When you think of French food, chances are bread/baguettes and pastries (croissants, eclairs, palmiers, macarons, madeleines...) are on your list. I was amazed at just how many patisseries (pastry shops) and boulangeries (bakeries) were in Paris-- I'm pretty sure you can't go a block without seeing one! Everything looked and smelled delicious, and I guarantee you if I weren't Paleo/Primal, I would've eaten everything in sight. Paris is a carb-lover's heaven!
It's also a cheese-lover's heaven-- I absolutely love French cheese (I've always been a huge fan of Brie and Munster; but after trying Camembert this week, that might be my new favorite), and I'm pretty sure I ate more cheese in those five days in France than I have in the last few months. I think it's fantastic that you can order cheese for dessert-- the plate usually comes with a few little slices of cheese and some lettuce. Nom! (Okay, so cheese isn't technically Paleo, but it falls into what Mark Sisson calls the "Primal gray area." For more information on this lifestyle and cheese, check out some of Mark's links: The Definitive Guide to Dairy, Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?, and Is Cheese Unhealthy?)
Bakeries and pastry shops aren't frequent in Edinburgh or my area of Philadelphia (NYC is a different story... my childhood was black & white cookies from Hot & Crusty, and now those cupcake stores are all the rage), and it's actually quite difficult for me to find real butter and full-fat cheese here in Scotland... so how is it that the French are so much healthier than the Americans and Scottish? How is it that the French can live on heavy cream, butter, and cheese (because, y'know, fat is so bad for you, and low-fat soy products are the way to go) and still have lower rates of heart disease than many other countries who eat less fat?
It's the French paradox... which really isn't a paradox if you know that fat doesn't make you fat or cause heart disease. And although we know that bread products are bad (and actually do make you sick and fat), the French have a totally different food culture than the US or UK. In French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano explains all of this-- after spending a year in the US for high school, she went back to France much heavier after experiencing the American food culture (or lack thereof...). Her book explains how she lost the weight by following traditional French food values (such as small portions, no snacking, fresh ingredients, sitting down and savoring your meal, and drinking a lot of water), which will keep you [relatively] healthy for life. The French aren't low-fat obsessed, they don't super-size (despite the amount of McDonald's around... check out this NPR article about McDonald's in France), they don't go for second or third helpings, and they don't rush (or stand) through their meals.
Hmm... fresh ingredients, water, no snacking, full-fat, and savoring your meals? Sounds pretty Paleo/Primal to me! Actually, I didn't have to modify a single meal I ate in France! Not one! In the US and UK, I modify everything to make it fit with the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, so it was so nice to order straight off the menu without having to change a thing. The salads were some of the most beautiful and delicious I'd ever had; the proteins were all perfectly cooked and seasoned; the wine, cheese, and coffee were amazing. Did you know you can order hard-boiled eggs as an appetizer? How awesome-- and Paleo!-- is that?
I went to Paris and didn't have a single baguette or pastry... and no, I'm not crazy. Instead, I enjoyed cheese, beef, fresh vegetables, my family, and a beautiful city-- so who needs a croissant when you have all of that?
Quote of the Day:
"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport." -Julia Child