Le paradoxe francais

As a teenager I had the unparalleled opportunity to live in Europe. It was one of the most refreshing times of my life and I never understood why until I came back to the US. For those of you who haven’t heard of the “French paradox,” it’s the observation that French people have a diet relatively rich in saturated fats, but are less likely to suffer from a heart attack. On the contrary, coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack, is the most common disease in America. This observation has definitely caused many Americans to compare their diets to those living in France.

I personally find this paradox fascinating. While it seems that the French indulge a diet consisting of bread, butter, olive oil, cheese, pork and red wine; they seem to remain healthy.  And it isn’t a secret that Americans indulge more in fast food, eating out at restaurants and processed meals at home.

There seems to be a fundamental difference on how we live our lives, especially when it comes to work. If you’ve had the wonderful opportunity to vacation or live in Europe, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like the air is full of


 aromatherapy candles; it’s the most relaxing and enchanted place to be. There’s a que sera sera to it all. And, in my experience, that relaxing, calming, and serene day-to-day feeling was truly routine. People aren’t rushing to get to work; they’ll get there when they get there. They sure aren’t over working themselves either as the French take the most amount of vacation in the world.

I relate this relaxing, taking it all in feeling, to the way the French eat their meals; homemade, slowly and in a small portion. An even though small, they take time to enjoy every single bite.

There is this quote in the back of my mind; I don’t remember who first said it to me, but I’ll never forget it. This person was talking about an avocado when he said, “it’s that goooood fat.” I completely agreed with him. There really are such things as “good” fats and “bad” fats. The good fat includes things like dairy and vegetable sources including cheeses,  whole milk, nuts and whole milk yogurt.  All of these ingredients can be bought fresh and used in homemade meals.  This is why I think it’s important try and make everything from scratch. It can be fun, to learn and accomplish something new. It may take a little extra thought, but I really do plan my meals out so that I don’t need to purchase fast food or pre-packaged meals.

Okay, so I’ve finished my rant on “American” eating, (I use quotations because I know it’s most certainly a sterotype and we are not all living our lives this way).  But I really do believe that even if it isn’t entirely the French who have brought this ideal upon us, it is a good one.  Even if it takes a little extra planning, doesn’t it feel so much better to enjoy a nice, pre-thought out meal than a number 5 from McDonalds? “Bon appetit” literally translates to “have a good meal;” I hope we, as Americans we do just that with our next meal.

One thought on “Le paradoxe francais

  1. Hi Stephanie, your mention of French food and eating habits reminds me of a French phrase that a friend told me recently: L’appetit vient en mangeant. You probably know the translation: the appetite comes from eating – – I think this is so true and really good, high quality food is so appetite stimulating and at the same time satisfying – – one is not left hungry (in the mind) for something else to eat. And I love this entry to your blog! Jane

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