“What’s for dinner tonight?” I could hear my husband calling from the other room as he clicked furiously on his computer keyboard. Reaching for a plump heirloom tomato, I could almost smell the juicy flesh, the perfectly ripe interior that was contained under the taunt red and green skin. I sliced through the center, regretting the loss of juice on my wooden cutting board.
Poking my head into the study I replied, “We’re having salad for dinner.” Without a word, my husband – the carnivorous carbaholic – rolled his eyes in disgust. Returning to my kitchen, I sliced the tomato thinly, sprinkling its surface with French sea salt, minced shallots, kernels of fresh blanched corn, cider vinegar and tiny slivers of robiola cheese. Dipping my finger happily into the vinaigrette left in the bowl after I split the salad between two plates, I secretly hoped my husband would not finish his portion. Placing the plate before him, I returned to the dining room with my dinner and the book that I’ve been reading, French Women Don’t Get Fat, by the CEO of Clicquot Inc., Mireille Guiliano.
I could hear exclamations of delight from the study as he bit into the most delicious gift that summer can bestow – fresh corn and succulent tomatoes! As I laughed to myself, thinking that the trip to the farmer’s market was well worth it, I returned to my book, to find out why my friend choose to lend it to me. After spending many shell-shocked evenings in my early teens, bursting out of a large pair of woman’s corduroys, I have had my fill of self-help books.
So out of curiosity, I started to turn the pages, certain that the author had tricked my friend out of her hard-earned cash. First, I was quickly charmed by the author’s narrative voice, her funny and flirty way of talking, the way women can sometimes express themselves when they feel beautiful. As I started to get “the message”, I must admit that what she says makes perfect sense. I continued to read, reminded of many of my French and Italian girlfriends who have shared similar tips regarding the enjoyment of food, along with strict portion control and respect for their health and their figures. Mireille’s book teaches moderation, patience, and dedication to a healthy routine, all things that I was fortunate to learn through yoga and from trial and error.
Certainly there are times when I overindulge, but there is a real lesson in what the author is saying to the majority of American women, young and old. There is a solid fact about Americans that characterizes our culture – most of us live in excess. What Americans have internalized about food is driven by the misconception that Bigger is Better – no matter the cost to quality. Where SUVs reign the road, carrying us off to restaurants when we should be walking, doggy bags, super-sizing, and big gulping has invariably led us down the road to one thing – bodies to match the cultural philosophy. Let’s face it, bigger isn’t always better. In the short and long run, isn’t it better to be satisfied and healthy, and happy “in one’s skin” as Mireille puts it?
Perhaps it is a state of mind, but as I ate my homegrown tomato salad, just enough and not too little for my appetite, sipping a glass of simple Spanish wine, I gazed up from my book. I reveled in this moment, remembering the fresh tomatoes that I used to pick from my Granny’s garden as the cicadas sang out, joyful in the warm August breeze.