I have been so fortunate in this move that my two buddies, Katherine and Margaret, are down here in the Triad with me now as well. Wild how all three of us ended up moving down here this summer... We were all parts of the renowned Book Group back in Asheville. (I actually was a founding member about 8 years ago.) We didn't always all read books - our best attended monthly meetings were usually when we met somewhere for dinner! But - these were some of my wonderful friends - and something I really enjoyed in life.
So Margaret and Katherine and I decided to have "book group." We have been joking about calling it the Eastern Division of Book Group, but E.D. for a name is probably nothing with which we would want to associate (unless I get paid like Bob Dole, of course!). We met last night at Margaret's new home - with no book to discuss - but since a couple of us have been reading French Women Don't Get Fat, we decided to bring food to eat like Frenchwomen. (and did we ever! - Margaret even made homemade apple and pear tarts from her newly inherited fruit trees in her yard!)
We did end up discussing this best-selling book. I had never bought a "diet" book before, but after hearing the author give an interview - this book sounded different - and I thought, "What the heck?"
Mireille, the author, is a keen observer of society, and quite a theologian as well. We all know the problems associated with food in our society - mass obesity, rampant eating disorders (even growing among young men these days), supersize eating, sedentary lifestyles - the list goes on and on. Mireille connects part of the problem with food in America as dealing with sin and guilt (something foreign to the French). She is so right. We spend so much time desiring something we think is "bad for us" - then give over and binge on it, and then feel guilty and sinful. And if we enjoy something delicious (like a really good piece of chocolate), we either feel bad afterwards or have to do penance by starving ourselves or killing ourselves at the gym.
Until reading her book (which is really a lifestyle book, not a diet book) - I thought most of the food problems had arisen with the advent of fast food in the 50's and Twiggy type models in the 60's. Yet, I now think it might go back to our Puritanical roots. If we can't see food as a gift in life, as something to be savored and appreciated - if it's just a sinful indulgence - we are going to abuse food in some way or another. Another insightful take on this line of thought is from the now deceased Caroline Knapp in her memoir, Appetites.
I try each day to be thankful for the things in my life. I normally say Grace before a meal (and have taught my children to do this as well) - but I think Mireille is teaching me to go beyond the basics of thanksgiving and truly to appreciate good food for the divine gift it is. I can deal with sin and guilt in plenty of other areas in my life :)
So - we have decided to revise our "book group." We have decided to form a "Knitting group." (no catchy name yet) We'll meet every two weeks - they will teach me how to knit (since I'm the novice among the three of us!), and we will keep eating like Frenchwomen (especially drinking champagne!) and might even discuss some of the books we read in our lives.