Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Monday 7 March 2011

The French don't get fat? - Part 2: France

OK, I'm not quite on to the pro advice yet. Still writing up the amateur details. I might need some help compiling today's cultural eating list since it's more about what I've been told than what I know. In France, as one might expect, there are many traditions surrounding food: There are times to eat it, ways to eat it, things that the French eat a ton of and things they don't eat at all.

Last week, I wrote about how I think Canadians eat, as part of my little research project into mixing French and Canadian diets. Again, I'm not talking about smothering croissants in peanut butter or adding maple syrup to lapin à la moutarde -- or about losing weight. I'd just like to know how an expat, who's now permanently in France, should eat to take advantage of these two culinary traditions, in terms of both indulgence and health.

So... here's the French list (based on what I've seen or been told):

-dip your breakfast food (bread, croissant) in your coffee
-coffee is most often taken without milk or cream
-croissants are only for breakfast, no other time of the day
-bread comes with every meal
-chew your bread fully so your saliva has a chance to break it down
-pasta should be cooked al dente; it's less of a carb that way
-meals are eaten at specific times: breakfast is first thing in the morning, lunch runs from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (but most French eat promptly at noon), and dinner begins at 7 p.m. to 7:30 (if not later)
-wine is often served at dinner
-before the wine comes, you can drink something different for l'apéritif, such as beer, Pastis or a sweet wine (this is at l'heure de l'apéro)
-after dinner, you can move from wine to a digestif, another variety of alcohol.
-no snacking -- EVER, unless you count the little cookie that comes with your espresso
-a nap is allowed and sometimes even encouraged after lunch (une sieste)
-duck fat doesn't count as fat
-cheese and potatoes can be eaten freely in winter
-adding olive oil to anything simply makes it better for you
-peanut butter makes you fat
-not letting your stomach rest between meals makes you fat (doesn't let your metabolism settle)
-pizza crusts should always be thin
-carbohydrates aren't bad and should come with every meal
-French fries are delicious with seafood (occasionally drowned in the sauce that comes with mussels)
-eat slowly to give your stomach time to decide if it's still hungry
-dessert is fine to eat
-salad comes after the meal, either before or after or at the same time as the bread and cheese
-drink water with your meal (along with the wine)
-green tea helps you lose weight
-meat that isn't necessarily easily identified, but presented in the form of saucisson, is good -- almost snack-worthy, if the French had snacks
-Mayo isn't just something you spread on two pieces of bread and eat with some lunch meat. It is an essential side to many meals, and makes fries taste oh so much better. (Sarah from Ottawa, Canada)
-vegetarians don't make any sense (Nell, from Scotland and Canada, and I agree that it's hard to be a vegetarian here. At least I eat fish and chicken now.)

30 minutes a day -- number of days per week not specified

What am I missing?

WEDNESDAY: Some strange photos and videos from Nice's Carnaval -- at night.
MONDAY: Getting some eating advice from the pros.


  1. Mayo isn't just something you spread on two pieces of bread and eat with some lunch meat. It is an essential side to many meals, and makes fries taste oh so much better.
    -Sarah, Ottawa

  2. I am definitely not a Canadian...why are carbs am I supposed to skate or bike to work in the morning with no energy?!
    Ah yes the French vegetarian...the only time I have actually gone hungry, school exchange in rural France I ate green beans and tomatoes for 3 1/2 weeks....never eaten a green bean since..tomatoes I still love!
    Nell, Scotland and Canada

  3. So funny about your first one - dipping breakfast food in coffee. I first saw that when I was travelling in Rome, and at the time I had no idea why the people were doing it. I found it very weird. And yes, coffee with no cream and milk, that's real coffee I suppose?! I can never drink my coffee like that!

    I'm like you - I'm not really into bread, so I rarely touch the bread served with my meals when I was travelling in France.

    So you can find no potato chips over there?

    Oh also, what's that between sparking v. non-sparking water? I don't drink sparking water. One time when I was in Europe somewhere I bought a few bottles of water from a supermarket not knowing the difference (or I couldn't read the language on the labels). All the gas came out when I twisted the cap!!!


  4. Carmen: Actually, I found potato chips yesterday. Research. It's research.

  5. I must make a correction. I'm not the one who found the potato chips. But I'm definitely the one who took advantage of them today.