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French Ways to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health:Do It Slowly

[stextbox id=”info”]Frenchy Ways to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health: Slow Eating [/stextbox]

Funny title, Eating for Pleasure and Good Health taking it slowly, except when driving.  This is the 3rd Way in 17 Ways towards good health, adopting from the French.  True, the title is a bit ambiguous.  I do not mean to drive fast to gain good health.  In fact, don’t speed…!  That is a quick way to bad health in a split second. Eating for pleasure and good health through slow eating is just what it says.  Just taking time to enjoy delicious meals while socializing and relaxing around the table.  This self-titled French paradox of taking it slowly except when driving is only a funny cultural habit that foreigners notice about France.  Frenchys can eat slow drawn out meals, but when they get in their cars…WATCH OUT!  Here is the scene:  you have just arrived to France as a tourist and you are driving around to enjoy the scenery.  Ok, now you are passing through a little village.  Ahh, right by that pretty school.  Oh, wait…what is that sign along the side of the road?

 what could it mean?

You look at it and you look at your speedometer, the car in front of you and behind.  Oh, la, la you are driving too fast!  The sign is actually the speed limit in kilometers an hour that drivers are supposed to respect.  You slow down, and look through your rearview mirror. Now the car behind you is nudging you to move faster, even though you are actually driving slightly above the speed limit.  And it is like this everywhere.  Everyone in their cars seem to be so much in a hurry.  But where are all these cars going?  Somewhere to eat!? Sit these speedy drivers down at a table with some good food and they do not move for the next 5 hours!

Come on, 5 hours to eat a meal?

The French and other latin cultures spend incredible and delicious amounts of time at the table eating; from the main meal at lunch, to relaxing after a long day for dinner, for the larger meals such as the Sunday lunch, or finally for those special celebrations, like birthdays and weddings:  the hours can quickly add up.  This is truly part of the joys of pleasure eating for good health, just eating slowly, sipping and savoring every bite of a meal, served with a glass of wine or just water.  Presentation of the table and food are also important.  As is the right spacing between the courses, with the bigger celebrations having a longer meal and longer spaces.  Feeling satisfied and full allows the body to digest the meal well, to feel more relaxed and less likely to grab a snack in the fridge one hour later.

A typical celebratory meal in France

The hours add up quickly.  Here was the timing for the Sunday lunch birthday meal a week ago for my son:

  • 12:30  the 3 guests arrive : a couple with their son
  • 13:00 aperitif begins with finger foods and champagne
  • 14:45 first course starts with a salad of lettuce, pears and Parmesan cheese
  • 15:15 second course of baked lasagna served
  • 16:00 pause in the garden to watch the kids doing a show
  • 17:00 cheese course
  • 17:30 dessert and birthday cake
  • 18:00 coffee, tea, digestif (after dinner drink)
  • 19:00 guests leave

This is probably typical for a celebratory meal.  Thankfully too, because after planning, cooking and serving the meal in nice environment, it would be disheartening for the “chef” (uhm, like me last week who took hours to cook this meal) to watch everyone engulf the meal in two minutes.  Needless to say, after a meal like that, no one ate anything until breakfast the next morning.

What is the difference in eating for pleasure slowly in France in comparison to America?

Time that is all, just time.  Taking the time to stay at the table and enjoy food and conversation.  We do have great food in America, but why don’t we spend more time eating it?  Even at many American restaurants you order your food, it comes quickly, and the servers start cleaning off your table to get another group sitting down.  This drives me crazy… and the various servers over the years have heard my polite pleas of  “please do not rush me out of your restaurant, nor rush me through my food, nor clean off the table when we are still eating. PLEASE 🙂 !”  Is this true or only my impression after living outside the states for so long?  Because this is how I feel when eating at American restaurants.  Just a tip when visiting France; the servers do not bring the final bill until you ask them.  It would be impolite to present a bill at the table before the meal is officially finished.  So, don’t feel that the waiter is not doing their job if they don’t give you the bill until you ask.  This is normal.

Benefits of eating slower?  Satiation, less overeating, more satisfaction with meals. Even during normal rushed days, taking 10 minutes more just to eat slower can mean a big difference in how you feel leaving the table.  Now, the big secret….the French are starting to drive slower in the last few years because of more speed limit enforcement…will this translate into faster eating?  Only time will tell.

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