Why Aren’t You Fat?

Story and photo by Sophie Wyckoff

I sit at the wooden table with a mother and her two children, whom I luckily get to call my family for the next four weeks. We’re sharing our first meal together. My host mother, Isabel, breaks the silence and blurts out in her broken English how shocked she was when we first met that I wasn’t “fat and didn’t eat a lot.” 

Since then, my host family and I have often compared portion sizes, meal choices and grocery shopping differences between the United States and France. I find myself confirming Isabel’s stereotypes as I describe how much fast food our country has. Isabel shares that on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a market with fresh produce and butchered meat is located less than a half mile from her home.

On Wednesday morning, I stuff my purse with euros and start my journey to the Arles market. I hear the voices of the Arlesian people doing their weekly shopping as the smell of freshly baked croissants hits my nose. I have experienced farmers’ markets in my hometown in America filled with homemade items, but nothing compared to the abundance of fruits, vegetables and baked goods available at this market.

As I walk down the street surrounded by produce, my mind begins to wander to life at home. Instead of freshly grown ingredients, the aisles at Target, Hy-vee and Walmart are loaded with prepackaged food, saturated fat and high-fructose corn syrup. If we had as easy access to farm-fresh ingredients as we do fast food, America would not have earned the image of poor health it has today. These next couple weeks, I will relish the locally grown food until I am back to the reality of America: processed food. 

This is a personal reflection and does not necessarily express the opinion of The Arles Project or program sponsors ieiMedia or Arles à la carte.