A French woman’s life is ever a delicate balance: on her dinner plate, on her scale, in her relationships. Give and take. Excess and deprivation. Acceptance, rejection. Moderation.
For years I was convinced her behavior was nothing more than an obsessively annoying push, pull; yin-yang all-consuming internal battle to stay on this perilous see-saw. Mais, au contraire.
I now know I’m wrong, or mostly wrong. Her greatest strength is her lucid discipline. Not tres romantic you’re thinking? Think again. She has the acutely sharp pleasure of strong contrasts. She’ll drink too much Champagne and thoroughly enjoy the moment. The next two days she will sip only water and maybe have soup and a yogurt for dinner. Balance: It was worth it.
Is it more exciting to drink Champagne and eat chocolate cake everyday or is it more titillating to anticipate a pleasure and enjoy it fully — occasionally — so a delight never becomes banal; it’s a celebration, an exception to the quotidian. Side benefit: The sultry lingerie, the anticipatory preparation for other pleasures continues to flatter a body not given over to excess.
All of this brings me to today’s topic: Dessert. In my experience from watching and asking I have never encountered a French woman who regularly eats goopy, calorific desserts. Unless she has several dinner parties on her calendar she will probably have one “major” dessert per week and it’s usually Sunday at the end of a long, leisurely lunch and more often than not followed by a long, brisk walk.
In more of my unscientific research I’ve asked several women between the ages of 40 and 65: What are your favorite low-calorie and super rich desserts? Often the low-cal treats are an every day finish to simple at-home dinners.
Claudine: Raspberry tart. One peach.
Annie: Chocolate cake. Two squares of dark chocolate.
Jeanne: Creme Brulé. An apple.
Dany: Apricot tart. Three fresh apricots.
Gisile: A Financier. An unsweetened seasonal fruit salad with for example: pears, apples, bananas and grapefruit.
Danielle: Mousse au chocolat. An exotic fruit salad with pineapple, mango and litchis– and never any sugar.
Françoise: Fondant au chocolat. A salad of red fruits like strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and wild strawberries, sweetened with the juice of one fresh orange and left in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Eva: A Charlotte with hazelnut cream and topped with whipped cream. Fresh strawberries.
Chantal: Profiteroles. A baked apple with a teaspoon of honey in the center.
Anne-Françoise: My chocolate cake with only one tablespoon of flour. A pear.
Sylvie: Cherry Clafouti with whipped cream. Ten cherries.