French Women Don’t Get Fat 

263 pages; Black and white, No photographs or sketches.  Hardcover

Alfred A. Knopf, NY, NY 2005

Reviewed by Susan Allen for Good Cooking


The Review---


I have always thought the French lifestyle was the epitome of joie de vivre (joy of life). This was the highlight for me of the common sense new diet book by Mireille Guiliano titled French Women Don’t Get Fat, the Secret of Eating for Pleasure. Mireille tells a story of how she came to the United States as a high school exchange student and gained excessive weight. Upon her return to France, a Dr. Miracle taught her how to diagnose what caused her unwanted weight gain and then apply a common sense remedy to loose the excess weight. Mireille’s prescription is pragmatic. One keeps a food diary for three weeks, to ascertain the “offenders,” foods which you are eating in excess. Then eliminate entirely or reduce your consumption of the offenders. Also a part of the diet prescription is an increase in physical exercise, beginning with taking the stairs in stead of the elevator. She advocates cooking three regular meals a day, portion control, and increased water consumption. Mireille does not address some of today’s biggest food issues like carbohydrate consumption, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.

To “jump start” the diet and give one an immediate positive result of weight loss, Mireille proposes consuming only her Magical Leek Soup for the first weekend, from Saturday breakfast through Sunday lunch. This is made by simply boiling leeks for thirty minutes, without any other ingredients. The liquid is to be drunk every 2-3 hours. The plain cooked leeks are for hunger. The “soup” had the look of stagnant water and tasted no better. The plain leeks were tasteless. I lasted half a day before I pitched everything out. Herbs and salt would have been saved the “soup,” but that would have diluted the diuretic effect of the leeks.

Mireille’s approach to weight loss is not so much a diet as it is a guide for life. She places her emphasis on consumption of high quality food in moderation For those who have a few pounds to loose and want to refocus one’s life on the quality of daily living this book has some great insights. Mireille invites readers to seek out the foods they enjoy eating, no matter how rich or calorie laden, as long as they monitor portion control. She warns against fast foods and processed foods, though she doesn’t get weighed down in scientific argument. 

I tried many of the recipes. At the beginning, I must admit, I looked at the simplicity of the recipes and questioned how special they could be. I was happily surprised. The first recipe I tried, Grandma Louise’s Oatmeal with Grated Apple, was disarmingly simple, but superb. I have had oatmeal with cut up apples before, but I never thought of grating the apples. The lemon juice was a subtle enhancement to the grated apples and the maple syrup was the perfect complement. I recommend the following recipes for their interesting flavors: Grilled Lamb Chops, Cauliflower Gratin, and Grilled Chicken with Rosemary, Halibut en Papillote, Endives with Ham and especially the Tagliatell with Lemon. However, when the recipe calls for Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, realize that Mireille is not unbiased, she is Chief Executive Officer of the famed vintner. At 34 US dollars, Veuve Clicquot is a pricy cooking wine. I suggest substituting inexpensive California sparkling wines for the cooking and reserving the real thing for the chef and guests.

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary

Serves 4

1. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish skin-side up. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary sprigs and pour over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. (You can also do this in 5 minutes in the morning.) Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at least 2 hours in refrigerator.

2. Bring the chicken to room temperature pepper before grilling, skin-side up, for 15 minutes and then skin-side down for 20 minutes.

Ingredients

Juice of 1 lemon
4 chicken breasts with skin and bones
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cauliflower Gratin

Serve 4

1 medium-size head of cauliflower 
2 cups milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 egg 
1/2 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, Swiss, Jarlsberg, Comte, Parmesan, or Pecorino, or a mix of 2) 
1 tablespoon butter 
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Trim the cauliflower, separate the flowerets, and cook in the milk and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt until tender (10 to 15 minutes). Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the milk.

2.Arrange the cooked flowerets in a lightly buttered baking dish. Beat together the egg and reserved milk. Add the cheese and spread over the flowerets. Add salt and pepper. Dot with the butter.

3. Broil the gratin until browned and bubbly. Serve hot.

© '2005 by Good Cooking, Inc.