Sunday, June 14, 2015

What would Marie Antoinette eat?

Marie Antoinette with her children 1787
 Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

On October 16, 1793 Queen Marie Antoinette lost her head.  Literally.  It wasn't just that she ran through the gardens of Versailles with no clothes on or went swimming nude in the fountains.  She was a victim of the guillotine.  I've read a bit about her through the years, as any good French major and French teacher would.  I have a couple of books about her that I have been meaning to read.  This one has been in my bookcase for a while.

I also have Marie Antoinette The Journey by Antonia Fraser.  Its cover is the portrait of MA with her children (above).

While googling, I came across something from The History Channel, in case you want to know more about her:  No doubt she was a fascinating woman.  And only 37 years old when she died.  As I approach my MA age + 20 birthday, that seems so incredibly young.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is rather selfish.  I use this blog as my cookbook and where I stash other cyber stuff that I want to be able to find later on.  (Facebook is also used for this purpose.) I am fascinated by what people eat, though, as you can see from some of my other posts.  I have a Kindle.  Son #1 gave it to "us" for Christmas a few years ago.  I use "us" loosely because the Ex-Ex never gets his hands on it.  It stays by my bedside.  I download books from Amazon and I subscribe to BookBub.  If you have never heard of this service, check it out.  Free or really inexpensive books.  I still love bound "real" books, but I do mostly read at night from my Kindle or from the Kindle app on my iPad.  If I fall asleep while reading, it hurts less when the Kindle hits my head.  I finished Winter of the World, the second book in Ken Follett's Century Triology, a couple of nights ago and started checking out what else I had downloaded.  This popped up.

I read Tout Sweet by Karen.  She moved to France from England a few years back.  I read most every book out there on this subject.  I am addicted to the thought of living there again.  I confess that I also read diet books.  At MA age + 20, after menopause and with a whacked out thyroid gland, more pounds than I wish to admit to have crept on since I returned from my sabbatical in France in December of 2008.  Karen's description of herself in the opening chapter of the book hooked me. Same stats.  I plan to be my own summer project.  We shall see.  On verra, as the French say.

Most of us only know Marie Antoinette for the line she supposedly uttered:  Let them eat cake.  Supposedly that was her pre-Revolution response when told that the people of Paris were starving and didn't have bread.  Maybe she really said Let them eat brioche. Or Let them eat croissants. Croissants are an Austrian concoction, I believe.  And so was MA.  The French could not live without their bread.  Anyway, Karen took the notion of eating cake, along with a whole lot of great advice on what to eat to be healthy (and lose weight) and made a book out of it.  Some bullet points:

  • If you are going to eat cake, make it yourself, use less sugar and eat it early in the day.  If you are going to have dessert, make sure it is amazing and homemade.  (I have tried to follow this advice for a while, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.)
  • Eat your largest meal at lunch, preferably before 3:00 pm.  Karen tested this out when a new café opened in her village.  She ate lunch there everyday for a week and lost weight. (This has been common practice in France.  I love cafés with set menus. And I love their long lunch hours and civilized practice of not eating at their desks. Not practical for me since I teach and eat in my classroom with 12 seventh graders ten months out of the year, but I could make better food choices, taking "real food" leftovers or soup from home.)
  • Walk after eating that meal, or if that isn't possible, at least get up and move around a bit.  Even washing the dishes counts. (I sometimes grab a colleague or one grabs me and we walk around campus during the recess part of lunch.)
  • Eat non-cream based soup and salad for dinner.  Make the soup yourself.  (Supposedly MA did indeed eat soup regularly for dinner.  Several of my French women friends do.)
  • "Fast" for 12 hours, most of which will be while you are sleeping.  No after dinner late night eating, in other words.
  • Avoid cooking with vegetable oils.  Use virgin coconut oil or butter.  I discovered coconut oil a few months back and use it regularly now.
  • Run, not walk, away from products containing high-fructose corn syrup.  (Advice I have received from chef friends.)
  • Eat nuts and seeds for snacks.  Whole natural unsalted almonds, for example.
  • Drink lots of water.  Old advice.
  • Eat liver.  I will have to work on this one.  Not a fan unless it is foie gras or pâté.
These are just a few of Karen's sensible suggestions.  She worked with Dr. Mabel Blades, a registered dietician and nutritionist and consulted many studies on food.  Read a bit for yourself at Karen's blog entry on the book.  The soup recipes in the book are divided into seasons, probably because she lives in France and goes shopping at an outdoor market.  And, of course, there are cake recipes.  I plan to try her Cherry Almond Cake recipe ASAP, especially since cherries are now in season and they are my favorite fruit.   I never post recipes before I try them myself, but we are headed to San Antonio tomorrow for 5 days, so I am going to give out the recipe.  If you try it yourself, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.  I will make it as soon as I get back. (And now I will have the recipe right here on the blog so I won't have to cook using my Kindle!)

Cherry Almond Cake
from The Marie Antoinette Diet by Karen Wheeler

prep time: 20 min + 30-35 min cooking time
servings: 12
calories per serving: 215

100g (4oz) unsalted butter, melted
465g (1 pound) cherries, fresh or canned, with the stones removed, and cut in half
100g (4 oz) plain flour
75g (3 oz) ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
100g (4 oz) caster (granulated) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
80ml (3 fluid oz) whole milk
Icing sugar (powdered or confectioners sugar) for dusting

Preheat oven to 200˚C/400˚F and grease the bottom and sides (with coconut oil or butter) of a 9-in springform cake tin.  Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, ground almonds, salt, and baking powder.  Drain the canned or bottled cherries; or if using fresh cherries, remove the stones/pits and halve the cherries before setting them aside.  Using a hand blender, beat the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes at high speed until thick and pale yellow; then stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the butter and milk into the bowl and then fold in the flour in three steps.  Then add the cherries to the mix, gently folding them in.  Pour the cake mix into the tin and even it out using a spatula. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Leave on the cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove the sides from the springform pan.   Let it cool completely before removing the base of the springform pan.

Since I have no delicious homemade cake at the moment, this morning I did have something that may sound a bit weird.  I made what is known as BulletProof Coffee.  I found this on Pioneer Woman's blog.  I only have maybe half a cup of coffee in the morning, if that much, and I usually add half and half.  I decided to give this a try, especially after reading about coconut oil and butter in Karen's book.   

Try it if you wish, maybe using decaf if you are sensitive to caffeine.

Put the following into a blender for 10-15 seconds:

12 oz. of strong, hot coffee
1 tablespoon of virgin (unrefined) coconut oil
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Drink it while it's hot. It is actually good.  Very creamy.

Bon appétit to Marie Antoinette and to all who want to eat healthier and maybe lose a few pounds or kilos in the process!

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