I spend an inordinate amount of time observing French women, trying to decrypt their tricks for dieting, dressing, accessorizing and putting up with their husbands. If I can’t learn by watching; I resort to asking.
Today’s exercise is another one of my completely unscientific surveys about what they eat for breakfast. My sample group, as the polling experts say, includes women from the ages of 40 to 65. I presume it’s not necessary to say this, but. . . All are on a weight spectrum of normal to haricot vert or string bean.
Nutritionists agree breakfast is our most important meal. Right? We all know this. But who takes the time to eat properly every morning? Most French women. Eh, oui.
Claire (my nutritionist remember?) says if we skip petit déjeuner we will probably never be thin like every-single-solitary-Frenchwoman-I-see everyday. She didn’t actually put it that way, she merely repeated her mantra: “You have to eat not to be fat.”
This is what my subjects told me:
Sophie: “Fresh squeezed orange juice; tea without sugar or milk — like all the women who drink tea for breakfast — four slices of toasted cereal bread with homemade strawberry jam. I never put butter on my bread.”
Christine: “At least a liter of tea; and All Bran cereal with chocolate bits and soy milk.”
Caroline: This my favorite. . .” Three Prince cookies dipped in a glass of milk.” (Prince cookies are what my daughter and her friends ate after school. I didn’t realize until Caroline said they’re her every day breakfast with her children that the biscuit part of the cookies are made with cereal and milk. Then, of course there’s that little kick of chocolate icing on the inside.)
Cristelle: “Fresh squeezed orange juice and a cappuccino which I take back to bed with me. A half-hour later when I finally get out of bed I eat a whole orange; two Krisp Rolls with nothing on them; a plain yogurt with jam mixed in; two squares of chocolate and another cappuccino.” (It seems only appropriate to mention, Cristelle is in her 40’s, tall, slender and hilariously funny which has nothing to do with her first meal of the day, but I thought she was joking. She
assures me she was not. She also claims she grazes throughout the day, but I have my doubts.)
Patricia: “Earl Grey tea; two pieces of cereal bread with ‘lite’ butter; a plain yogurt mixed with muesli, no sugar.”
Marie-Christine: “Tea on week days, coffee on the weekends; two slices of toasted white bread, no butter, with homemade cherry jam.”
Danielle: “Tea; two or three Swedish flat breads with butter and orange marmalade; orange juice I buy in a bottle and one plain yogurt without sugar.”
Anne-Françoise: “A huge bowl of cafe au lait I make by dissolving instant coffee in skim milk and heating the whole thing in the microwave; a zero fat yogurt and maybe later an apple.”
Annie: “Tea; orange juice I do not squeeze myself; one-third of a baguette toasted with butter and homemade marmalade.”
Eva: Black coffee with honey and a tall glass of effervescent vitamin C with calcium (from the pharmacy) and then around 11 I start looking for a baguette.”
Lydia:” Tea; carrot juice; and a quarter of a baguette with ‘lite’ butter.”
François: “Tea; one hard-boiled egg; one piece of whole wheat toast with honey and a clementine.”
Jacqueline: “Pomegranate juice; tea and a third or a half a baguette with Nutella — just a thin coating — chocolate and hazel nuts are full of nutrients.”
Marie-Louise: “Two kiwis, a very large black coffee and one plain yogurt, no sugar.”
Croissants and pains au chocolat are saved for occasional weekend splurges or vacations, they rarely appear in an everyday breakfast and omelettes are never part of the morning repertoire; they are lunch or occasionally evening meals.