foods of Mediterranean Diet. Photo by G.steph.rocket

Image: foods of Mediterranean Diet. Photo by G.steph.rocket via Wikimedia

|| 27 January 2023

Longevity & the Mediterranean Diet

Since its introduction several decades ago, the Mediterranean Diet with its emphasis on eating unprocessed cereals, legumes, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, with moderate consumption of fish, dairy products (chiefly as cheese and yogurt), and meat continues to be promoted for its benefits for health and longevity.

Recently with the death of the French nun Sister André, born Lucille Randon, at only 25 days short of age 119 — and the announcement of the Spanish María Branyas Morera as the new oldest person alive, it occurred to me that these two women — along with Jeanne Calment, the French woman who died in 1997 and holds the record for the longest-lived person at 122 years, all lived all or most of their lives near the Mediterranean. Certainly in that area where the traditional diet that has been promoted in the Mediterranean Diet is eaten.

Jeanne Calment was born in the Provence city of Arles and lived all her life there. Lucille Randon was born in Alès in the Occitanie region of southern France. Though she lived in other cities in France in her long life, she lived from the age of 105 in a nursing home in Toulon, a port city on the Mediterranean.

María Branyas Morera, the current holder of the oldest living person title, was born in San Francisco and lived in the US (in Texas and New Orleans) until the family moved back to Spain when she was 8 years old. But she lived the rest of her life in several cities in Catalonia, a province of Spain with more than 360 miles of Mediterranean coast. She currently lives in a nursing home in Olot, Catalonia, only a short drive from the Mediterranean,

Both Lucille Randon and María Branyas Morera recovered from bouts of Covid-19 despite their advanced years.

When you consider that Jeanne Calment continued to ride her bicycle when over 100, that María Branyas Morera continued to play the piano until 108, and that Lucille Randon worked caring for the elderly until 100, then all three women are excellent examples of the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean way of eating — especially since all three remained mentally alert and giving media interviews.

eat well, live long — Anne Barone

|| 20 January 2023

Gas Cooking Stove Controversy

Likely you are aware of the recent controversy over gas cooking stoves. The suggestion that they might be banned here in the USA was met with outrage. That outrage was quickly followed by articles that pointed out that the concerns about these much-loved by serious home cooks and restaurant chefs appliances were greatly overblown.

I number myself among those who would not consider owning an electric cooking stove. The advantages of gas cooking stoves are too numerous.

Here in Texas the preference for gas cooking stoves goes beyond food. When the Texas Freeze in winter 2021 knocked out our electrical grid, for some of us it was our gas cooking stoves that saved us.

On older models of gas ranges such as mine made in 1947, I had use of both the stovetop burners and the oven for heating my kitchen and cooking. Though with the frigid temperatures, the stove did not make my kitchen what anyone but a polar bear would consider warm. Even on the newer models that require electricity for the oven to ignite, there is a workaround for the stovetop burners. This was particularly important because most gas central heating, like the newer cooking ovens, require electricity to ignite the gas. And our frequent storms, especially during tornado season, often leaves us without electricity.

As for the dangers to health from gas cooking stoves, I grew up in houses all of which had gas kitchen ranges — and until we moved to a home that had central heating (gas), these houses used open flame gas heaters for household heating.

Open flame room heaters are now banned, at least here in the city where I live. They did have some dangers. Though not from emissions — unless the flame went out. And as I remember, there were far fewer people (adults as well as children) that suffered from respiratory problems than today with our central heating.

In any case I am relieved to know that I am running little risk to my health from my well-ventilated gas cooking stove with my required carbon monoxide detector hanging nearby. And especially relieved that banning these cooking stoves is highly unlikely in the near future.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 17 January 2023

Finally French

In the early days of the Chic & Slim website, questions I was repeatedly asked were: Why did you return to live in the USA? Why didn’t you stay in France?

At the time there had been good, and compelling, reasons for returning to the land of my birth. Now finding myself so out of sync with life as it is lived in the the USA today, I admit I definitely made a wrong choice. Now it is too late.

But I had delicious, vicarious satisfaction reading Emma Beddington’s I am finally French, after years of longing in The Guardian.

If you follow the link to read the column on finally French citizenship, while you are on The Guardian site, you might also want to read Brigitte Macron backs compulsory school uniforms in France.

|| 13 January 2023

Beware Weight Control Terrorists

The Fat Monster has many assistants. If you, like me, live in a neighborhood with one of these weight control terrorists, you, like me, will be amazed at how these people will not give up on their attempts to make you gain weight. I have told my neighbor multiple times that I do not eat sugar. Despite this, she continues to bring sugared desserts to my house in an attempt to tempt me.

One day a little after Thanksgiving, I opened my back door to go outside. Something out near the fence caught my attention. I would not have looked down at the top step if my cat who was also going outside with me had not executed a neat leap. I looked down to see what she was vaulting over. There it was. My neighbor had left a cake on my top back step.

The problem here was not that my neighbor was putting any particular temptation in my way. I am long past that. The problem was that if I had stepped down on that plastic container holding the cake, my foot would likely have slipped and I would have landed on the hard concrete. At my age, that could have caused a serious bone-breaking fall. Thanks to my cat, I did not fall.

And, of course, I did not eat the cake. But I did keep it long enough to photograph it to show you. Then, I threw it in the trash. If the neighbor had not departed on a week’s trip by the time I found the cake, I would have taken it back to her — as I usually do the candy, cakes, and other sweets she delivers.

Beware Weight Control Terrorists.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 8 January 2023

Winter Outdoor Exercise

I just came in from a brisk half hour's walk. Invigorating. I tolerate the cold poorly. So, when the temperatures drop, I can always find an excuse for indoor exercise. But this afternoon, though chilly, still had late afternoon sun. The air was calm. Very pleasant to walk at a fast pace as the sun slowly sank in the west. I feel so much better for the effort. Don't neglect getting outdoors in the winter.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 5 January 2023

Comparing UK and European Christmases

I hope 2023 is going well for you, and you are recovering from any of the stresses and fatigue the holidays inflicted on you.

Major holidays are too often exhausting. All that shopping, all that decorating, all that cooking can diminish your pleasure of celebration. Our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat aims for pleasure, elegance, and enough leisure to enjoy the holiday.

So when I emailed Kat to wish her Christmas greetings and, recognizing that she was 6 hours ahead of me here in the USA, I said I hoped she had a pleasant Christmas Day. In a return email, Kat wrote a description of her enjoyable day — then followed with a lengthy comparison of how Christmas is celebrated in the UK and in Europe.

If you are still trying to recuperate from the exhaustion of the holidays just past, you might find ideas for more leisurely future celebrations in Kat’s comparison. More . . .

|| 1 January 2023

Here we go. The first day of 2023. I got an early start. My cat woke me at 4:15 AM. Thinking it ill-advised to begin the new year by strangling a cat, instead I went to the kitchen and made a pot of tea. Miles West Country is the perfect tea for a wakeup early winter morning.

Agreed that 2022 was not a good year, perhaps the whole problem comes down to not enough people ate their black-eyed peas on New Years Day. (Some of you may know this legume as cow peas or field peas.) I grew up in a part of the country where people traditionally ate black-eyed peas on New Years Day to ensure good luck and prosperity in the new year.

The black-eyed peas served in my family were inevitably home-grown (in a friend or relative's garden) and cooked with ham or salt pork. Both the pea and the green shell were cooked with the fatty meat. Long, slow cooking.

I bought canned black-eyed peas and will embellish them with sautéed onions and garlic and some Penzey's Ozark spice blend. I have not made up my mind whether I will accompany the peas with spinach or cabbage. But definitely hot cornbread.

I did not eat black-eyed peas on New Years 2022. We shall see if my 2023 fares better.

Happy New Year | Bonne Année — Anne Barone

|| 29 December 2022

Ending A Not Very Good Year

Almost everyone agrees. 2022 has not been a very good year. From my correspondence, I know that for some of you, it has been an extremely difficult year.

But we are optimists. We always believe that somehow the next year will be better. And sometimes (surprise !) it is.

At least here at Provence-sur-la-Prairie the week leading up to New Years is considerably warmer than the week leading up to Christmas. Both yesterday and today it was warm enough for my afternoon tea on the patio. Though I did need a sweater this afternoon.

Email Alert

An alert for those of you who send me email. My recent switch to a new Internet service means that soon I will be terminating my email addresses that I have had for more than two decades. I will be posting my new email address on the website shortly after the first of the new year. As always, I will be happy to have your thoughts and comments.

Another Report

Christmas Day our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat wrote and sent an interesting comparison analysis of the ways that the British and the French celebrate Christmas. I hope to have this report ready for you soon after the beginning of the new year.

The beginning of a new year is a good time to rethink how you approach many aspects of your life. In Kat’s report you might find ideas for increasing your leisure and your pleasure in any of your holiday celebrations during the year. Your aim is joy of celebration. Not exhaustion from preparation and cleanup.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 25 December 2022

Christmas 2022

When I was a child on Christmas morning I would wake very early and slip downstairs to see what Santa had left for me under the tree.

This year on Christmas morning I woke very early and slipped into the kitchen to see if the water pipes had frozen. So it is this year.

Many of those who were dreaming of a White Christmas got the nightmare of the Polar Vortex.

Here at Provence-sur-la-Prairie we were braced for another Texas Freeze as in the winter of 2021. But the electric grid held, the power stayed on, and my precautions were enough to keep my water pipes from freezing. Though the temperatures were far below late-December normal for my part of the world, after a dusting of early morning snow, the sun shone and there was little wind. We were very fortunate. Today we are almost 50 degrees F. (10 C.)

But I know many of you are shoveling snow. Others of you are sensibly not venturing out of doors. Ice is slippery. But I hope you are finding some pleasure in the holiday.

Wishing you comfort and joy — Anne Barone

|| 18 December 2022

Sustainable Fashion

Bamboo underwear. Organic cotton tank tops. No-waste production sneakers made in Fair Trade factories. We are hearing a lot about Sustainable Fashion these days.

One definition (from Wikipedia): Sustainable fashion is a term describing products, processes, activities, and actors aiming to achieve a carbon-neutral fashion industry, built on equality, social justice, animal welfare, and ecological integrity.

Another definition (from IMMAGO): Sustainable fashion is a way in which brands create clothing that not only reduces the impact on the environment but is also mindful of the people who work to produce the garments.

In an interview in The Wall Street Journal last spring Diane von Fürstenberg, who made fashion history with her “little wrap dress,” when asked about sustainable fashion suggested that buying good quality clothing you loved and in which you looked chic and felt comfortable — and wearing that garment often over a long period of time was good sustainable fashion.

I would add an Anne Barone caveat: To wear a garment over a long period of time you must not gain five pounds every year. Even a DVF wrap dress will only expand its coverage so far.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 15 December 2022

A Big Pot of Soup

In the early days of this website, as the holiday season approached, one of the faithful Chic & Slim readers would email a reminder about a big pot of soup.

In her family, she wrote me, the way the women found time in that last busy week before Christmas to get everything ready for the holiday celebrations was to make a big pot of soup.

Whenever they, or anyone in the family, was hungry, they could fill a bowl with soup — and with a little bread, and sometimes some cheese — that would make their meal. No other meal preparation was necessary.

The reader was Irish and I always imagined a big cast iron pot filled with meat and a variety of vegetables happily simmering on the stovetop in a cozy kitchen making the air fragrant with the soup’s hearty aroma.

Today in the USA, with our microwaves and Instant Pots and such, we would likely make a big pot of soup and store it in big jars in the refrigerator to be reheated and eaten.

In any case, if you think you could not possibly have time to prepare meals and finish all your holiday preparations, a big pot of soup might be the way you could avoid snacking on all those holiday goodies that will be tempting everyone in the household with their sugary taste and nostalgic memories.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 11 December 2022

Jane Austen's Pickles

For some time I have been meaning to tell you about Jane Austen’s pickle recipe. But first I want to share with you another comment on the change in priority of focus on the website. Jackie B. wrote:

Dear Anne, I was doing a "catch up" on your motivating blog, and came across your August post about changing focus. (Guess that means it's no longer "new"?!)

Whatever! I am glad to hear you will continue the encouraging communication on an even more personal and American level. I enjoy reading what wise women write, so please press on!

I appreciate your influence. — Jackie B.

Merci, Jackie B. I have also added this comment to the page with the other comments about the change in focus.

You can read about Jane Austen's Pickles and view the recipe. More . . .

|| 8 December 2022

Bread Machine Repair

My crisis of the week occurred Monday. On the first kneading my trusty (but very old) bread machine was a little squeaky. On the second kneading, after about 2 minutes, the kneading paddle stopped. The machine began to hum. Not good.

I unplugged the machine and let the dough complete the second rising. Then I set the machine for Bake Only, held my breath, and pushed Start.

The bread baked perfectly.

Once the bread was out of the pan and it cooled, I took the baking pan and my can of household oil out to the back patio (the smell of that oil gives me a terrific headache so I need LOTS of ventilation when I use it). Perhaps the shaft that turns the paddle was only stuck.

I liberally oiled the shaft both inside the pan and on the bottom and left the baking pan — and its smelly oil — on the patio until the next day.

With soap and hot water I washed the household oil out of the baking pan and then put it back in the machine and pushed start. The paddle turned. Hooray.

Next I baked a small test loaf. The machine worked perfectly. Though I did have to discard part of the bottom of the loaf that had a faint taste of household oil that apparently had resisted my strenuous efforts to remove any trace of the oil.

I am glad that my old bread machine is again serviceable.

Homemade bread is a key component of how I have managed to stay slim for 50+ years. My loaves, like most French loaves, contain only flour, water, salt and yeast. My bread avoids the multitude of chemicals and such you find listed on the labels of much supermarket bread. And some that aren’t listed.

I am not sure how many bread machines I have worn out. But they do make regular bread making so much easier.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 4 December 2022

Healthier Food

Since my oven is no longer working, I have been using Mark Bittman’s Instant Pot version of choucroute garnie. Delicious. And a healthier version than the traditional French version. Especially since I substitute chicken breasts for the pork — though I do include the traditional bratwurst.

Food writer Mark Bittman is concerned about healthy food. Today I read his opinion piece in The Guardian titled Telling Americans to ‘eat better’ doesn’t work. We must make healthier food.

Mark Bittman writes: For decades public health authorities have encouraged us to choose healthier foods — yet most choices available to Americans are bad ones. For a healthy population, we must mandate or at least incentivize growing real food for nutrition, not cheap meat and corn and soya beans for junk food.

You can read Mark Bittman's opinion piece here.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone