Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If You Can Get It for Free, the Recipes are Pretty Good...

I did read another book between The Concrete Blonde and this one - Lottery by Patricia Wood - but my book club is discussing that book at our November meeting and I don't want to spoil my contributions to the discussion because I know some of my club-mates read my blog. I'll review it after our November meeting :)

So, my curiosity was peaked about this book, French Women Don't Get Fat, a long time ago when I actually still watched The Today Show and I saw Katie Couric interview the author. I thought, That's a good point. French women really do eat bread and cheese and chocolate and drink lots of wine, but they are almost all thin and well-dressed and adorable. I finally scored a copy on BookMooch and then it languished in my to-read pile for months before I was finally in the mood to pick it up and read it.

Mireille Guiliano, the author, claims that she learned the science behind what most French women do naturally because she gained a significant amount of weight in her youth as a result of studying abroad in America and eating lots of processed food there, then coming home and going to university in France and eating lots of pastry. Her mother sent their family doctor to visit her and he kindly helped her remember the way to be a slender French woman. See, she's trying to identify with her primarily American audience by saying, "I know, I understand, I've been there - America made me fat too; it's not your fault but I can teach you better!"

Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to realize how condescending this is. And that pretty much sums up my feelings about the book. She doesn't say anything revolutionary. Apart from the recommendation for a cleansing weekend of eating nothing but Magical Leek Soup (her words, not mine) to kick-off your reconditioning, and her weird pushiness to eat yogurt all the time, this book largely gives average, common sense advice. Eat a balanced diet. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat bread and sweets and drink alcohol in moderation. Eat more fresh and fewer processed foods. Get your body moving regularly. Half the time I was rolling my eyes saying, "DUH. I know that already." And the other half of the time I was bristling from the condescension inherit in her stories. She tells these stories about American women she knew and befriended and taught these "French" secrets, and how they had miraculous weight loss and became happy and fulfilled! Hooray! The French have all the answers! Seriously, I know a number of French people who I like very much, who are good, kind, sweet, normal people. This lady, however, comes off as your stereotypical self-righteous Parisienne snob.

The redeeming part of the book is the recipes. She gives lots and lots of recipes. Most of them are pretty easy, and every one that I've tried so far is delicious. I have started making a version of her Baby Blueberry Smoothie for breakfast some mornings, and I love it. I've dog-eared about 25 recipes in the book that I want to try. So I say that if you stumble across this in the bargain bin and are interested in easy authentic French recipes, pick it up. If you get it for free, it's worth it for one or two recipes alone. Just don't read the rest of the book - it's not worth it. Flip straight to the recipes and enjoy those without subjecting yourself to the condescending attitude.

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