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samedi 26 décembre 2009

French Paradox Explained at a Breton Village
The drive from the seaside Breton village of Quiberon with its holiday festive atmosphere and the shops awaiting the tourists, to the village of Kervallon, Population 20, was an easy one, despite drizzling rain.
No sooner we arrived, a bottle of champagne was open, and many of the relatives stopped by to visit and say Hello. The last time I was in this region was in May 2007, when I had come to observe a ceremony of welcoming someone in to the Catholique Church. Secular and independent as they are, the French, requires some sort of affirmation of faith but most opt to go to the Mayors office and pledge their allegiance to the Republic. Some decide to attend a church, and attend a mass and later have a huge feast with the family. If I remember correctly, the centuries old church in the nearby town was festive with the families of about ten children, around 14 years of age. I wonder whether there is any sort of connection to this ceremony and our ceremony of welcoming a child into adulthood, Bar Mitsvah?
The people who live in this village are farmers. They have the best cidre in all of Brittany. There is a “chicken farm” of about 100 000 “caged” chicken, owned by two brothers. Just one family controls most of the arable land around here and the parade of people in that house, the adolescents dressed elegantly rather than hip hop or bling style.
Nearly 10 bottles of champagne were to! be consumed during the course of the evening and early dinner. As guests and family, in fact almost all was family, and lived locally and I was the only Etranger..but was made to feel very welcome.
Of the twenty odd people who had dinner together and also about 20 others who came to visit, one could truly say that only one was obese and two were overweight. The farmers were thickset so we cannot mistake that for being overweight.
Americans, Australians, the British and the Nutritionists all point out to the food and its composition as the cause of lots of illness, without taking into consideration the social context of eating. Food has more meaning that just filling up your tummy, it conveys friendship, cements responsibility and solidarity and connects the past with the future.
If a nutritionist were to calculate the components of food eaten this evening by habitually thin French people, they would be horrified!
To accompany the Champagne, there were pieces of bread with various taste enhancers: salmon, tuna, fish eggs, cheese, eggs. Large plates one after another arrived, consumed and replaced.
As this was being cleared away, a large container of Foie Gras arrived and it was cut, and distributed with four different types of bread. Delicious and mouth watering, one slice would have all the fat you require in a day..I had two and enjoyed every minute of it!
White wine was served at this time. I sipped merrily along, finishing about three glasses before the main meal arrived.
The foie gras was only the first appetizer. Fresh oysters were on offer and all of us helped ourselves to about half a dozen of them, with its salty water, slurping in one instant.
The dinner had begun at 8 30 pm and at this stage it was already 10 30 pm. Conversations were flying back and forth like arrows, private and public conversations, people moving to a person they wish to discuss something with, a general level of joy and affection was ever present.
In my heart, I slowly began to feel the joy of being present at the net of family ties, to know that this sort of strength still exist in the western world. Nuclear family to them would be an anathema is family.. and you sacrifice for your family and when an occasion arises, you enjoy as lugubriously as possible the event.. but with your family members..
This family has had a restaurant in town until 1981, which I will describe later. So the red wine to accompany the roast beef and potato were from that era. Dusty with their labels covered with the mists of time, bottles of Graves and Saint Emilion arrived, and as quickly as they came, they disappeared as well.
Home grown potato, gratinee, with fresh cream and then garlic, oodles of it, to accompany the roast beef. The meat is gotten locally, so there is very little chance of growth hormone or antibiotics, the taste proved it. The main meal arrived at around 11 30 pm.
The festivities continued well past into the wee hours, always with drinks and always with food.
To those interested in French Pardox, the epidemiologists who predict patterns of disease and try to find the causative agents, noticed that while the French eat twice as much fat and carbohydrate as the Americans, they had less than half the rate of heart diseases and cholesterol problems.
It takes a qualitative thinking of an anthropologist, rather than the quantitative thinking of scientists and doctors to figure this out.
Look at the milieu where this food is being eaten. Are they alone? Are they sad? Are they depressed? Au contraire..
One of the three pieces of advise I give to people who consult me to loose weight, is: Do not eat alone, do not eat standing up, driving a car or while on the computer. Always try to eat with someone or while having a conversation.
While you are doing something else, the body’s protective hormones are on the look out to take care of you, they are raised; and when food is eaten, it is absorbed and stored away as fat. When you are talking and eating, the relaxed mood brings in a state of low hormonal levels and you could enjoy a larger variety of food without harm to your body.
The fact that the French do not have the prudish thought about Alcohol, like in the USA or the restrictions as in Scandinavian countries or habits of beer guzzling as in Australia or UK, their alcohol consumption in the form of excellent wines and champagne, for the years have protected them, their hearts and their arteries. Again, don’t drink alone, don’t drink to get drunk and drink in company while enjoying the food…
This in essence is the French Paradox..there was even a book called, The French Women don’t get Fat, which utilized some of these principles..for those unfortunates who live outside France…