- she had been in the US for one year and she gained a significant amount of weight, making her father call her rather "a sack of potatoes," a bit which had me laughing a good one minute.

In true Guiliano fashion, FWDGF was a testament to how the French have invented fine dining. While I already knew that the underlying theme in every French household is that of the quality of life and living,

I was deliciously surprised at how seriously the French took their eating. During a wine class I attended, I discovered that the art of winemaking was not solely reliant on the yeast --- it was the


or the land quality that made wine what it is now.

What I loved the most about this little book of French goodness is that it is NOT a drop-all-rice-and-sugar kind of diet book, if it is at all a diet book in the first place. What it reverberates all throughout is that why the French women don't get fat is because they think well of what they put into their mouths. The book illustrates why no self-respecting French woman likes fast food {as opposed to American cuisine}, how they are picky when it comes to peppercorns {an astonishing dozen types of it all!}, why their pepper must be fresh and why they choose sea salt over regular table salt.

One of my favorite French women,  Garance Dore, photo taken by her love, Scott Schuman.

Oh how I adore them both!

In the book, Guiliano mentiones numerous times French women favorites such as yogurt {plain and not the grocery kind}, lemon {on every glass of water}, the miracle leek soup, all kinds of herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary and turmeric among others, wine,

huile d'olive

on warm breads and different types of cheeses, something I've only come to appreciate recently.

Variety and being non-adventurous with food

, Guiliano says, is another misleader. When we eat the same food over and over again, our taste buds get used to the taste that we end up consuming more to achieve the same pleasure we derive from the first time we eat something.

In bullets, French women stay slim and fit due to the following reasons:

1. French women eat smaller portions of more things (each meal averages 3 courses).
2. French women eat more vegetables.
3. French women love chocolate, especially dark chocolate
4. French women honor mealtime rituals and never eat standing up, on the run, or in front of the T.V.
5. French women eat what's in season for maximum flavor, and know availability does not equal quality.
6. French women don't care for hard liquor.
7. French women walk wherever they can.
8. French women drink water all day long.
9. French women don't eat anything "fat-free", "sugar-free" or anything stripped of natural flavor. They go for the real thing IN MODERATION.
10. French women choose their indulgences and compensations.


, or knowing when a fruit or vegetable's best time is something a French woman harbors. When I read about the different types of potatoes, one for fries, one for mashing and a hundred other for other ways of cooking. When Mireille mentioned the French charlottes, or French potato fingerlings used for adorning and lathering up caviar, I had suddenly developed a mad hankering to go to

Marche Saint Germain

and shop for them all day.

Eat slowly and stop when you're full

. Being a former American colony and a slave to American rom coms, we Filipinas are slaves to eating in front of the TV {a single female's favorite activity}, eating on the run {I once had five minutes for lunch so I shoved everything I could in five minutes} and indulging even if we're full because a certain hotel is having a buffet promo. It took me three French books to finally stop doing all those and stop to eat at a proper table with all the proper settings, chewing slowly and ending each meal with a glass of


Two years ago, I've stopped eating the moment I feel I full which meant I sometimes don't finish what's on my plate {if serving is not my choice} or I put very little to my plate so I can just refill if I want to and not have too much to begin with.

Do not be afraid to walk

. I always think of myself as a former Parisienne in my past life but I always challenge this train of thought at the idea of walking. In Manila heat, I find myself disliking having to walk and having to bump into men who take their pleasure in looking at you {why we stare so much, I also have no idea}, the fact that you are going to get sick from pollution if you are not careful or find yourself inside a manhole if you're unlucky. But since moving to Bonifacio Global City, a walk-friendly city, I've been more exploratory with walking and well, a new pair of cute flats helped too.

Another French woman I've read cover to cover: Ines de la Fressange.

Natural and Unprocessed Food

. The thing with women who can cook is that they are always searching far and wide for the most natural yet flavorful food out there. And French women? They obviously know their way with food. The most natural food of course, is least fattening.

Is it worth the read?

Absolutely. Then  again, you are looking at a devout Francophile so I may be a little biased here. As I discovered, Marie Claire made a little experiment where the American editor and French editor swapped lives for 30 days --- and diets. Needless to say, the American editor lost 25 lbs. and the French editor, poor girl, gained 15 lbs. That alone speaks for the lives they had in contrast.

As for practicality and application at least to where we live, Manila, it would definitely be A LOT more expensive to indulge in fresh, farm-picked goods and much affordable to buy processed food so that's a downer. Personally, that's a philosophy,

we always get what we pay for.

If at least, we will be reminded to choose the better, lesser evils whenever we can, all the more if we can afford it.Another issue is the difficulty of finding as much variety as the French have --- I honestly have no idea what our


has now, I haven't set foot one in a decade or more. I would assume though that it is not the most pleasurable experience and is hardly like the French


Guiliano detailed in her book so we must approach that possibility with caution and need I say --- lower expectations. Another option would be to chance upon finds at the Salcedo/Legaspi Markets or settle for grocery finds but like I said, I haven't set foot in a market in a long time so I am no expert when it comes to that.

I can say some more but that would be like writing the book in this blog {ha ha} so I am encouraging you to pick up a copy if you are a fan of such light, delightful, delicious writing that makes you want to don an apron and


clothes right after with a glass of Bordeaux in hand.

French Women Don't Get Fat

is available at Fully Booked, Powerbooks and National Bookstore.