The hypothesis proved true. At least from what I could gather spending a week in the mesmerizing city of Paris and her taller, even more adventurous, gorgeous-in-a-different-way sister Chamonix – a ski heaven nestled in the French Alps. The French do indeed exist in a way that I imagined: walking abundantly, eating real, whole foods, and not obsessing over weight – but enjoying food and good company, without a bag of Doritos in sight.
On the Air France flight, I sat next to an old French couple on their way back home, the wife on her very first plane ride (and lucky for her, it was a brand new Airbus 380 – complete with a tail camera to watch the plane take off and land – oh you didn’t know I was an aviation nerd?) She didn’t know English, and I didn’t know French, but we bonded anyway, laughing at ourselves and gesticulating to each other…until dinner was served and she said, Bon Apetit! And then, we were speaking the same language.
I don’t hold an airline’s meal as solely indicative of its representative culture, but there are usually a few hints at what might lie ahead. Dinner and breakfast were both carb heavy – but started with amuse-bouche of sorts – smoked salmon or a type of quinoa. And after the meals were distributed, the flight attendants came around with baskets of baguettes, and then again mid-meal. Although it seemed like unlimted breadsticks from Olive Garden (and who knows what those are made of?) this was a glimpse of what was to come – and even for airplane food, those baguettes were amazing.
Bakeries are abundant throughout the cobblestone streets of Paris, and slender Parisians scurry by them and through the city, so accustomed to the ornate beauty that lies around them. Cafes dotted with golden wicker chairs hosting couples huddled together, men gathered for a meeting, and everyone is drinking coffee, and eating…bread! And many people are enjoying their cafes and carb delicacies in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather. Some cafes had heaters, but many did not. It’s as if the cold wasn’t a factor in what they wanted to do. Didn’t give a shit what nature was doing. If they wanted to drink a cafe outside, they were going to. I don’t know about you, but normally in those conditions I like to be all warm somewhere inside, and maybe even working on storing extra fat for winter.
I ate chocolate croissants every.morning. Do you hear me? EVERY MORNING. I ate Charcuterie, cheese, drank wine and enjoyed dinners rich in meats, sauces, more cheeses, and of course, dessert. But the food came in smaller portions, it took longer to savor, and I although I only ate a few times a day, I always felt satisfied. Is it because the food I ate was pure, without chemicals? Not processed? Not contrived in a way to make my brain want me to have more? I ate nothing from a box for a week. And even though what I did enjoy was carb heavy, and rich…without the processed junk and by walking and skiing, I gained not a pound.
I know that it was only a mere glimpse into a different way of existing, but it was enlightening to be able to at least peek at the way a culture whose obesity rate is far lower than America’s (9.8% vs 35.7%, respectively) functioned. Something to think about, perhaps the next time we grab for those Doritos.