If French women don’t get fat, in general, it’s because, over a week’s worth of meals, they have probably had only a small amount of desserts, breads and cheeses and focused on vegetables, fruits and unprocessed foods. If there is one golden rule of typical French eating habits, it consists of eating a little bit of everything in moderation in order to revel in great food but keep a lid on weight gain.
Another cornerstone of the French eating culture is the big family lunch on Sundays or holidays. All the usual culinary delights make an appearance: four-course meals are standard (starter, main meal, cheese course and dessert) with, of course, great wine and bread from the local bakery.
Even the most figure-conscious French woman will taste a bit of everything at these meals. Then, to counterbalance a run of excess, she turns to her secret weapon – which she probably picked up from her mother or grandmother. Substituting homemade vegetable soup for a meal or two, and particularly in the evening, is not a matter of officially dieting, deliberate deprivation or “detoxing”: it’s more about balancing out the week’s calorie intake to keep the national pleasure principle intact. This way, “indulging”, within reason, can remain a part of everyday life.
In my case, I learned what I know about French detox from my mother-in-law, Carmen. She used to whip up her favorite soup recipe alongside any given Sunday lunch or holiday meal. That way, it was ready. Vegetable soup, followed by a plain yogurt, for a couple of days and she was back on track! She maintained an enviable figure throughout her life.
Carmen’s Vegetable Soup
1. Chop up the onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pot, add the onions and sauté until they soften.
3. Add the leeks and carrots to the onions and sauté lightly.
4. Add the potatoes. Let all the vegetables simmer together for a few minutes.
5. Add the parsley.
6. Cover all the vegetables with water and add a cube of chicken stock (or the real thing if you have it handy!) and simmer over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft (not mushy). Puree with a handheld mixer or in a food processor.
This soup can be a main dish or side dish. For a heartier meal, pair it with a piece of dark bread and a slice of cheese.
Try with whatever vegetables you have to hand! Other great veggie choices are red peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, pumpkin, squash, or whatever is in season.
Frozen vegetables also work perfectly for this recipe and are real timesavers – I use frozen leeks, zucchini and onions all the time.
For an even lighter version of this soup, substitute potatoes with zucchini.
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