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Le Bon Viveur

LE BON VIVEUR (The One Who Lives a Merry Life)

Let’s eat, drink and be merry.

Even up to twenty years ago, most British bons viveurs were beset with health problems. And today Great Britain still tops the chart for cardiovascular problems, heart attacks etc., the results of too much heavy, cream-laden food, sugar and not enough vegetables, good fibre and fruit. Things are changing though, and expense-account restaurants, the traditional haunt of the bon viveur, are now offering better food lifestyles, under the influence of the French, the Italians and Asians. However, steak and kidney pudding, a British classic, is actually an excellent food, rich in protein and folic acid, but few would benefit from eating it at every meal. Moderation and balance are the key to health. With a little knowledge of nutrition, one can live and enjoy most of the pleasure of life, especially good food and good wine. For instance, a simple idea, but one that is a basic nutritional precept, is to start a meal with a salad of raw vegetables: this stimulates the digestion beneficially and, of course, reduces the need for over-indulgence thereafter!

As a spry, wiry Frenchman I was brought up in a family of bons viveurs who are all slim, fit and happy. This is in keeping with the national gastronomic tradition. The typical French bon viveur, consuming a diet of fresh food and foie gras, washed down with the best wine, often lives to a ripe and healthy old age. France enjoys the lowest average individual body weight of all western countries, and the least incidence of cardiovascular disease. And all this whilst digesting up to two three-course meals per day, following a breakfast of chocolate and croissants.

If this all seems irritatingly unfair or contradictory, you can blame the most ubiquitous of ‘nutritional’ deception: the great calorie-lie that ‘obesity results from a diet too high in calories’. We all know obese people whose problems persist despite severe ‘dieting’ or starvation. There may well be temporary weight loss, but the body will guard itself against perpetual rationing by simply reducing its daily needs to less than the new reduced calorie intake. The surplus calories will still be stored daily, as body fat, resulting eventually in weight gain. You cannot out-manoeuvre nature. Luckily for us, the body does reach a natural point of satiation, but only once it receives enough nutrients, not calories. It is time to stop this obsession with calories and to return to what sustains food traditions: common sense.

The British are changing. I see them in my restaurants, tie-less, hat-less and smiling and truly enjoying their food. Nowadays they even kiss their hellos, and embrace surprised Frenchmen! There is a wonderful new mood of sensuality. A British bon viveur is no longer characterized by his or her indiscriminate drinking and eating, but by an enthusiastic appreciation of beautiful food and wine.

Science today reassures us that no connoisseurs of the good life need deny themselves: with a little knowledge of nutrition, one can eat, drink, be merry and healthy. 

Source: Blanc Vite

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