Sep 2006

What to Eat – Marion Nestle

About: “What to Eat” is a book about how to make sensible food choices. Consider that today’s supermarket is ground zero for the food industry, a place where the giants of agribusiness compete for your purchases with profits—not health or nutrition—in mind. This book takes you on a guided tour of the supermarket, beginning in the produce section and continuing around the perimeter of the store to the dairy, meat, and fish counters, and then to the center aisles where you find the packaged foods, soft drinks, bottled waters, baby foods, and more. Along the way, it tells you just what you need to know about such matters as fresh and frozen, wild and farm-raised, organic and “natural,” and omega-3 and trans fats. It decodes food labels, nutrition and health claims, and portion sizes, and shows you how to balance decisions about food on the basis of freshness, taste, nutrition, and health, but also social and environmental issues and, of course, price.

My thoughts: The most intelligent people are the ones who are able to convey their knowledge simply, which is exactly what Marion Nestle does in “What to Eat.” Her aisle by aisle guide was extremely informative and a pleasure to read. As someone who enjoys exploring grocery stores, her insights gave me a whole new set of nuances to notice.

I really enjoyed her purchasing recommendations for each aisle of the grocery store. One suggestion that I use often are her produce recommendations. Her preferences are:

  1. Organic and locally grown
  2. Organic and not local
  3. Locally grown and not organic
  4. Neither locally grown or organic

The concept of “food miles” (the miles/days/energy that foods travel to arrive at our grocery stores) was something I hardly paid attention to before, but now I make an effort to buy locally grown produce because they are fresher and more fuel efficient. So even though locally grown Jersey peaches are smaller in size than the ones from California, they are more nutritious and better for the environment.

Another aspect of the book that got me thinking was her take on advertising and the science behind the placement of products in stores – marketing and psychology are so fascinating!

This book is really long (611 pages), but is written so that you can seamlessly flip to a chapter that you’re interested in and skip the others. I only skimmed the chapters on coffees and teas because I never buy that stuff.

Sep 2006

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure – Mireille Guiliano

About: Stylish, convincing, wise, funny and just in time: the ultimate non-diet book, which could radically change the way you think and live.

French women don’t get fat, but they do eat bread and pastry, drink wine, and regularly enjoy three-course meals. In her delightful tale, Mireille Guiliano unlocks the simple secrets of this “French paradox” -– how to enjoy food and stay slim and healthy. Hers is a charming, sensible, and powerfully life-affirming view of health and eating for our times.

As a typically slender French girl, Mireille went to America as an exchange student and came back fat. That shock sent her into an adolescent tailspin, until her kindly family physician, “Dr. Miracle,” came to the rescue. Reintroducing her to classic principles of French gastronomy plus time-honored secrets of the local women, he helped her restore her shape and gave her a whole new understanding of food, drink, and life. The key? Not guilt or deprivation but learning to get the most from the things you most enjoy. Following her own version of this traditional wisdom, she has ever since relished a life of indulgence without bulge, satisfying yen without yo-yo on three meals a day.

Now in simple but potent strategies and dozens of recipes you’d swear were fattening, Mireille reveals the ingredients for a lifetime of weight control–from the emergency weekend remedy of Magical Leek Soup to everyday tricks like fooling yourself into contentment and painless new physical exertions to save you from the StairMaster. Emphasizing the virtues of freshness, variety, balance, and always pleasure, Mireille shows how virtually anyone can learn to eat, drink, and move like a French woman.

Sample of recipes: Magical Leek Soup (Broth), Blueberry Baby Smoothie, Halibut en Papillote, Cooked Pears with Cinnamon, Grilled Pineapple, Endives with Ham without Béchamel Sauce, Pork Chops with Apples, Homemade Yogurt with a Yogurt Maker, Fancy Cream of Carrot Soup, Chicken Au Champagne, Chocolate Rice Pudding

My thoughts: I read an interview with Mireille Guiliano a couple of years ago in the New York Times right about the time when this book was released. Readers wrote in to ask her specifics about why French women don’t get fat. Ever since reading that article I have wanted to read this book, but only recently got the chance.

During the introduction and initial chapters I was slightly put off by the author’s tone (think: teacher/student) because I wasn’t trying to lose weight and I didn’t like a haughty French woman telling me how to approach food. After the lecturing subsided, Mireille’s approach became much more palatable and even insightful.

This book is filled with great advice about the importance of balancing food in life. While none of the information was exactly new to me, her advice was well articulated and resonated with me. A great lesson to take away from French Women Don’t Get Fat is the concept of input/output. When Mireille indulges in a three-course feast, she takes the stairs and eats lightly before the meal. Another fabulous lesson is embracing the pleasures that food offers, rather than feeling guilt-ridden as a lot of women tend to do.

Perhaps the best lesson that the French can teach us is their impeccable taste for everything. The foods that American’s go gaga for (i.e. Krispy Kremes, KFC, Taco Bell) the French would scoff upon. American’s need to develop their taste buds to become more discerning. We should crave fresh baguettes from a corner bakery, not Snickers bars.

Sep 2006

Crepêrie Beau Monde – Philadelphia

August 12, 2006
Cuisine: French, Desserts & Bakeries, Other

624 S 6th Street, Philadelphia 19147
At Bainbridge St

Phone: 215-592-0656

Appetizer: Escargot with garlic butter, crostini and bread

beau monde 8

Entree I: Saumon Fume Buckwheat Crêpe – Smoked Salmon served with roasted leeks & creme fraiche

beau monde 8

Entree II: “Rich Man’s Egg McMuffin” Buckwheat Crêpe – eggs over easy with ham and goat cheese

Dessert I: Sweet Crêpe Special – Filled with peaches, blackberries, a ginger creme anglaise, and topped off with vanilla ice cream

Dessert II: Wheat Crêpe with Bananas and Dulce de Leche

Earlier this week I was reading the Astronomer’s travel journal from his trip to Europe and started craving crêpes, especially since the Astronomer thought that the crêpes he enjoyed in France were on par with the ones served at Crêperie Beau Monde in terms of taste and authenticity. I think that food tastes best when I’ve been craving it for a couple of days.

We started off our feast with some escargot with garlic butter, crostini and bread. I was hoping the escargot would be served inside their shells, but sadly those preparations are only executed outside the US. The crostini and bread were excellent vehicles for dipping and consuming the escargot.

For our savory crêpes the Astronomer ordered the Saumon Fume, while I ordered my all-time favorite combination of eggs over easy with ham and goat cheese. Both crêpes were spectacular. The crêpes were a good size and expertly filled with the perfect amount of each ingredient. The crêpes themselves were made of buckwheat flour, as is traditional in the region of Brittany. It always surprises me how crêpes manage to fill me up even though it seems like very little food.

For desert the Astronomer ordered the sweet crêpe special of the evening which contained peaches, blackberries, a ginger creme anglaise, topped off with some vanilla ice cream. I ordered my favorite dessert combination of dulce de leche with bananas. While the special was tasty, I adored my sweet crêpe more. There’s just something about ripened bananas accompanied by a caramelized sauce within a crisp crêpe that gets me every single time.

Crêperie Beau Monde has been a constant in my restaurant rotation since Swarthmore and remains a favorite today. The Astronomer and I have dined at Beau Monde at least four times together, maybe five. We love this place.

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