Good Food and Good Figures
The fat-may-not-make-you-fat story from yesterday's Times magazine made me think of Au Trou Normand, a tiny restaurant on rue J.P. Timbaud in Paris where I used to enjoy a lunch of steak served with butter melting on top, fried potatoes, a salad of raw vegetables, a basket of bread, and a quarter-liter of cheap red wine. All around me were slender French people, eating the same stuff.
Lisa and I came to assume that most of the fat people we saw in France were from the United States. Oh, we hoped they were German. There were some chubby Germans tooling around Paris in their brown socks and sandals. But the real porkers were all too often our fellow Americans.
The low-fat fallacy doesn't provide a full answer to the question of the French physique, but it may be part of the equation. It may also be that the French eat reasonable portions of a balanced diet, and that having filled up on whole-milk yogurt and a baguette at breakfast and then partaking of a sit-down lunch, they don't snack their way through the afternoon. The food is satisfying. Ingredients are fresher, probably farm-raised instead of industrially-produced; presentation is important and ingestion leisurely.
France has a food culture. We have a consumption culture.