Pull out a Chair and Sit Down

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

I recently bought a copy of Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat at the library bookstore for $2. I’d never read it before, and I thought,why not? Plus, I was lured in by the jaunty illustration of a carefree French woman on the cover.

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The book is exactly what the author bills it to be: not a diet book, nor a nutrition manual, as the author is of neither profession, but rather a kind of homespun approach to healthy living and eating from the French culture that formed her. As a teen, she took an exchange trip to America, and, by the end of it, packed several pounds on for her return trip. Reading her descriptions of frequent stops at special pastry shops when she moved to Paris was like holding up a mirror to myself!

After bemoaning her thickened physique, she enlists the help of a doctor she calls Dr. Miracle, and with a few weeks of keeping a food diary to discover her “offenders” and then a time of “recasting,” she got back on track. And, started observing how Frenchwomen pursue life and food and fitness very differently from us Americans.

One of her many suggestions that I took away from this book was quite simple, as they all were, really. She discusses the importance of eating at the table and lingering over a meal. This is not headline news of course, but something that’s gotten lost as I frequent drive-thrus or eat out of to-go containers in cars, on couches, or while baking cupcakes.

Her idyllic descriptions of family meals and comforting recipes and fruit picked from a garden just outside the kitchen door made me yearn. To go to France, of course, but more practically, to inject a sense of ceremony and import, even leisure, back to eating. The scarfing, wolfing, binging, and grazing aren’t exactly pleasurable endeavors; they’re just habit, I suppose.

So, I’ve been doing it. Nothing fancy really, I just cleared off a corner of the kitchen table (that seems perpetually covered with items “too heavy” to carry to another part of the house) and sat down with a bowl of turkey chili one day and a slice of potato/poblano/corn gratin yesterday.

I ate.

More slowly, I noticed. Probably because I wasn’t perched on a sofa edge or hovering over the sink as per usual, not focused at all on what I put into my mouth. 

Seated at the table, there’s less to focus on, mainly, your plate, and the rhythmic nature of fork to food to mouth. It took the same amount of time as other eating methods, but if seemed more relaxed, more intentional, more at ease.

I see Mireille’s point. I know how treating myself to a sit-down, white-tablecloth dinner can feel. When I dine in nice restaurants, it is an experience. I think I carry myself differently, even hold my fork in a more civilized way! It’s a worthwhile practice to get into at home, to really enjoy food and delight in eating a well-prepared meal.

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