Although most of the stereotypes about French people are a bit untrue, the idea that French women are remarkably and almost universally thin is actually quite true. So what's their secret? Some say it's because they resist the impulse to snack, but from what I've seen of French restaurants, I think it all comes down to the old classic: portion control. Nearly every restaurant I've been to has a funny way of serving each little dish in its own special container--almost always of the white porcelain variety. By this point, I'm somewhat convinced that if someone was ever seized with the whim to go into making white porcelain dishes, they could make a small fortune by setting up shop in France. Ultimately, the idea is to present a well-ordered plate to a customer--but the everything-in-its-place mentality also means that there is a specific amount of each food item. Case in point, take a look at how my small skewer was delivered with its sides. (The salad was a bit larger than its container, but it's still spilling out quite artfully!)
Of course, portion control is not always the rule of the day. In fact, not long ago, I ordered what I assumed was a simple roast duck dish (yes, duck is considered commonplace in these parts) and was served with this lovely terra-cotta-bowl-enhanced mammoth. (Regardless, notice the white porcelain accents throughout the picture...)
Hearty medallions of roast duck swimming in a creamy blue cheese sauce with lentils, onions, and carrots. Wow...I had no idea that something so homey as lentils could taste quite so incredible! If only I could figure out how to reproduce the amazingness... As for the portion control, I have a feeling--judging by the waitress's face when I ordered--that French women typically shy away from something so...well...guaranteed to stuff you beyond your normal capacity.