Manger (and that other thing too).

Five degrees colder and this would be snow.
I planned to write a post about the cookbooks I bought here… I even took cute pictures. I seriously can’t wait to show you how good they look!

But then I thought… hey, I might buy some more. And write a post about them all. Ohhh yes. So, expect a very long post about french cookbooks… which will be freaking awesome for me, and something you’ll just skip.

Instead, I’ll tell you something about the different conception about food, starting with the Manger Bouger program. I’m not going to describe it to you in detail, just share my opinion… but you can read about it here.

I’ve done some talking about food with people I met here (did you doubt that?), but I couldn’t quite define what kind of eating culture the French have. A remark I’ve made (and with me lots of other foreign students) is: how do the French have so many awesome, rich, buttery foods everywhere and stay thin? It’s just a matter of observation: everywhere I look I see bakery windows filled with the most amazing sweets and breads (bread here is so soft!); and everywhere I look I see (very) thin girls – or straight anorexy.

Eat – move – (but not at the same time) (source)

When I mentioned this to J. (I do language tandem with her, remember?), she gave me a very confused look. She’s lived in Rome for six months and she said she thinks obesity is a greater problem in France than it is in Italy. Then it was my turn to look at her in disbelief… but guess what? She’s right (here‘s a graph and some info). It’s still not that big of a difference, but there’s some.
Even so, she admitted two interesting facts: 1. she gained weight (a considerable amount, she said) while in Italy, because she was always eating pasta and pizza. 2. anorexy is a huge problem in France.

source

I considered one more fact: I couldn’t find any “healthy/lean cuisine/light cooking” magazine in France, or any  openly suggesting organic ingredients. In Italy, I buy Cucina naturale every.single.month. and I’m always excited, because it’s right that: healthy cooking, organic ingredients, natural, wholesome meals, and everything always turns delicious (plus, they must have some pretty damn talented photographers). I couldn’t find anything like that, but I noticed something else: every single magazine I’ve bought in France (and believe me, I’ve bought quite a few) had at least one article about healthy life and cooking, organic produce, low-fat natural options, and so on. And the recipes… well, sometimes in Italy I will drool over a recipe muffin and then realize it calls for more than 100 grams of butter. That will not do. It’s not like that here.

Health comes with eating and moving (source)

Recipes look “healthish” on a general side. It’s like the French think “healthy” and “natural” are a common part of their cooking, not something special. I really like that.

Sure, there are still the flaky, buttery croissants, the McDo and the obesity percentage. But. Flaky, buttery croissants will not make you obese if eaten in moderation. They will, on the other side, be a very appreciated splurge in between a portion of vegetables and the next one. McDonalds are actually a plague here too – but I’ve never seen a single child there, which is something. Plus, here is where Manger bouger comes into play: all ads around town, even when they show a bacon sandwhich or cheese-covered pizza, have a note by the program that says “Remember to eat five portions of veggies and fruit per day” “Try not to eat in between meals” “Phisical activity is part of a balanced life”. I know there is stuff like that in Italy too, but it’s left to single cities and very weak anyway – here, it’s everywhere and on national scale.
Balance in your plate (source)

The obesity rates… I can’t explain those. But my impression remains: France is a (slightly) healthier country, and does it in a natural way. It makes me sad to think that countries like France or Italy, who have such a long history of good food (and portion control, if compared to some other places, believe it or not), are quickly turning to fast foods and chemical frozen meals… while the US, for instance, look at us for good examples.
Maybe these insightful, virtuous thoughts are only crossing my mind because I got in, like, 10 portions of veggies/fruits today, and spent 40 minutes on my bike and 35 jogging… but hey, no one’s going to stop me from eating an éclair for breakfast tomorrow, and still feel like I’m leading a pretty healthy life. Manger, bouger.

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