One: They eat less than we do.
Several years ago, I read that a study comparing portion sizes in France and America showed that the portions in the States were one-third larger (and often a lot more than that) than those in France and last night was proof of it: I told the butcher I wanted a steak for one and you can see what I got, a lovely little (emphasis on little) filet that barely tipped the scale at 100 grams, or about 3 1/2 ounces. And, you know what? It was enough! (And pretty delicious, too, topped with shallots cooked in the pan while the steak was resting and red wine splashed into the pan and reduced at the end.)
Two: Big Brother is watching them.
It’s not just alcohol and tobacco that carry dire warnings (to see SMOKING KILLS in big, block letters on a cigarette pack is jarring in the extreme), it’s bread and sugar, too.
This is from a sign hanging over the bread baskets at my local Monoprix. The gentle warning reads: For your health, avoid snacking between meals and sends readers (and snackers) to a government-sponsored website called eat/move. The site’s handiwork turned up yesterday afternoon at the bottom of a magazine recipe for Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote with Vanilla Whipped Cream. The recipe was part of an advertisement for brown sugar and this time the warning read: For your health, avoid eating too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt.
Three: They sublimate.
Instead of walking into Laduree and buying one of every macaron they’ve got, or going for a religieuse — two pastry-cream-filled cream puffs, shiny with glaze and finished with a white icing ringlet that resembles a cleric’s collar — they opt for something beautiful and completely sans calories: this religieuse candle.
I looked at the candle for a minute, decided it was lovely, then marched right into the shop and bought a chocolate macaron. I guess I’m not French yet.
Edited thanks to the sharp eyes of some very good readers — merci.