By Richard P. Holm, MD
Last night I walked in on my wife and daughter watching an old movie about the famous cook Julia Child and, from 50 years later, a young American woman trying to cook recipes from Child’s cookbook. The movie contrasted two wonderful characters struggling to master the art of French cooking, but I thought too little was presented about the food itself.
If we were to contrast the difference between fine French cooking and typical American food, in general we could say it is mostly about quality versus quantity. The classic French haute cuisine, is pronounced “oat” like the grain you give to horses and “kwi-zeen” which rhymes with Holstein. Think haute cuisine and you envision small, almost dainty, courses of the freshest ingredients, with an emphasis on natural flavors, inventive pairings, a light sauce, a small glass of wine, and a tiny scoop of sorbet for dessert.
Think classic American food and you see a large plate piled high with fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn on the cob slathered in butter, a tall beer, and a large piece of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Or perhaps more typically you’d see a fast food double burger with bacon, large fries, a chocolate shake, and a deep fat fried apple fritter for dessert.
You get the point. It’s not about French versus American, it’s about quality versus quantity… taste versus calories. To that end, many nutritional experts make the following recommendations: understand the calories in the food you eat, and aim for 1500 to 1800 for an average sized active woman and 2000 to 2400 for an average sized active man. Reduce those numbers by 300 to 500 if inactive or elderly. (College age athletes are in a category all by themselves.)
Eat more non-starchy vegetables, all rich with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and almost-no-calories. A few examples: asparagus, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.
Build muscles by eating the right proteins with the essential nine amino acids, like eggs, lean meats, fish, or combining peanut butter on whole wheat bread or rice with beans.
Relegate to small defined quantities, or avoid altogether, the carbohydrates that drive us to eat more, like pasta, chips, white bread, desserts, and, dare I say, French-fried potatoes.
Finally, eat enough fruit daily. Experts warn not to drink your fruit. Rather, eat it whole.
Let’s make a new American Haute cuisine that’s about quality and not quantity.