On Culinary Austerity, the French Paradox, and Magical Breakfast Creams

If I can successfully hit all of those topics in some sort of sensical way in this post, I will be most impressed with myself. This is only my seventh post, dear readers, but you may notice that this one has a more serious tone, pretty much devoid of quips and cleverness. Just this once, I promise (I think). Bear with me!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of days about food, and the rather complicated relationship that the health and figure-conscious part of the population has with it. I was fortunate–in addition to being genetically slim, my parents raised me to both eat for good health and to savor a meal well-prepared. While I’ve had my share of struggles with food and certainly can’t pretend that I’ve always approached my eating patterns with the healthiest mindset, I feel that I keep coming back to the idea that food should be enjoyed, yet not obsessed over and never used as a method of punishment, and this seems to outlast all of the eating trends (vegetarian, vegan, raw, high-protein, etc.) that I latch on to and then discard for the next major fad. It’s taken a while to reach this mindset, and along with the eating habits modeled by my parents, I credit Mireille Guiliano in my progress to this state.

I first read Mme. Guiliano’s memoir French Women Don’t Get Fat several years ago and was charmed and captivated by the notion that it just might be possible to have your (little itty bitty piece of the finest) cake and eat it, too. While I had always considered myself health conscious, I was beginning to suspect that life was simply too short to permanently forego stilton cheese with apricots, and that espresso with a pinch of cream was heaven compared to a skim-milk latte. Mireille’s memoir was the first book that really validated my suspicions and offered a way to live healthfully, maintain weight and still feast in the garden of delights. A French Woman for All Seasons later appeared on my bookshelf, and my admiration for Mme. Guiliano has been most recently renewed through the 2010 publication of The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook.


In all of these books, Mireille discusses the French paradox–that French women eat rich food and drink alcohol on a nearly daily basis and yet remain impossibly thin. She waves a hand at the cries of genetic injustice and attributes the fabulous French figure to: 1. portion control and intuitive eating during breakfast, lunch and dinner (no snacks!), 2. emotional and physical satiety due to regular consumption of exquisite foods, and 3. daily activity (walking and light exercise). Interestingly, her musings that consuming rich, delectable foods in small portions does wonders for appetite satiety have been more recently supported with the promotion of increased fat in “healthy diets” in the U.S. For my own part, I have personally found that I actually consume less calories when I am savoring something rich in small amounts. In contrast, when I eat a low-calorie meal or snack, I do not feel satisfied, and continue to eat in order to fill up that gnawing feeling that can take up permanent residence in your stomach during low-fat, low-calorie diets. Although I realize this is a sensitive topic and may be lighting a proverbial fire by mentioning this, I feel that regularly relying on low-calorie foods as the basis for meals can foster overeating, since we–or let’s be honest here–since I am not afraid of the caloric impact of 5 cups of squash or 4 bags of butterless popcorn. And when we overeat, we do not listen to our bodies and eat intuitively. If this is indeed the case, it stands to reason that an important antidote to the mindless over-consumption of austere, unsatisfying foods and getting back in tune with one’s body is to (1) eat mindfully, and with pleasure! and (2) to eat nutritionally and calorically dense foods in small amounts.

Sadly, chronic disease studies in the last few years have indicated that the French paradox seems to be slipping away. In the last decade, the national prevalence of obesity increased dramatically, and in 2009, researchers found that over one-quarter of French women were overweight, while more than 15% were clinically obese (as a reference, the percentage of overweight females in the U.S. is over 64%, and over one-third are obese). There are a number of credible suggestions for the weight shift in France. Longer work hours (with less time to prepare food or take extended breaks to enjoy a meal), decreased smoking (due to established associated cancer risk), increased use of public transportation as opposed to walking, and a rise in the consumption of processed foods are all among the purpotedly incriminated. NPR –as in the actual National Public Radio–did an excellent, albeit brief segment on this, for the curious at heart.

Social marketing campaign aimed at reducing obesity in French children through activity promotion


So, with the French paradox becoming less and less paradoxical, will Mme. Guiliano have to change her book titles? I think not, and in fact, we should all be somewhat encouraged. The French do not have magical genes. A national culture that fosters intuitive eating, portioned indulgence and daily activity is conducive to weight loss and maintenance, plain and simple. As this culture is starting to erode in key arenas, the country is observing a tangible shift in the prevalence of obesity and overweightedness. The concepts in Mme. Guiliano’s books are therefore never more true, as the French are not immune to weight fluctuations without upholding the afore mentioned lifestyle she so succinctly describes.

Enough of these statistics and doom & gloom, Miss TuesdayswithMuesli! Where is my recipe?? (What I imagine you are saying in your mind right now)

So glad you asked.

In celebration of the revival of Mme. Guiliano in my life, I thought I would share one of the heavily promoted recipes from her new cookbook: Magical Breakfast Cream. Mme. Guiliano divulges to readers that this delicious and indulgent-tasting breakfast recipe was her “Tante Berthe’s” secret for weight loss/maintenance…and hence “magical”. For copyright reasons, I will not print the original recipe, but the astute internet sleuth may be able to find it here, here or even here. Like any good blogger, I have made some modifications, and these tweaks I will share. This recipe is a winner, my friends! Change it up as you like according to your taste and textural preferences; however, I will say that it is amazingly filling for such a small portion and keeps me going from early morning to a mid-afternoon lunch. I also made it into a pseudo-overnight recipe in order to spare precious morning minutes.

Overnight Magical Breakfast Cream à la TwM

-2 Tbs oats (or kasha–roasted buckwheat–for the gluten-intolerant)
-2 tsp roasted, unsalted pistachios (or any roasted, unsalted nut of your choice–walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, etc.)
-1/2 cup of low-fat yogurt (I opted for Goat’s Milk yogurt, since it is easy to digest. I urge you not to use non-fat…this is already a low-calorie recipe, and the extra fat here will promote satiety)
-1 tsp high-quality EFA oil (I used Udo’s Oil, which combines flax, sesame and primrose oil. Dr. Barlean’s and Vega oils are also very good options)
-2 Tbs lemon juice (about half a lemon)
-Sweetener of choice (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp of honey, but I opted to use 1/3 cup of raspberries and 4-5 drops of stevia in its place)

The Night Before
1. Place oats and nuts in a spice grinder or food processor; process until finely ground. Refrigerate.
The Morning Of
2. Place yogurt in a small bowl. Add your oil and stir until fully incorporated.
3. Add lemon juice to your yogurt mixture; stir until fully incorporated.
4. Add sweetener of choice to your yogurt mixture and stir.
5. Top yogurt mixture with oat-nut mixture (and fruit, if using).

If you’re a food blogger, snap pictures, and run around your apartment in vain hopes of capturing the perfect lighting for your photo. Everyone else, savor each spoonful. Close eyes, smile.



6 Responses to “On Culinary Austerity, the French Paradox, and Magical Breakfast Creams”

  1. I just reserved that book at the library, thanks to you! Love you

  2. Ah, Becks! Such enjoyable reading & delicious recipe! Thanks for a lovely break in my day : )

  3. I like the tags for this entry : “intuitive eating”, and “Magical Breakfast Cream”. Well, I must say that this recipe looks great and fairly quick to assemble. I don’t have Udo’s Blend oil but do have Hemp Oil by Nutiva. Do you think that would work as a subsitute?

    Here’s to a rich life.

  4. Thanks for the oats recipe. I was really trying to find a way to eat this healthy ingredient.


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