In her hugely successful 2005 book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano argued that no diet fad on earth could rival French women’s commonsense approach to eating: Make fresh food, exercise control and savor every bite. Now, Guiliano— who grew up in France but lives in New York—gives readers 150 recipes to put her philosophy in action, with the new French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook.
iVillage: Why did you decide to do a third book?
Mireille Guiliano: I did it because I kept hearing from women that they wanted more recipes! The first book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, was really about changing your relationship with food and also enjoying it more. The second book, French Women for All Seasons, was about how you can extend that that joie de vivre to other parts of your life. Both books had recipes woven in. The cookbook is the end of the trilogy.
iVillage: What’s your approach to eating and cooking in a nutshell?
MG: Well, it has now become very fashionable in the U.S., but we have done this in France for 300 years—eating locally and seasonally. Also, many people are intimidated by French cooking, thinking it requires a lot of ingredients and time. But actually, the French woman wants the maximum results for the minimum effort.
iVillage: Why did you decide to include a few recipes from your first two books?
MG: I only chose the ones that were the most popular: I’ve gotten millions of emails and letters about the Magical Leek Broth and the Chicken au Champagne. I wanted to include those so readers didn’t feel like they had to get the previous books to get those recipes.
iVillage: Which of the new recipes do you think will generate the same kind of excitement?
MG: The Magical Breakfast. It’s the most complete way to start the day because it has mostly protein, a little carb with the honey and fat, with the flax oil and the nuts. It also has an impact on your skin and your hair because of the omega 3s from the flax oil.
iVillage: What’s one of the easiest weeknight dinners in the book?
MG: I think a lot of people don’t feel comfortable cooking fish, but the en papillote recipes [fish baked in packets of parchment paper] are so easy, you cannot fail.
iVillage: What’s your advice for dealing with picky eaters in the family?
MG: It’s up to the mother to play tricks. If kids say they don’t like fish, then make a sauce with it. When my two nieces were 5 years old, my mother brought them here for the weekend and she said, "You know, Mireille, the only thing they will not touch is broccoli," because she knows I love broccoli. So I made a bet with her that they would love it by Sunday night. I steamed my broccoli, then I grated some parmesan cheese and hazelnuts over it and I put it in the broiler. You wouldn’t believe it. The girls were like, ‘Can we have some more?’ But if kids don’t like something, don’t push it. It’s my whole philosophy: Try not to do everything at once.
iVillage: What tools do you find most handy in the kitchen?
MG: I’m not a gadget person. I don’t even peel vegetables—I wash them carefully and slice them. And then I just steam most of my vegetables, maybe serving them with shallots and some ginger.
iVillage: What are your guilty food pleasures?
MG: Bread, pastries, sweets. I grew up with a lot of women bakers. And I love wine, but I can’t really drink more than a glass a day. Now I have to pick my moments to indulge.
iVillage: What are some tricks for controlling portions?
MG: You only learn about portion control when you learn to eat mindfully. Your brain needs 20 minutes to warn the stomach that you’re full, so sitting down, chewing fully, and putting your fork and knife down between bites all allows your stomach time to tell you it’s full. Rather than eating in a robotic way, you want to use your senses.
iVillage: You write in the book that “the greatest and deepest pleasure in food exists within the first three bites.”
MG: Yes, I have a friend who lost a lot of weight after she started limiting her chocolate intake to just a tiny square each day. She said she didn’t know what it was to really taste chocolate until she just savored a square. People don’t understand that—this isn’t about depriving yourself of anything.