As 2010 begins, we now look ahead to the new year—new decade—with all of our hopes, dreams and goals for the times ahead, and I find myself wondering what this enigma of a new year has in store for us. The challenges of 2009 brought many changes as the country headed in a different direction and towards saving money rather than the constant consumption that was the rule before. While the recession has brought great hardship to too many people, I try to remember it has not been totally without its silver livings. Many Americans have been rediscovering thrift and reconnecting with family and friends, cooking and eating at home more often…discovering that in so many ways less can truly be more. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal* last month about how the recession has led to a 3% drop in the country’s divorce rate. Admittedly, some of this may be due to the expense of divorce, but in other situations the recession has led to couples reconnecting and working through problems together.
Hearing that people are cooking more at home brings me great pleasure. It is really the basis of the French lifestyle and is healthier, brings people closer to their food and understanding what goes into it, and is a practical way to save money. The French per capita income is lower than in the U.S. and French women are very thrifty. They have lots of tricks for stretching their food dollars with methods like making homemade soups, using lots of vegetables—as well as dairy products and eggs—to stretch out meat and making their own yogurt. It’s also amazing how much one can save simply by not buying processed food…not to mention the increase in both health and pleasure.
Even as the farmers markets become more popular—and I hope this trend continues to grow—people can save money. Though farmers markets sometimes have a reputation of being “only for the elite,” at my local green market I have come across produce that is cheaper than in the surrounding supermarkets, with much higher quality. And because we are shopping seasonally, we also save money. The cabbage, kale and root vegetables in season right now are as economical as it gets. Dishes like Potage d’hiver or Celeriac soup are two examples of inexpensive dishes that, paired with a piece of bread and some cheese, make an economical, healthy and satisfying meal.
With The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook coming out in April, there will also be a whole new collection of recipes. The timing seems right…it is designed with busy women in mind and has plenty of budget-friendly recipes. I hope it will be helpful for all those looking for some new ideas in the kitchen.
On another note, I also read another interesting Wall Street Journal article** recently about new restaurant trends. Some of the trends I hope will be fads only, such as the bar and cocktails becoming the focus of restaurants rather than the food…which of course leads people to take in many empty calories and sugar and then, with lowered inhibitions, they are more likely to overindulge in the food—with dulled senses, enjoying it less. Good for the restaurants’ bottom lines but not so much for the diners’ experiences or their waistlines. But there is one trend I like a lot: as I have noticed myself when dining out, restaurants have been moving to smaller plates, which are both less expensive and give people the opportunity to share and try many things. This is a concept I love and it fits in perfectly with the French woman’s approach. As I’ve mentioned before, the maximum pleasure is obtained from a food in the first three bites. Order a few dishes to share with friends, have a few bites from each and be satisfied without overindulging.
So, as we look ahead to 2010, I feel hopeful about many of the trends I see. It is my wish, of course, that the economy will continue its still-tenuous recovery, but it is also my hope that we won’t forget the lessons learned and will continue with the rediscovered joys of cooking and other simpler pleasures.
Bonne et heureuse année, and may the new year bring you many rich experiences and pleasures.