There are so many books out there telling us how all French women are slim and beautiful, with chic style, look ten years younger than their age, have perfect children and great sex lives, etc., etc. You name it; the French are better at it than us. It’s enough to make you reach for a drink!
I’ve lived in France for over thirty years so I’m happy to dispel a few of these myths so that we non-French women can dust off our self-esteem.
The French have some great phrases relating to the after-effects of over indulgence, such as “mal aux cheveux” (my hair hurts) and the famous “crise de foie” (a liver crisis). So they obviously don’t have this thing covered either.
Everybody lies about his or her alcohol consumption, but figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the French win at alcohol consumption 12.2 litres per capita, with the United Kingdom at 11.6 and the United States at 9.2. But it’s also about what we drink. In France, over half is consumed as wine, compared to a third in the UK and less than 20% in the US.
The figures also show the divide between men and women. In the United States, men are reported as drinking 13.6 litres per capita per year and women 4.9. In the United Kingdom, it’s 16.5 litres for men and 6.9 for women. The French beat us all at 17.8 litres for each man and 7.1 per woman.
The French do drink differently.
– They consume most of their alcohol as wine and mainly at meal times. Friends rarely meet for drink in France, they drink with food, so they’ll meet you for dinner or lunch. Yes, they are the champions of the “aperitif” but very much as a pre-meal experience—no pre-loading here.
Drinking with food rather than on an empty stomach reduces the Blood Alcohol Concentration, and protects the liver. In France, they advise a spoonful of olive oil before drinking, in England, we advise a glass of milk. I prefer full-fat yoghurt, as it helps with probiotics who also suffer from too much alcohol.
– They take their time over meals, chewing well; they eat less and enjoy it more. Chewing warns the stomach what food is heading its way, preparing the digestive process and allowing time for a full sensation to reach the brain from the stomach. This process slows down both food and wine consumption.
– They have both wine and water on the table. Drinking at least one glass of water for every glass of wine helps reduce headaches exacerbated by the dehydration as your body tries to dilute the alcohol. This habit helps. And no ice in that water, iced water inhibits the digestion.
So French women drink their wine with food, but their eating habits are worth a look, too:
– French women do not snack in between meals.
– Croissants are for breakfast, not for a mid-morning top up.
– You don’t see French women walking around town with polystyrene cups of milky coffee. In fact, apart from breakfast, they never put milk in coffee.
– They eat three meals a day.
– They don’t eat on the hoof; they stop for lunch, take their time, eat slowly, and enjoy.
– They don’t eat half a baguette while waiting for the starter to arrive or a bowl of peanuts with the aperitif.
– They drink lots of water.
– They eat their veg; a French family meal will usually start with either salad (crudités) in the summer or soup in the winter. Vegetables are served with the main course and salad offered with cheese before dessert.
– They finish their meal with a strong (bitter) espresso, which closes the appetite.
You don’t have to come to France to eat and drink like a French woman but when you do, you now know how to fit right in!
The original of the post was featured on A Balanced Glass and is taken from The Drinking Woman’s Diet, A Liver friendly Lifestyle Guide. available in paperback as an e book or on Amazon. Contact me for a signed copy as a Christmas gift.