The Art of French Eating

I just read a piece by Jessica Knoll in the Global New York Times about “intuitive eating,” a fascinating concept. Come to find out, it’s an idea that surfaced in 1995 with a book entitled Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who have gone on to build an industry dedicated to the idea.

What is Intuitive Eating?  Basically, it’s what the French do by nature.

It’s eating when you are hungry, eating what you love, getting satisfaction from what you eat, not listening to those who say, “Thin is Best,” exercising…and more.  And the French add pleasure to the list of what they get when following their natural inclination to eat well.   Because they know that some butter here, some foie gras there, a really great glass of wine or two, and bread so crisp and tender topped by oozing, fragrant cheese, is the stuff of life.

The French inclination to eat well is based on history and habit.  The Gauls didn’t just slap food on the table –  they roasted and braised, salted and preserved, then washed their meals down with “artisanal” beer.  Later, Charlemagne galloped around the realm dictating his wishes to farmers, which included a certain number of chickens in their coops, fish in their ponds, crops in their fields.  This set up the habit of using local and seasonal ingredients, and transforming them into meals, simple and filled with flavor, a tradition that continues today.  The other thing that has persisted throughout history is the notion of time, which the French give to their meals so they can fully experience the flavors, pleasures, satisfactions of what they eat.


One other thing the French understand intuitively: when the meal is over, it’s over. There is no need for mid-meal snacks because there isn’t even the semblance of hunger until the next meal bell rings.  Time is set aside to eat, to work, and for whatever else occupies the day.  There is little overlap.

Intuitive Eating is brilliant; and so is eating like the French.  Here is a recipe to help you on your way.

Braised Spring Vegetables including lettuce
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
45 mins
Late spring is a perfect moment in the life of vegetables. Peas, carrots, potatoes and onions are brand new, filled with tender, sweet flavor, the juiciest and most flavorful they will be all year. This dish, which is topped with a fresh lettuce that melts gently into it, is a celebration of spring, ideal to serve with roasted meats or fish.
Servings: 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound;500g new carrots peeled and cut into thin rounds
  • 1 pound;500g new potatoes washed
  • 10 ounces;300g new spring onions trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 3 shallots peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then into thin half-moon slices
  • 8 ounces;250g asparagus trimmed and cut on the bias into 2-inch (5cm) lengths
  • fine sea salt
  • 1 cup;250ml water
  • 4 pounds; 2 kg peas in the shell (to give 4 cups shelled peas)
  • Freshly ground black peppe
  • 1 head (about 1 pound;500g) butter lettuce leaves separated, heart left intact, rinsed
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, potatoes, onions, and shallots, stirring so they are coated with the butter. Season lightly with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are softened but still have plenty of texture, about 8 minutes.
  2. Stir in the water, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, covered, until the carrots are nearly tender, an additional 6 minutes. Add the asparagus, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes, then lay the lettuce heart and leaves over the vegetables. Cover, and cook until the lettuce leaves are wilted and the peas are done to your liking (I like them bright green and just cooked through to a juicy tenderness,) 10-15 minutes.
  3. Adjust the seasonings and serve




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