Food writer Peter Kaminsky, whose long list of achievements includes being New York Magazine's "Underground Gourmet" and co-writing cookbooks with some of the best chefs in the world, has written a book called Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well). I recently picked up the book and started reading... and a few hours later I realized I'd just spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon with Mr. Kaminsky's thoughts on food and eating. So I asked if he would write something for Omnivoracious and he graciously agreed. Read on for a taste of the book. As you'll see, there are good, simple ideas that won't starve you or upset your lifestyle. (You might even call it a diet book for people who love food and don't like diet books.)
Yep, the world is going to nutritional hell and we all know it. And we all know that fast food is often a fast track to obesity and worse. Likewise, most of us probably suspect that the game of agriculture is probably rigged in favor of the biggest and wealthiest players. Problem is, knowledge alone is not going to take any inches off your waistline.
Applying that knowledge---in other words, using your inborn Culinary Intelligence is the best way I know to trim down and stay that way. It helped me take off thirty five pounds and keep them off. Right now, in the sweet spot of the year with summer just about to burst out, there is no better time to get on track. Why? Because Culinary Intelligence is really about two things: using the best most full flavored ingredients you can afford and preparing them well. My shorthand for this is maximizing Flavor Per Calorie. So, yes, do like all the diet books say and cut way back on processed ingredients like white flour, soft drinks and sugar. But that's not enough -- you still have to find foods that will both nourish and satisfy you.
That's where"”to borrow a phrase from the Canterbury Tales (I don't think I got much beyond those few words in high school)"”"summer is a comin in." You see, eating flavorful ingredients is never easier than it is now, when backyard gardens are in bloom and farmers markets are bursting with bounty. Eating seasonally and local sounds good as a healthy eating motto, but in the depths of winter it takes a little more dedication to figure out what to do with the kale, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, onions, and potatoes that serve as fresh cold weather vegetables. You can do it. I do, with the help of tomatoes that we roast and freeze in the fall, as well as anchovies, olives and bacon which add salty succulence to everything you cook with them. Still, it's way easier to make the full-on switch to healthful foods when the strawberries are red as rubies, the lettuce is fresh as mountain air, and every week brings something new to market at the peak of flavor.
Above all, make it a point to have fresh vegetables and fruit every day.
Wait! Hold that thought.
Make it a point to prepare fresh vegetables in a way that they last for a couple of days. That way, you are not stuck peeling and cooking every day. When you buy asparagus, roast two bunches in some olive oil and reheat the leftovers the next day. Same with eggplant or zucchini. Make stuff in batches and then combine in new ways during the week. Ditto with chicken. Okay, it's not a vegetable but the rule of preparing in batches holds for things with wings, fins and feet just as much as does for things with leaves.
Repurposing fresh prime ingredients is so much better tasting (and better for you) than filling up on fast food or rescuing second rate ingredients with lots of fat, sugar and salt. No nutritionist will argue with that. If they do, you are listening to the wrong nutritionist.
If you get in the habit of eating the good stuff in this best of seasons, you will be ready to make it through the cold months. All it takes is using the Culinary Intelligence that we are all born with. It took our ancestors a million years to evolve our incredibly complex language of flavor and taste. Once you learn to listen to that language, the rest is a piece of cake, or, more often, in my case, a piece of fruit.
-- Peter Kaminsky