This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of seeing Mireille Guiliano (Meer-ray Julie-ano) speak at The American Museum of Natural History. I first discovered Mireille and her incredible story in an airport bookstore while looking for something interesting to read on a trip to North Carolina. Her book I read is called “Women, Work, and The Art of Savior Faire.” It’s a very unique book and I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon it. Not everyday can you get first hand advice on business and life from an incredibly successful business woman. Mireille shares her personal journey up the corporate ladder at Veuve Clicquot, THE champagne company, all the way to CEO. The reason I loved this book so much is because it’s real. Mireille didn’t isolate business from life. She gives advice and tips for enjoying and succeeding at life from a woman’s point of view.
Mireille is best known for her book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and she was at the Museum as part of their “Adventures in the Global Kitchen” circuit discussing the “French Paradox.” I follow her on Twitter, so when I saw she would be speaking in New York, I couldn’t wait to hear from her directly.
For those of you not from New York, The American Museum of Natural History is located on the Upper West Side of the city. I have lived in Brooklyn for about 4 years now and exiting the subway onto Central Park West was pretty much like flying to another country. Passing ladies in their polo shirts and pressed jeans, walking their tiny dogs and entering their doorman buildings is a sight I haven’t seen in a while. The high school students still make-out on the corner here, just in their designer clothes and coordinated book bags. The beauty of the stone buildings on the Upper West Side seem to exude culture.
As I entered the medium sized auditorium I was surprised by the number of distinguished older couples. It didn’t even appear that these men were dragged here by their female counter parts. They were very interested in what Mireille had to say. The rest of the crowd was made up of women ranging in age from mid-twenties to late forties. As a bonus to the advice and insight from this very successful woman, we also were served 4 different recipes from her cookbook, one of them being a chocolate mousse that I could have ate 10 more of (which wouldn’t actually be in accordance to the French way of life, but it was so good!!)
Now to fully understand where I’m coming from when I share with you what I took away from this lecture, you must understand that I grew up very “American.” We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with only the best – Jiff & Smuckers! Most of our vegetables came from a can. There was a long time I wouldn’t eat mac’n’cheese unless it was orange and came from a blue box. And to this day I still have either Oreos or Chips Ahoy with milk before bed. I don’t think any of those things would fall into what the French Paradox is all about. However, my family did teach me the importance of cooking food and sharing time together over a meal. Living in Brooklyn today, my favorite grocery store is Trader Joe’s and I am much more conscious of what’s in my food. I’ve never really ever stressed about what I eat or counted calories, but now that I’m a mom I’m much more aware of what I feed my daughter. We are still at a point where she only eats what I put in front of her, so she has developed a love for vegetables and grapes & raisins are her candy. I am not applying for my French visa yet, but I do think there is a lot to learn from Mireille and her take on how the French live.
Mireille covered many topics during the one and a half hour lecture. Some things seriously resonated with me, others I thought were insightful, and a few I will have to agree to disagree (she was really hating on the oreo, but I won’t hold it against her).
SERIOUS STATEMENTS- Don’t believe the hype about food in the news (i.e. butter is good this week & bad next week)
- The junk they sell by the cash register is enough to poison you for life
- Diets are about deprivations and rob you of pleasures
- We are what we eat
- Respect your body
- TV is the worst thing you can do for your health
- If you eat while multi-tasking you’re gonna get fat
- Drink Water
- Eat Yogurt (the yogurt she refers to is actually just milk and culture, not all the sugar filled snacks they are selling the grocery store…when I went recently I looked at the back of what seemed like hundreds of cups and was only able to find one that only listed milk and culture as it’s ingredients – Danon All Natural)
Mireille made it a point to say that everyone is different and you have to figure out what works for you. She gave her advice without coming across as though she was better than the rest of us.
- In France husbands don’t harass their wives, but it’s understood they should look and act a certain way
- Your brain needs 20 minutes to process what you’re eating
At one point I thought she advised us to not drink wine alone. I took this as meaning by myself on the couch watching The Notebook, but what she meant was to make sure you eat when you drink wine, so it doesn’t go to your head. I think both pieces of advice are good. Her feelings about cooking resonated most with me. She said cooking is an act of love, self expression, and relaxing.
At the end of the talk, she opened it up for Q&A. At this point I had wished I took notes when I read the book the first time, so I could ask a really good question. Instead I thought to myself…you have this woman with so much knowledge and life experience ready to answer any question you have, what do you really want to know. I decided to let her know I had been struggling with what to do about dinner lately, since I have a 14 month old who’s eating real food and a husband who often works late. Do I eat with Georgia and be full by the time Chad gets home or make Georgia eat alone so I can at least have dinner with my husband. I had expected she would give me a couple options or say whatever I was doing was fine, but she had a very direct and smart answer. She simply said, “Eat with your daughter and keep company with your husband. Just make sure you don’t eat twice.” Done. Question answered. This answer reminded me of another strong willed woman I know and made me love her even more. Not sure if it’s an American thing or not, but often times we seem to complicate things that aren’t so complex or waste time stressing about things we shouldn’t. Mireille seemed to have it all together. Life is tough, but just plow through. (or Chop Wood. Carry Water)
After the lecture, I brought my book to her to pay my respects and get an autograph. Then I bought a copy of her cookbook and waited for my train back to Brooklyn. In her cookbook, she shares some personal stories with you and some very tasty looking recipes.
I thought it would be fun (and delicious) to try my hand at her Chocolate Mousse and share my experience with you. Below is the recipe with some notes from this American woman who considers whisking my My*T*Fine Chocolate pudding on the stove as a wind down to a busy day. Let me start out by saying this recipe, all though it only has 4 ingredients is a lot more complicated than opening a box of powder and mixing it with milk. Almost immediately I was stumped. 6 cardamom pods. Uhh…ok. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what these things looked like.
This is cardamom.
Luckily one of my mommy friends has more experience than I do and pointed me in the direction of Sahadi’s, a gourmet food store. The people there were very friendly, but it was a New York City store and wasn’t too easy to maneuver my stroller. I was able to get the cardamom, pistachios, & chocolate here, but in the chaos of trying to get out of the way of the delivery guy coming through, find some stray Joe’s O’s to put back into Georgia’s cup since she had finished what I gave her already and was starting to loose it, figure out what the heck 70 to 80% cacao actually meant, and ordering from the man…I think I accidentally bought unsweetened chocolate. (note: this makes the mousse taste lousy)
This is the chocolate that worked and made it taste yum-o!
Once I was back home and had all the ingredients I read the directions a couple times out loud, so I wouldn’t mess something up.
First I chopped the chocolate, measured out the other ingredients and got my bowls and pot ready. Making mousse it quite simple. My second go at it, I didn’t even have to look at the recipe.
1. Place cardamom and ½ cup heavy cream in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. (this happens really quickly, so don’t leave the pot.)
2. Meanwhile, place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. (I actually did this first because “meanwhile” in recipes sometimes makes me stress, plus I didn’t want to burn the cream)
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the cream through a fine-mesh sieve over the chopped chocolate. (easy. The point of this is to get rid of the cardamom. They are very fragrant, so the crushed cardamom is just to give the cream some flavor)
4. Allow the chocolate to melt for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth, cool until the chocolate-cream mixture is just warm to touch. (this also happens a lot quicker than I imagined. Since the chocolate is chopped it melts quickly and then you can whisk it together. I really enjoyed this part. Unsweetened chocolate vs. the correct 72% cacao chocolate really made a difference here. Unsweetened chocolate = take a pass, 72% cacao = lick the whole bowl)
The unsweetened chocolate had a white color when it first started melting.
The good chocolate didn't have a white color.
5. Whip the remaining 1 ½ cups chilled heavy cream until stiff peaks form [be careful not to overwhip]. (I took advantage of my Kitchen Aid here, cause it’s magic when it comes to whipping heavy cream…you can literally see it become whipped cream right before your eyes.)
6. Gently fold half the whipping cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten and then incorporate the remaining whipped cream; the mousse will be a bit soft. (this should have been a red flag for me on my first attempt. My unsweetened chocolate did not make it soft.)
7. Spoon the mousse into the serving dishes, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (I haven’t mastered the “cover” it part. I just used seran wrap. It kinda smooshes the top and makes it look not so cute. Next time I will try putting it in a pastry bag and then putting it in the serving dish. I think that will make it look prettier.)
8. Before serving, garnish with pistachio nuts. (at the lecture they garnished it with chocolate chips, which I prefer. The pistachio nut are good, but I love chocolate)
Overall, my experience cooking mousse was by no means flawless, but I think I understand the core concept now. Chopping the chocolate and whisking it is very relaxing and enjoyable. I will definitely make it again. I believe the key to enjoying cooking is preparation. And since the recipe calls for 6 cardamom pods and I had to buy a pre-packaged container, I now have a lifetime supply. All I need next time is a pint of heavy cream and a bar of chocolate!! Thanks for coming along with me on this experience. I know it was a little less “card” related and a little more “Julie & Julia”, but we wanted to introduce you to this amazing woman we admire. You should try this recipe if you get a chance or get Mireille’s book “Women, Work, and The Art of Savior Faire.” Both are very inspiring. Have a great week.