French women have a reputation for being blessed with slim figures and traditionally good health statistics, despite having the rich foods of France at their fingertips. How do they do it?
Paradox or Advantage?
Let us consider the “French Paradox,” that the French traditionally have had good vascular health, good figures, and yet, they eat so richly. They also have their wine and drink it, too! When I lived in France and learned about the French lifestyle and culinary secrets, I discovered that it is because the French traditionally have consumed real, local and rich foods that they exude such health and slenderness. I call this the “French Advantage.”
The French are generally unafraid to eat cheese, eggs, and cream, and what I call the “Farm Fats” in my book, The Bordeaux Kitchen: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions. These are the fats and oils that one can render, churn, or press oneself, as our great-great grandmothers did: butter, olive oil, lard (pig fat), tallow (beef fat), and the venerable duck and goose fats. These fats are natural and minimally processed, unlike industrially-processed vegetable and seed oils that we have been marketed for years.
More Farm Fats, Less Snacking
Another secret to slim French ladies? They don’t snack between meals, thanks in large part to consuming “Farm Fats.” These fats are naturally satiating, so that you actually can go longer between meals without needing a snack. It does not require a large amount of fat (or fatty protein, like a grass-fed steak or pastured eggs) accompanying your vegetables to satiate.
The Terroir Effect
Depending on the region of France, certain fats are employed in local dishes more than others – a practical result of local availability, climate, and culture, and is exactly what makes France so desirable to visit. And as we know, every region has its local cheese, wine and/or charcuterie to delight your palate from the simple to the complex. This is what the French call terroir. Each terroir, region, or even plot of land, has its agricultural or culinary specialty.
France by Fat Region
Normandy and Brittany have traditionally dominated in the production and use of butter, while Alsace, with its Germanic influences, has been a region using lard in many recipes. In the Southwest, duck and goose fat are prevalent in the traditional dishes, and everyone knows that in Provence, with its Mediterranean climate, they have produced and utilized olive oil over the centuries. Each region’s culinary traditions reflect the local terroir, flavors and culture, whether it’s the fats used or the wine grown. The flavor and satiation that come with consuming “Farm Fats” is incomparable to the blandness of industrial oils. As a bonus, animal fats such as lard, tallow, and duck fat have high smoke points, so your meat and vegetables are less likely to burn while being seared or fried. A little goes a long way. So, take the “French Advantage:” try the “Farm Fats,” ditch the industrial oils, and savor the terroir. You can be like those French ladies, especially when, like the French, you also can enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family now and then!
Tania Teschke is a writer and photographer who is passionate about French food and wine and is the author of The Bordeaux Kitchen,: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions. Tania has learned from cooks, butchers, chefs, and winemakers in France and holds a diploma in wine science and tasting from the University of Bordeaux. Tania continues to explore the deep connection the French have to their land, their cultural heritage, and to the nutritional density of their foods.