We caught up with Mireille just as she had returned from Provence and was reviewing the final touches on her second book, French Women For All Seasons, which arrived in bookstores October 31, 2006.
Is your new book French Women for All Seasons an expansion of the ideas in your first book, or a continuation of recipes and memoir?
Both. It is what my readers asked for: more stories, more recipes, more. The first book was about joie de vivre and managing your relationship with food, while French Women for All Seasons is more about art de vivre, i.e., food, wine, style, fashion, entertaining, pleasures, flowers, and the seasons for living “bien dans sa peau.” It is about embracing pleasures and about savoring–by way of appreciating seasons and seasonality–life as a more intense experience.
What did you discover about yourself while writing French Women for All Seasons?
1. That it’s all in the mind and therefore not a function of nationality but rather of mindset.
2. Also, I learned that in lots of small ways, I was and am able to help people make changes in their lives for the better.
3. I was stunned I could stretch myself so thin, but on the other hand learned about overstretching and its dangers. There is a price for extremism, in all shapes or forms. It was a good lesson for me. A couple of times, my body said “no” to too much travel, too much talk and too much physical exhaustion. I learned that I need to keep private time in order to keep being “bien dans ma peau” and having my equilibrium. I’m learning to say “no.”
4. While writing French Women for All Seasons (a job on top of my other jobs), I discovered that I still have a lot to give, and that I’ve been a very lucky person growing up (writing made me think about lots of stages in my life I had forgotten about); and it made me think about living a life to the fullest.
Are there party menus in the new book?
There are complete menus for one week for each season that can be applied to a dinner party, and there is a chapter on entertaining with personal party themes and ideas.
More seasonal menus?
Absolutely. As more and more people realize that “we are what we eat,” freshness is important in our food choices and so are vegetables and fruit in season.
We saw on your calendar that you’d recorded an audio version of the book recently. How did that go?
Fine. It’s an abridged version, but there will be an added booklet with a selection of recipes.
What are some of the things and places you are looking forward to in your upcoming book tour?
I’ll be starting with a dozen U.S. cities and am eager to see old faces and meet new ones. I’m anxious to go back to the cities I love and visited on my last tour…After NYC, I’ll be starting with San Francisco, a place I love and where I have wonderful friends. But I will also visit cities I have not been to recently–like Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Milwauke–and that is very exciting. Also, I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in London, to mark the publication of the British edition.
What surprised you most while on tour for the first book?
The thirst for common sense, the love of France, the country, the language, the people, the food, plus the interest in learning to cook, going to market and sharpening one’s senses. Also, the realization that things must change in our global society and the individual desire to start being responsible toward feeding oneself and one’s family.
Are there places in the world where your book was received differently than you expected?
Yes, the crowds in bookstore events in Australia were amazing. In Ireland, too, people are avid readers. The press in both countries was overenthusiastic. But I could say the same for people all over, in the U.S., GB, Brazil, Italy or China and so many others who were so generous with little gifts that touched me immensely. I certainly felt as one with a large community of women concerned about making their lives richer, healthier and filled with pleasures.
Do you think most cultures have a tradition of eating for pleasure?
Alas, no. Of course each culture has its favorite foods and people embrace the pleasures of certain holiday dishes. But too many people eat on autopilot, mindlessly taking in tasteless and unhealthy food. My adoptive homeland is probably the culture that hurts me most, not only because of the high percentage of overweight, even obese, people, but because of the guilt factor (rather than pleasure factor) associated with eating. As I’ve said, Americans worry about bad things to eat rather than thinking about and enjoying good things to eat. There’s a love-hate relationship with food that is overwhelming and will need a lot more education to effect changes, but it’s changing and that’s the positive aspect worth pursuing.
Members are very interested in eating pleasurably, even when they have to be on the go. Do you have suggestions of specific foods or recipes that travel well?
It’s impossible to eat pleasurably on the go, and I explain it further in the second book: your brain needs 20 minutes to register that you’ve had enough, and most people eat much too fast and thus too much–and worse, they do without pleasure. So the starting point is to change some bad habits.
Will there be more chocolate recipes in the new book? Are you still hooked on Pierre Marcolini these days, or has another chocolatier caught your fancy?
You bet. And the recipes are easy to do and delicious. Yes, Marcolini is still among my favorite ones, but there are others I mention. I might have to do a list of them as I discovered marvelous little places in various US cities. My fondest memory was my visit in Paradise Valley, AZ, where the resort orders special chocolates for special guests, and when I arrived I had this incredible selection made by an amazing young woman who lives in town and “freelances” for the hotel. She came to my reading the next day and told me how she loves France: she trained in Paris and is totally devoted to zee best. She makes gateaux and chocolates for the locals. Her name is Julia Baker 480-556-0217. If you ever visit that gorgeous (it really is paradise) part of the US, do look her up…she may have her own shop by now.
Did Anne Hathaway contact you while using your methods for slimming down during her role in “The Devil Wears Prada?”
No, she didn’t contact me. Of course, I appreciate the tremendous endorsement. She had to lose weight before shooting the movie and told a reporter that she didn’t diet but simply read my book and had an easy and enjoyable time. She looks great in the film, and I thanked her for speaking highly about my book.
What are 3 – 5 things a woman can add to her wardrobe to increase her style quotient?
The little black dress is a must. It’s just timeless. Also, a scarf, a pearl necklace, a classic suit, a silk blouse or cashmere sweater. These are the base fundamentals that serve one well in “building your brand.”
What are some of your favorite petits riens lately?
I’ve recently grown to like green tea. Also, lots of bakeries in France are now making mini croissants and viennoiseries so during this summer in Provence it was a treat to have one for breakfast a few times a week. Another real treat for now [Fall] is enjoying the last few weeks of peaches and apricots, and berries. Reading books is also something I enjoy and know that soon I won’t have much time to read as much as I like. Doing the crossword puzzle during the summer was a small luxury. And yes, lavender harvest–followed soon by the packaging of the lavender into little bags–is a pleasure I wouldn’t want to miss.