Marilou and Alex Champagne on turning an eating disorder into a passion project
Three times a day. Those four words have meant both health and success for Quebec singer songwriter, Marilou, and her husband, Alexandre Champagne. The phrase started as a promise Marilou made to herself to eat at least three times a day in order to overcome her anorexia. She started eating - and cooking. She wanted to share her recipes, so she started a blog with her husband, Alexandre Champagne. They called the blog Three Times a Day. The success of their blog inspired them to write a cookbook. They spoke to Shelagh Rogers about finding healing through food.
Marilou: I was so afraid to get fat. I realized how people gave a lot of attention to their bodies.
Alex: And to other people's bodies, as well.
Marilou: Exactly. You lose weight, you get so many good comments about it. People don't ask, "Are you okay? Why are you losing weight? Do you eat?" So I was going through that circle and getting thinner and thinner and thinner. I was nervous because I wanted to have control over something in my life because I wasn't able to make my own decisions when I was a teenager.
Alex: Evolving in the music industry, in show business, your looks are often more important than your talent. She, beginning at the age of 11, started singing and touring. It's very stressful. It makes you want to be perfect. And one way to be perfect is looking good. and looking good means to be thin, and everything adds up. It's multiple things that make anorexia what it is.
Marilou: I was eating maybe a coffee and a yogurt a day. I wasn't menstruating. And for me to continue like that, it meant I would not be able to have kids. It was really frightening for me.
Alex: I remember Marilou said to me, "I want to be cool with my body before I have a child." Because it means so much for the child to have a mother who is healthy.
Marilou: I knew I needed to go where I most afraid. I knew I would have a lot of things to say about food. The blog was the best way for my life to make sense. So I started cooking and making recipes.
Alex: The blog needed to have a purpose, and this gave it purpose. It could tell people that food could be enjoyable, you can approach food in a healthy way and in a non-stressful way that makes you happy. That's the key.
Marilou: You don't have to be anorexic to have issues with food.
Alex: We had talked about launching a project together for a long time. Marilou would talk to me about her passion for cooking and I would talk to her about my passion for photography. And then we just decided to launch Three Times a Day. At first, I was just taking pictures of what Marilou cooked just to please her. I didn't want to do it at all.
Marilou: But he was so good! I convinced him to continue.
Alex: Yes. And now, I just love it. It makes me better at photography. Photographing food is photography on a smaller scale and it helps me understand basic principles of photography so I can apply them elsewhere.
Marilou: I realized this blog was something I was good at. I knew I needed this do in my life.
Alex: We try to help people transform their relationship with food for the better. That's what's important. We are just two people who love each other and want to make the world a better place.
MY FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE CAKE
For the past few years, I've been absolutely mad about this cake, chock-full of chocolate — and mayonnaise! If the combination seems strange, don't think about it and just try it — I guarantee you'll fall in love. This isn't the healthiest dessert, which is probably why I like it so much. I save it for birthdays, which makes it even more special.
You don't have to top the cake with fruit. I only do when the fruit is fresh, in season, and inexpensive.
QUANTITY 10–12 servings
PREP TIME 30 min
COOKING TIME 30 min
- A bit of butter, to butter the pans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 ⅓ cups water
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- Icing sugar, for decorating
- 2 cups fresh fruit of your choice (optional)
FOR THE ICING
- 1 ½ lbs butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 ½ cups icing sugar
1 Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter 2 9-inch springform pans. Set aside.
2 In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla, for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is nice and foamy.
4 Whisk in the mayonnaise and water.
5 Gradually add the dry ingredients. Stir well, and then fold in the chocolate chips.
6 Pour the batter into the buttered pans and bake for 30 minutes or until the cakes are completely cooked in the middle.
7 Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans.
8 Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, combine the icing ingredients, mixing until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
9 Place one of the cooled cakes on a serving plate and spread an even layer of icing on top. Place the second cake on top and spread the remaining icing over the entire surface, including the sides. Sprinkle with icing sugar, decorate with fresh fruit, and serve.
This recipe is taken from Three Times A Day by Marilou and Alexandre Champagne. Originally published in French as Trois Fois Par Jour by Les Éditions Cardinal. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press, www.houseofanansi.com.
Marilou and Alex's comments have been edited and condensed.