Friday, August 2, 2013

France et Moi with author Karen Wheeler

french village diaries France et Moi interview Karen Wheeler Biff the dog Tout Sweet Marie Antoinette DietWelcome to 'France et Moi' where this week I am talking to author Karen Wheeler about what France means to her.

Karen Wheeler is the author of three books about her life in France, including Tout Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness in Rural France . Her latest book The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight is currently available from Amazon as an e-book. She can be found at ToutSweet.net and on Twitter as @mimipompom1 You can read my review of her first book, Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France here


Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Karen: The sunsets, peeling paint (I love to see a house in need of renovation), smiling sunflowers and unspoilt countryside.

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?

Karen: Being blown away by the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles on a school trip, aged 14. As a kid, I was desperate to learn French.

3) When you first moved to France what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?

Karen: I love all the clichés – the smell of sugar and dough as you pass the boulangerie; a cluster of French flags fluttering outside the mairie. The scariest thing was not knowing anyone when I arrived.

4) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?

Karen: I once asked my plumber to send me a postman (facteur) rather than a bill (facture). I’m sure there have been more embarrassing things than that but I don’t recall them.

5) I have to ask you about French women, what do you think makes them different to us and gives them that je ne sais quoi?

Karen: I think they have a savoir-faire, particularly when it comes to food and entertaining, that is very hard to emulate – you either have it or you don’t.

6) In your new book The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight , you promise we can learn from the French, loose weight and eat our cake. Without giving away too much is there a top tip you can share here?

Karen: I’ll give you a few : eat soup for dinner, ideally a bone broth (there is an 18th-century recipe in my book) as it is good for the bones, digestion and your overall health and energy levels. Eat butter rather than low-fat spreads or margarines; and if you’re going to eat cake, eat it early in the day and make sure it is homemade. 

FVD: sounds like the perfect diet for me then, Fat Free Cherry Cake and Courgette soup here I come.

7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Karen: A café creme. Or a Perrier with a dash of strawberry syrup. To be honest there isn’t much else you can order at my local French café.

8) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Karen: Can I be a butter instead? I’m not really into fromage but I do love all the artisanal butters out here. I’d like to be an Echire butter. According to one website, it is ‘top quality, best in class, ... divine.’ Who wouldn’t want to be described like that?


9) Can you describe your perfect French apero for us - the drink, the nibbles, the location and the company?

Karen: Soupe de champagne and homemade chicken liver paté on Poilane bread in my courtyard garden (pic attached). The company would be a mix of French and British friends, and of course the love of my life – my little dog Biff.

10) Do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Karen: I’m writing the fourth book in the Tout series, Sweet Encore, and after that I have an idea for a novel that I’m very excited about and cannot wait to get started on. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.