Americans loved learning to stay slim by eating for pleasure in your international bestseller, French Women Don’t Get Fat. What is French Women For All Seasons about?
MG: French Women for All Seasons is about the art of living well. And, of course, it is filled with stories and tips from my personal experience. A secret to enjoying life and discovering pleasure is cultivating a life of ongoing experimentation, exploration, enjoyment, and self-discovery. Whether it is living through a season or life, my principle is the same: embrace the seasons and seasonality and make savoring life a more intense experience. The challenge for people is their lifestyle. Many people go through life on autopilot, paying little attention to their senses. They have a lifestyle of inertia and want a quick fix. Readers of my first book understood that changing a lifestyle is not measured week to week, but year to year. It requires effort and attention, yes, but the benefit is a more sensuous life, and a more fulfilling one. You learn to know yourself, develop a positive emotional outlook, and enjoy more of every aspect of life.
French Women Don’t Get Fat enabled millions of readers to enjoy a healthier relationship with food. My aim with French Women for All Seasons is to enable readers to enjoy a healthier relationship with life!
You offer many tips for entertaining à la Française. What is best to remember when seeking to create welcoming and memorable occasions?
MG: I always start with a glass of Champagne. It makes things festive; it behaves almost like a magic potent. So, start with some sort of mood enhancer. Music can set a tone. That said, entertaining is about giving to people and sharing with them. Conversation makes entertaining memorable. So, work at stimulating conversation through questions or good pairings of guests. For the meal, you don’t have to exhaust yourself making multiple courses. In France, entertaining is more casual; it’s really all about conviviality, about relaxing, sharing and laughing together. My friends invite me for dinner and brush off my protests that they have to work in the morning. They are very clear that they are not planning a five-course meal, and they also are not going to buy a bag of potato chips and order a pizza, either. They can prepare one dish that can be served with a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and some cheese. It’s not too difficult for them, and it is fun because really, entertaining is foremost about getting together. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think if Americans can learn to be comfortable with being more spur of the moment; they will enjoy it more.
With all your restaurant meals, menu testing, and entertaining, how do you avoid over-eating and getting fat?
MG: I have a number of tricks that I write about in both books. One I describe in French Women for All Seasons I call the “50 Percent Solution.” It’s a mental approach to appreciating how much you really want or really need. Would you be satisfied with just half, for instance, of a big dessert or a main course? Chances are you will be satisfied with less than a huge portion. We gain our greatest pleasure and appreciation for what we eat (and drink) in the first few tastes, and thereafter many of us just switch into autopilot. You can keep the pleasure and save a lot of fat simply by knowing and enjoying what you are putting into your body. By eating fresh food in season, which is more satisfying than out-of-season, shipped and stored produce, you generally satisfy yourself fully with smaller portions. I practice the “50 Percent Solution” in lots of ways, sometimes as a protection—you know, if you don’t have a full bottle of wine uncorked on the table, you can’t drink it. Well, for a glass or two of wine with dinner (no more), my husband and I open a bottle and immediately pour off 50 percent into a half bottle, cork it, and set it aside for another night. Voilà. Then we enjoy our glass or two, which is all we wanted or is good for us in the first place.
French women are known for their fashion sense. What are the must-haves in a French woman’s wardrobe?
MG: The little black dress is number one. It really is an essential and amazing piece of clothing, because you can accessorize to make it perfect for various events--some bold, some conservative. In the office, you can wear a blazer or jacket over it, then easily slip the jacket off for evening cocktails. You can dress it with a beautiful scarf, of course, so I would say the little black dress is first, then scarves, a pearl necklace, a nice classic suit—whether it’s a skirt and jacket or pants and jacket—a nice blouse, and a cashmere sweater. To me, those are the essentials, foundation tools upon which to build your distinctive identity with a little of this or that.
Does Champagne make you slim?
MG: Wouldn't that be wonderful. It seems everyone would like a silver bullet; the magic potion that will melt away pounds. Champagne is a kind wine made from mostly red grapes and is relatively low in histamines and offers some health benefits, but it certainly contains calories, although less than white or red wine. What is distinctive about Champagne is that it is sipped in moderation. It is full-flavored, with bubbly charm and is almost a state of mind. A glass or two -- say, 3 ounces, 5 ounces, or even 8 ounces total -- makes for a full and pleasurable experience. I don't run into people guzzling Champagne like beer or soda. And I don't run into people sipping Champagne unaccompanied by some food, such as hors d'oeuvres or a meal.
So, the direct answer to your question is that while Champagne doesn't make me slim, it gives me pleasure and perhaps keeps me away from some high calorie, liquid overindulgences that would make me fat.
France is well known for its great cuisine. Why do French women not become fat?
MG: That's the question I have been asked for decades, and it took me an entire book to answer, so I cannot give a short answer. In fact, I wrote this book to be read from cover to cover and not thumbed for quick solutions. I can say I tried to offer some of the French cultures most cherished and time-honored secrets, recast for the twenty-first century. What French women do is not about guilt or deprivation but about getting the most from the things they most enjoy. They have their everyday tricks, like fooling themselves into contentment and painless new physical exertions to save exercising. They embrace the virtues of freshness, variety, small portions, balance, and always pleasure.