One step in the Parisian street could lead to an American road. Rummaging among yummy shelves of lovely ‘Librairie Gourmande‘, I had the chance to dig the vintage book the French Paradox by Lewis Perdue. Digging is not sweet but the book came out 20 years ago and was one step to low-fat American lifestyle.
In the aftermath of popular CBS talk show ’60 minutes’ report, in November 1991, the French exceptional healthy diet appeared as one clue of this back to the future feeding. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to sum up this book in which doctors are teachers and Gauls still smoke French Gauloise cigarettes; it introduces the notion of enjoyable eating, not excessive quantities, and rehabilitation of wine in a country still scared of Prohibition. Sort of lost Wonderland by Lewis.
Well, for that matter, I asked the best home cook ever, my mother, to read this book and to give some clever genuine feedback. The personal chef kept giggling during her task and even yawned sometimes. How come? ‘I haven’t learnt anything because that’s the kind of thing I do in my kitchen every day’, and my mother who learnt cooking fresh products from the garden with her grand mother added: ‘after all, I’m definitely not the target’.
Aware of the American audience, she’d visited the US and tasted everything but ‘our cuisine is tastier, healthier, that’s why I’m not surprised at all, French food is envied by lots of country and I’m proud of that‘. Despite the chauvinistic comment, she calmed herself down admitting real positive points of this book. It is said that Mediterranean food emphasises on the wine,
garlic, onion, olive oil and goose fat. ‘Goose fat? I bought a glass can one day but I never used it since I do not know what to do with it‘.
A cooking leak for the one who loves eating and sharing her awesome farcis, pissaladière or fassum dishes with friends and family. ‘It is said that we take time eating and enjoying it, you make eating because you love it and you cook to please my guests with salmon cake, cream puffs I learnt in Cuisine et vins de France magazine with bright colours‘. Is plate presentation so important? ‘Everything starts with the look‘. Concerning various seasonal vegetables, it seems that we eat more fresh ones than American, brown them in frying pan with sunflower or ground-nut oil, for Ratatouille, not only olive oil. ‘Oh yes you can have sauté with it and it’s much better than butter but more expensive! Olive oil is such a blessing for local food with its worldwide aura, it is so curative than it might be a tasty basis for homeopathic remedies‘. The new trend of restaurants is to put oil with bread in order to make customers wait for their dishes and it’s very good for Provencal radiation and a great starter for a gastronomic moment.
‘Oh bread, I especially love it with butter. Oh, I know it’s bad for the figure but who cares? I love fruits but also desserts – I’m so greedy. For a slim figure, no need for bread, alcohol, sugar or Red meat and I’m not so into it. I would prefer beef rib, foie gras, roasted pigeon with peas, rum baba and basil pastas, oh no i can’t, I can’t help garlic. This is such a burden I love it but my stomach does not. This minute of silence hides the bereavement of a key ingredient of French cuisine. I miss garlic and shallot so much… It can spice up everything : tomato, French beans,… and aïoli… How can I do without it?‘ Basil, parsley, mustard? As bad as garlic! Stomach aches vs social dinners, that’s her main dilemma. In this local cuisine deeply influenced by Italian food, lunch orders can become nightmares, removing salad, tomato sauce, … full of garlic… And speaking about something wholly French, cheese is the brightest star. Heavier than milk, it’s the perfect match with bread and is multiplied in a large amount and variety as the book underlines. ‘From Gruyère to Camembert or Roquefort, we have all kind of cheese, and might find the solution to milk allergy thanks to goat or ewe cheeses‘. Over the years, French are still the biggest consumers of cheese, but American and English are relegated to the lowest position. And what about wine, main topic of the book? Lewis Perdue was really into this oenologist stuff but ‘all the pages about wine were deadly dull, for the few of litres I tend to drink… The best is the Red wine but I love White Sauterne wine and the late harvests which are sweet, heavy, well everything but healthy‘. In a nutshell, this French food for dummies tried to escape the Lost generation of American far from junk food with a big sales of Red wine in the US and few reactions in France, except for the Chambre d’agriculture des Bouches du Rhône.
And so? Lewis Perdue penned that when the French would start feeding like the American, they would be about to die like them, more and more from cardiovasculaire diseases. If French lifestyle came into American food, US feeding is becoming more and more popular into the hexagonal. May the sentence by the searcher not be a prophecy…