Note from Joy: Today's guest post is from a Parisian girl, Emilie. I totally connect with this post because it's a very sensible way of approaching food and one that Walker and I wholeheartedly believe in. My favourite food rule is "stop what you're doing and eat together" as I talked about on a recent instagram! She shares with you some basic food rules that remind me of Michael Pollan's simple guidelines that we live by. Enjoy!
Ever since I was a little girl, food was always at the centre of my family’s life. Big news, great moments and sad moments were almost all shared around a table. Eating together is big in France and deeply established into the habits of French families.
But when talking about French cuisine, people think about heavy meaty dishes and sugary pastries: coq au vin, baguette, croissant etc. And never-ending 4-5 hour-long meals.
Here is the big secret: we never ever eat that way on a daily basis.
On the weekends we indulge in homemade pastries and decadent treats — but good quality. On the weekdays we follow a set of rules to maintain balance. I identify with these as healthy eating habits.
Let me introduce you to a few of them.
Rule 1: Stop what you are doing and eat together
This is something utterly important for a basic French family, even on a weekday. We wake up at the same time and have breakfast together. For lunch, we stop working and eat out with our colleagues. Same for dinner, a French family eats sitting at a table, no TV involved. Eating is a social activity, a time of sharing and bonding. This forces you to sit down, stop and focus on what you are eating. Some might call this mindful eating.
Rule 2: Take your time
A meal usually takes an average of 1 hour (we have the longest lunch break in Europe, 45 minutes is a minimum). People are very against eating their meal too fast. I remember my mom scolding my father “stop eating so fast, you might eat your plate”. You have to wait for everyone to finish their course to go to the next one. If you are eating too fast, you will end up waiting a while for everyone to finish. This is good for digestion and you are not overeating as this gives time to your brain to send the ‘I’m full’ message.
Rule 3: Say no to seconds
You help yourself one time for each food, that is all. And if you took too much on your plate, it is ok to stop eating. Stopping when you are full is strongly encouraged. Leftovers are great! It will be served later in the week (my mom is very creative as she can transform leftovers into a whole other meal!).
Rule 4: Serve it in several courses
Most of my family lunches and dinners had 3 simple courses. I have to mention that most of the food was homemade with seasonal ingredients (the French are not that much into organic stuff). They are composed of a starter (cooked or raw vegetables-called crudités), a main (usually some kind of protein + carbs- often skipped for dinner) and a dessert (cheese and/or a piece of fruit). We generally do not eat between meals, the kids may only eat a piece of fruit or a small thing for the goûter (around 4pm, just after school). This allows us to have a complete and diverse meal, you cannot get bored!
Here is a sample day of eating in a basic French family.
Tea or black coffee (no milk, no sugar)
1 plain full fat yogurt
3 slices of fresh bread with a little bit of butter
1 piece of fruit (raisins or apples are in season right now!)
Shredded carrots with lemon juice
Grilled Cod fillet with leek fondue (fondue is cooked on low heat for long time) and a dash of full fat cream
1 cup of cooked brown rice
Slices of 1 orange with a dash a cinnamon
Dill omelet with spinach
A piece of bread
1 plain full fat yogurt or a slice of cheese
I found that this way of approaching food is more and more threatened in France as fast food, industrial meals and out of season fancy foods are taking over our society (we officially reached 40% of the population being overweight!). But I resist falling into this trap. Every time we go back to our families, eating with our grandmothers and grandfathers, they remind us that we have to respect these rules.
If you have to take one thing from this article, I’ll leave you with this statement, from my grandmother:
What you eat is as much important as how you eat it.
What habit do you want to adopt now? Do you have your own special sets of healthy habits you swear by?