Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Saturday September 05, 2015

Carole's Cookbook Picks:
French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano

French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure


Warning: for those of you looking for a quick-fix for your weight-management woes, French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano is not the book for you. Its pages replace this short-lived attempt at weight loss with a lifestyle that is sustainable, allowing readers to practice the French mentality of treating themselves to small indulgences in moderation.

She founds her ideology on a style of living based on incorporating healthy, feasible habits into everyday practice. Nothing about her plan is extreme, instead, she emphasizes the small, everyday treats we allow ourselves to enjoy, attributing success to the inclusion of small amounts of bread, Champagne, and chocolate in our daily diets. She provides helpful weekly menus for each season so that your meals stay consistent with the produce that is at its freshest and most delicious. Don’t feel constrained by these guidelines though, because they are just that, general directions for how to create a healthy relationship with food. Guiliano suggests that you learn what you like and build from there, because the real key to eating like a French woman is acknowledging that maintaining a healthy weight comes from the continual development of our joie de vivre, and appreciating the balance between restraint and pleasure that brings more joy to every moment and to every taste.

For those of us who have tested and tried all forms of yo-yo diets only to lose six pounds one week and gain it all back in the days immediately following, allow Guiliano to start by making food suggestions for you. What diet book would provide a recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake, whose list of ingredients begins with equal amounts dark chocolate and unsalted butter (not to mention a cup of sugar to follow)? This is an example of Guiliano’s philosophy, where allowing ourselves to luxuriate in a small portion of a decadent dessert prevents us from giving into the temptation of a box of cookies later on.

The recipes are simple and straightforward, giving you plenty of options for weeknight cooking as well alternatives for more formal occasions. She provides a manageable Buttersquash Soup, with no more than six ingredients, but which she suggests dressing up with fresh parsley, grated nutmeg, and a dollop of crème fraîche if you’re expecting company.

French Women for All Seasons reads sometimes like an anthropological study of the differences between the French and American approaches to food, where the latter inhales entire meals in 10 minutes while the former has established the meal as a time for simultaneous reflection and celebration. Guiliano suggests that the difference arises not just in a focus on how our alimentation affects our culture, but the opposite. She extends her theories beyond food, noting that it takes recognizing pleasure in every aspect of our lives, in romance, our family, friends, and even the mysterious bloom of cherry blossoms in spring, to feel completely engaged each moment and entirely satisfied with every meal.