All over the world, envious women wonder how the French stay so petite in a culture where bread isn’t merely food, but an accessory.
For a little less than a euro (or even cheaper if you know where to shop), you can have a flaky, fresh and if you’re lucky, hot, baguette in your arms in seconds. Bet you can’t eat just one.
And therein lies the problem. After a week of binging on carbohydrates when I first got to Paris, I began to wonder how many calories I was actually consuming. The answer wasn’t pretty. While I can’t find a definite number, the averages were upwards of 600 calories per baguette.
What’s a girl to do in a city that boasts chocolate, cheese, wine, crepes and baguettes as diet staples? It’s almost like reliving the freshman 15, only with much better food (not that I don’t love Seaco…).
At the top of my “most consumed” list are baguettes and crepes, and within the French population I am surely not alone. Boulangeries, French artisan bakeries, are scattered throughout every street, with options ranging from bread to pastries to sandwiches on baguettes (which are probably pretty bad for you). Buying bread at a grocery store is possible, but you might get glared at (just like buying cold milk).
Crepes, on the other hand, are the perfect food. They can be a late night snack, a dessert or a meal, depending on what kind you get. There is the sweet, “sucre,” and the savory, “salée,” (literally, salty). Whether you decide to top your crepe up with chantilly (whipped cream), or an egg, you can bet that this cheap little pancake is going to rock your world.
However, my apartment doesn’t exactly lie in the “most French” section of Paris in regards to food. On my way to school every morning, I pass a Starbucks, a McDonald’s and a KFC. Yes, there are KFCs in Paris. I guess every country needs a place to get their “double down” fix.
One of the big differences between the fast food chains here and in America, though, is that the portions are significantly smaller. A regular sized milkshake (the only size they have) would be considered a small in America. And they have pistachio, chocolate pear and strawberry, all made with real fruit, which are so good that I might never come home.
But, beyond the fast food, I also pass a crepe stand. “My man” as my friends and I like to call him, has some of the best crepes we’ve had in all of Paris—and that’s saying something. Some poser stands have the crepes pre-made and just heat them up. Not my guy. He would never cheat us like that.
So every Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday night he counts on us bringing him business. Nutella. Butter and sugar. Butter and lemon. Chantilly. I would name more of the delectable creations, but I can feel the calories spinning out of my fingers with every keystroke.
The worst (or maybe the best) part of it is that my man knows who we are and greets us like a friend, knows our orders and says, “See you next time,” when we leave. Beginning of a beautiful friendship? I sure hope so.
The only saving grace, it appears, for the abundance of boulangeries flirting with my taste buds are the markets. I could probably live in a market for the rest of my life and never get bored. So many colors of different fruits and vegetables, and all of them are perfect. No need to pick up each apple and check it.
The bad thing about the markets is that most of them are closed Sundays and Mondays, leaving me with either the not-as-good grocery store produce, or baguettes. Tough choice, I know.
This brings me to my original inquisition—how is it that French women keep their waifish figures amid a city of treats and indulgences? I would venture to guess it’s less about what they eat and more about how much they eat. They don’t eat to stuff themselves; they eat to satisfy.
But then again, maybe I’ll never know the answer. As soon as I find out, though, I’ll be sure to capitalize on it with a French fad diet book on the New York Times Bestseller list.