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Book Review: Culinary Intelligence

Lately, there have been growing connections between the world of “gourmet” food and the fight against obesity.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been trying to revolutionize cafeteria lunches, and Alice Waters has been promoting gardens on school grounds.

But the fact remains that a career in food can lead to some unhealthy, cholesterol-raising and waist-expanding habits. That’s what cookbook author and food critic Peter Kaminsky found.

For years, Kaminsky watched his pants size rise with his status as a food writer. He joked when his doctor put him on Lipitor. He tried adding exercise alone to control his weight, but on the day he was told his life insurance policy renewal had been denied because he was at risk of developing diabetes, Kaminsky finally got serious.

His new book, “Culinary Intelligence,” is about the eating philosophy he adopted–one that helped him to lose 40 pounds, buy smaller clothes and get his life insurance renewed.

Culinary Intelligence is basically mindful eating, and its main aim is to break the spell many Americans eat under after years of being exposed to processed and fast foods that rely on high amounts of sugar, salt and fat to make us crave them.

Kaminsky cut out all things white–flour, sugar, potatoes–and started to focus more on whole grains and other whole foods.

But a lot of his method relies on maximizing what he calls “flavor per calorie,” or FPC in foods, without the use of unhealthy ingredients. Caramelizing vegetables, slow-cooking meats and using healthy add-ons like lemon juice and olive oil are basic techniques that he promotes to squeeze the maximum amount of flavor from our foods.

Kaminsky’s book is pro-home cooking–”Only cooking leaves you fully in charge of what you eat and how it is prepared,” he writes–but it also offers tips for how to maintain good habits at restaurants and on the road.

Kaminsky shares his own breakfast, dinner and lunch habits, sprinkled with stories from his food-writing career that readers interested in the big-time food world will enjoy. He ends the book with 14 recipes that follow his prescription for intelligent eating.

The book is sort of the professional eater’s follow-on to recent books about reforming the American diet, like Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” or even Mireille Guillano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”

Because as Kaminsky learned, professional foodies do get fat–unless they use their noggins as much as their forks and knives.

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