Review

French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure

by Mireille Guiliano



Just as Coco Chanel transformed the fashion world and popularized
the little black dress, Mireille Guiliano popularizes the French
woman's lifestyle --- joie de vivre (the good life). FRENCH
WOMEN FOR ALL SEASONS contains the "secret of pleasure," a recipe
for a champagne lifestyle that embraces this simple philosophy:
"eat three meals a day; keep portions small; eat seasonal fruits
and vegetables; drink lots of water; savor wine; walk more; and
have occasional treats." Mireille (I feel I can call her by her
first name after being privy to her secrets) shares her family
recipes and her "philosophy of pure and simple, and always
pleasure" and "the importance of seasonality to the French woman's
lifestyle."

The most noticeable and, in my opinion, most pleasurable feature
about Mireille's seasonal menus is the fact that each dinner menu
includes a glass of red or white wine. This is definitely the
lifestyle for me. Mireille provides recipes that are based on the
seasonality of foods and advises adjusting your lifestyle to the
seasons of the year. Wonderful and simple recipes for Shrimp and
Leek "Mimosa," Sea Scallops and leeks in Champagne Sauce, Grilled
Steak with Wine Sauce and Quiche Lorraine are part of our French
pleasure lessons.

One of my most vivid memories of Paris was a visit to an indoor
market to seek out the French lifestyle apart from the tourist hot
spots. I have never seen fruits and vegetables so large, so
colorful and so fresh. It was like they came from another planet.
The leeks Mireille uses in her Magical Leek Soup were of a length
and size that brought out my camera because I knew no one in the
states would believe me when I described their size! And never
again will I visit Manhattan without going to the Union Square
Greenmarket. I can't wait to see and taste the bounty that Mireille
says awaits me. Mireille's description of the orgy of fruits and
jewels of fresh vegetables is one that rivals a Saks Fifth Avenue
storefront displaying emeralds and diamonds.

It won't be hard for most women to accept the concept of the French
lifestyle: "All about pleasure." Most women I know gravitate toward
this anyway, but it is usually short-lived and a quick cure for
stress. Just mention champagne and "a French woman's eyes
sparkle...Champagne is a state of mind, a very pleasant one." I
love this concept for bien-être (well-being).

"A French woman must look soignée, pulled together." With
bon chic, bon genre (half style, half attitude), Mireille
reveals secrets for beauty routines, tying a scarf properly,
arranging flowers of the season, creating a chic look with
accessories and investing in classic pieces of clothing that are
eternally stylish. I especially appreciated learning the secrets to
a successful cocktail dinatoire. The dinatoire is a
very easy and very French way to entertain, and of course the first
secret to this most Parisian social gesture is to pick a good
wine.

Mireille's 50% rule of consuming half of what you put on your plate
or in your wine glass is easily achieved by just asking yourself
how much you really want what you are about to eat. Contrary to
most healthy eating programs that are low in fats, "French women
eat cheese all the time, often instead of dessert." This makes
sense because wine and cheese go together so well, and Mireille
asserts positively that wine is food.

The Wine is Food chapter is the absolute best wine guide I have
ever read. Mireille explains everything wine --- how to buy it, to
decant or not to decant, how to store it and how to pair it with
foods for the most pleasurable experiences. As a new connoisseur of
Champagne and disciple of Mireille's secrets, I have decided not to
reserve this special bubbly "food" just for special occasions.
Instead, Mireille has freed me to enjoy joie de vivre (the
good life) much more frequently with the "wine of kings." Champagne
has "reigned as the wine not only of sovereignty but of love,
romance, and celebration." It was most gracious of Mireille to
share this next secret with us so we are not caught making a faux
pas in front of a French man while in the South of France: "In
Provence or on the Riviera --- rosés are the apéritif of
choice."

The simple pleasures have always been touted as the best. Mireille
brings us back to this concept with classic French style and the
added indulgence of Champagne. Mireille's upbringing, warmth,
French phrases and well-traveled insights shine through with
effervescence. Her vast experience in the wine industry is blended
with the French l'art de vivre (the art of living) as if she
were developing a new Champagne just for women. French women can
always think of a good reason to drink Champagne. Voilà. "When
in doubt, have Champagne" will be the first "secret of pleasure" I
indulge in as a new French woman for all seasons.

Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 22, 2011

French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure
by Mireille Guiliano

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2006
  • Genres: Health, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307265234
  • ISBN-13: 9780307265234