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Tuesday
May042010

Interviews with TLB: international best selling author, Mireille Guiliano

I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I was when publishing house, Simon and Schuster, asked if I'd like to conduct an interview with Mireille Guiliano.  Her newest literary launch, "The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook," made its official bookstore debut on Tuesday, April 27th. 

It must have been sometime this past Fall when Allie first introduced to me to Ms. Guiliano's writing, by gifting me with the author's famous book, "French Women Don't Get Fat."  (Thank you, Allie!)  For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying this delightful read, here's a quick summary: growing up in rural France, Ms. Guiliano had yet to encounter processed foods, larger-than-life portions, and a diet centered around convenience.  That was until she spent a year abroad in a well-to-do town outside of Boston.  Before she knew it, the time had come for Ms. Guiliano to return to her native France.  Armed with a slew of new friendships, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and her suitcases, Ms. Guiliano had accumulated more baggage - in the form of 15+ pounds.  Upon her return to France, Ms. Guiliano (with the help of "Dr. Miracle") re-taught herself how "eat like a French woman."  She later studied literature at the prestigious Sorbonne (university) in Paris, and went on to become spokesperson for Champagne Veuve Cliquot, and President and CEO of Cliquot, Inc. at LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey).

For someone who felt that her visits to France transformed the way she saw and thought about food, I found Ms. Guiliano's weight loss journey to be fascinating.  Additionally, it was quite a sobering reminder of America's worsening, bi-polar relationship with food.  What an utter shock it must have been for Ms. Guiliano to become accustomed to the American way of life and eating habits. 

Obviously, I could sing Ms. Guiliano's praises for hours on end, but in the essence of time, please enjoy our interview.  Without further ado...

Please also note that my conversation with Ms. Guiliano was conducted via phone, as I simultaneously took notes on our Q&A.  While her answers are not "word for word," they have been changed from phrases in to sentences.

*"TLB" stands for The Lunch Belle / "MG" stands for Mireille Guiliano.*

 

TLB: Congratulations on the recent debut of The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook.  I hear that Hollywood is calling!  Hillary Swank's production company is in talks about a potential movie.  If you had to pick one actress, who would you choose to play your character?

  • MG: Thank you!  The main character in the movie would not be based on me, rather, it's about a young American girl, living in NYC and working in the wine industry.  She's (the main character) always been fascinated with France, and gets the opportunity to work abroad.  The overall message (of the movie) is about how to live a richer, more fulfilling life.

TLB: When asked to describe the recipes in this cookbook, you said, "I think it's important not to take yourself too seriously in the kitchen."  I love that.  Can you please elaborate?

  • MG:  Yes, what I mean is, don't be afraid to cook!  What is the worst thing that can happen?  In the kitchen, women are so intimidated by failure, and men are not.  Cooking is just like anything else; the more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.  For example, my friend and I went to the green market the other day.  I bought some fresh rhubarb to make a dessert, and she couldn't believe that "this is what the actual plant looks like!" 

TLB: For those of us that live in NYC, we are both blessed and cursed by convenience.  With all of the fabulous salad bars at delis, rotisserie chickens at markets, etc., isn't that a decent substiute for home cooking?

  • MG: Even the best pre-made items are filled with ingredients that we wouldn't otherwise add if we were cooking the same dish at home.  Do you season your chicken stock with MSG?  I doubt it.

TLB: I think that you speak for all foodies when you say that your "three favorite past times are breakfast, lunch, and dinner."  With that, how often would you say that food is on the brain?

  • MG:  Yes, indeed!  I have a very healthy relationship with food, and I think that's in part to my childhood in France.  Until I came to America, I had taken my culinary upbringing for granted.  I know what a real almond, taken directly from the tree, tastes like.  I find the bagged peanuts on airplanes to be stale and overly-salted.  I'd rather fill up on water, personally.  People may call me a "food snob," and that's fine, but I just have higher standards.

TLB: What are the ingredients of writing a cookbook?  How long did the process take from start to finish?  The book contains 150 recipes; did you have every one of these on-hand?  If not, how many did you have to scramble to put together?

  • MG:  The process did not take long at all!  With all of the recipes I have, I could write twelve cookbooks!  I spent a couple of weeks deciding which recipes to choose and, before I knew it, we were testing them in a small kitchen in Massachusetts, just to make sure that the local ingredients could seamlessly be substituted for my typically-French ingredients.

TLB: What are 2-3 of your absolute favorite recipes in this cookbook?

  • MG:  Definitely the "Magical Breakfast," and the "Scallops Maison Blanche!"

TLB: Here's the million dollar question: have you found a decent/comparable French bakery in Manhattan?

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