When Mireille Guiliano handed in 400 pages for her first book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” her editor at Knopf was a bit taken aback.
“They had just published Bill Clinton’s book, and they said to me, ‘You’re not exactly Bill Clinton. Nobody knows you,'” she says with a laugh. “I was a bit upset. I thought they were going to throw all those pages, recipes and menus into the garbage. But they told me to just keep them.”
Good thing she wasn’t impetuous. Now that her debut effort has sold nearly two million copies and been published in 37 languages, many of the castaway pages have found their way into her second tome, “French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes & Pleasure,” which hits book stores this week. The follow-up was inevitable, since so many readers appealed to her for more tips about staying trim and vibrant while maintaining some semblance of a social life. Some even went to the trouble of firing off “gotcha” letters, describing the overweight and dumpy women they saw in France. Wherever she went on her first book tour, Guiliano says, “There was this myth about French women — how we can’t do anything wrong, how we dress well and know everything. I told them, ‘Not quite.'”
In her new book, Guiliano spells out how to do a better job of enjoying life with simple indulgences that vary with the seasons. She puts her less-is-more philosophy to the test with eating, entertaining, dressing, exercise and everything else. “Do we really need 257 pairs of shoes, 50 types of cereal to choose from or a bar with 25 drinks when entertaining?” she said. “I’m trying to help people identify their own DNA or be their own brand, because there are so many people who want to be someone else. I don’t want them to be me.”
Those who read in between the lines will find traces of Guiliano’s professional persona as president and chief executive officer of Clicquot Inc. “When in doubt, have Champagne,” she offers in the chapter aptly named “Wine Is Food.” Needless to say, that was the easiest one for her to write.
This story first appeared in the November 2, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Relying on her own conversational voice and occasional quotes from the likes of Socrates and Henry David Thoreau, Guiliano encourages carpe diem without sounding like a self-help commando. Often drawing on her childhood in pastoral France, she offers some all-too-often overlooked advice, like walking or cycling for transportation, rooting out the seasonal bounty in green markets, sprucing up “a good cashmere cardigan with a cunning strand of beads” and entertaining simply for the sake of company, not showmanship. There are also recipes and menus for winter, spring, summer and fall that rely on a few key ingredients to minimize the prep time.
“You have to learn to make time and take time for yourself. When you take care of yourself, you are a better wife, mother, worker and friend,” she said. “The world is stressful, but we make our own stress. All these things about work and daily life are things we can change.”