One thing that French people who have visited the States always remark on is the food. “The portions are enormous.” They say. “No wonder obesity is such a problem!” They cry. And I’ll admit it, they have a point. The last time I was home I went out to dinner with my family and every one of us ordered a steak that was so huge it took up the entire plate, making it necessary for the baked potato with butter and sour cream that came with it to be served on a separate dish. We may have even chosen onion rings as our choice of “vegetable.” So I get it. Really, I do.*
But here’s the thing, France. You’re not entirely blameless when it comes to ridiculously indulgent and calorific meals. The pictures shown here were taken at the grocery store, where one is seriously hard-pressed to find anything in the cereal aisle that doesn’t have chocolate in it. A good three-fourths of the cereal has chocolate in it. Maybe even more than that. And I’m not just talking about chocolate flavored stuff, like Cocoa Puffs or Count Chocula or something. No, there are actual chunks of chocolate, lots of it, in most of these cereals. Pour yourself a bowl of whatever cereal you normally eat and then throw ten or so Mars Bars in there and you’ll get the general idea.
And it’s clear from the packaging that this cereal isn’t all for children, which would be a sad but plausible excuse for such sugar-saturated breakfast food. Look at that picture of Cruesli. And Country Crisp! Even Baby Boomer favorite All Bran is chock-full of chocolate. Don’t even get me started on Trésor, which would seem like a product for kids in that it’s hard to imagine anyone else eating a “cereal” that is essentially liquid chocolate with a thin layer of something crunchy over it, but as anyone who ate cereal as a kid knows, the lack of a manic cartoon animal mascot on the box clearly identifies it as “big people food.”
In a way, identifying this dietary weakness of the French, who somehow manage to eat so well and stay so thin, makes me feel better about myself. These chic, svelte people who sometimes look down their noses at American cuisine are secretly shoveling in bowls full of granola peppered with dark chocolate and cappuccino-flavored candy every morning. The only difference is that they’re hiding their shame from the world by choosing to eat badly at breakfast and in the privacy of their own kitchens rather than out in public like us Americans. Well, I’m on to you, France. Next I’ll discover how you manage to do this and stay so fit.
* I gained five pounds during that three-week trip. But I’m still going back to that restaurant immediately the next time I’m in town.