Thursday, April 08, 2004

The French Paradox

It refers to the paradox of the rich French cuisine and yet the slender build of the populace. You do have the occasional fat person but it’s not an epidemic like say in the USA. The secret it seems is in the tons of red wine that the French imbibe. (Actually the statistics note that on an average, the French drink less wine per person than they did couple of decades back).

A was thrilled to bits with this bit of information. He takes his food very, very seriously (I don’t mind it either). Unfortunately, his tastes run to fatty food, fries in every type of cuisine. (He insists that pork is not red meat). Each time I kicked up a fuss, he would point out that red wine would cut down on the cholesterol and fat intake. (Pulverise it down the toilet bowl that is). This has spiralled out of control.

We note down places by the meals we have taken there and not by famous landmarks! The restaurants are our guiding lights! Whenever we decide on a trip, just after we book our tickets, and before we check out places of interests in a guide book, A checks out restaurants not to be missed. On our weekend in Rome, we tried 5 different places (4 of them Italian) and the 5th or should I say the 1st was an all-american steak joint (A wanted to eat a juicy fat steak), hours after we landed in Rome. He however insists that it was me who ate so much that I had the waiters saluting me. When I say I didn’t notice that, he says obviously, you were busy stuffing your face!

Shortly afterwards, in Crete, we took a 3 hour bus trip to eat at Plaka, a tiny fishing village bustling in summer but a deserted town during our trip in December. We practically forced the elderly owners to open up and cook for us. But it was one of the best meals we have had.

Last year in August, in the middle of the heat wave, I developed blisters on the soles of my feet searching for all those must eat places, in Nice. I did however manage to squeeze in a city tour and the magnificent Matisse collection. We took a 2-hour boat ride to St.Tropez where we didn’t waste time or money on a boat ride to Bridget Bardot’s house like most tourists. We went in search of a restaurant rated three stars, which unfortunately was closed in the afternoon and open for dinner by when we had to return to Nice.

Even within France, we still talk about the gem of a restaurant we discovered in Fontainbleau. The Chateau and forests were very nice but thank god the restaurant we chose at random had a fabulous menu. Oh the sinful tarte aux pommes. I shall remember it to my dying day. And the ‘rhubarb quiche’ at the café in Musée d’Orsay. (Of course the impressionist collection had me impressed too). A swears that we have to go back to Provins because we didn’t eat at any of the auberges on our last trip which was a picnic with his French class students. The list is endless…but I guess you get the picture.

The French themselves are quite amused by this “French paradox” theory and pooh-pooh it away and claim (and probably correctly), “Eat sensibly”! Which is what we should do since the weighing scales do not lie! The French paradox is not working for us. Perhaps it works only for the French!!

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