Viva la France!—and its food
Liberty, equality, fraternity and gastronomy are things this great nation is known for.
By Adrienne Dy, M.D.
Fine dining and Michelin stars, boulangeries and patisseries, café culture and an abundance of cheese and wine—how on earth do French women not get fat?! By eating for pleasure, says Francophile author Mireille Guiliano (frenchwomendontgetfat.com.). Claiming that the key to a slender figure isn’t guilt or deprivation, but learning to get the most from the things you enjoy, she emphasizes freshness, variety, balance and pleasure in her no-diet book.
Still, it begs the question—away from the streets of Paris or the lush French countryside, is it possible to adopt that philosophy? Vicky Rose Pacheco, executive chef of the 1771 group of restaurants, is painfully frank: “It’s not in our culture, but it’s the better thing to do. When you pace what you eat, it’s good for the metabolism. Even if it’s rich, if you don’t eat a lot of it, okay lang eh. Quantity is key, and you don’t have to eat everything in one sitting.”
Hence the practice of dégustation—a French term that refers to the careful, appreciative sampling of various dishes, focusing on the sensory experience the food brings. It’s very different from what we are used to: an entire spread laid out on the table all at once, in a free-for-all buffet customary in any Pinoy celebration. “Sa Filipino, important ang volume and masarap, so it doesn’t matter how it was made. [The French] understand the importance of preparation and nice presentation, and the freshness of ingredients,” explains Chef Pacheco.
Still, it’s a cultural gap that can be bridged by a love for good flavor. As Chef Pacheco points out, a lot of French dishes evoke a déjà vu experience—pot a feu is like beef nilaga; boeuf bourguignon is similar to mechado; escargot is cooked the way we like our baked mussels. Cheese, butter and garlic are ingredients the Filipinos and French collectively love, and we both can’t get enough of stews, braises and heavy sauces.
Aside from controlling quantity, French food inherently carries some healthy merits. Wine, whether put into sauces or drunk during meals, contains antioxidants and is good for the heart if taken in right amounts. And this month’s recipe from Chateau 1771 features a nutrient that champions bone health: calcium.
Get more calcium-rich French recipes in the October issue of HealthToday.