Smart Food: A Diet for Food and Wine Lovers

Peter Kaminsky's 'Culinary Intelligence' is aimed at people like us

Culinary Intelligence

Peter Kaminsky is an unlikely candidate for the role of healthy-eating guru. A longtime fixture on the New York culinary scene, he has co-authored books with such celebrated chefs as Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard, Gray Kunz, and the great Argentinean grill-master Francis Mallmann; shared a byline with iconic sportscaster John Madden on a collection of tailgating recipes; and turned out a number of his own volumes, including his masterwork on porcine matters, Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them.

What a great gig, you'd probably be thinking, until you learned that in the course of these endeavors, his waistline swelled from a 34 to a 40-plus, that he was turned down for a life insurance policy, and that he was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition. And no wonder. As he puts it in his latest work, Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well), "[W]hether you are scarfing down scoops of Cherry Garcia with butterscotch sauce or dining on béarnaise-bathed filet mignon and butter-browned potatoes Anna, it all puts you on a glide path to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other so-called diseases of civilization. Maybe better to call them 'illnesses of indulgence.'"

Culinary Intelligence doesn't look much like a diet book. The cover is quiet, with no blared weight-loss claims, no buzz words ("carbs," "fast," "sexy," "paleo"), no oversize numerals (30, as in pounds; or 10, as in days, the numbers taking up half the cover). There's a picture of a Swiss chard leaf, some nice type, lots of white space. It looks more like contemporary fiction than the latest supposedly miracle regimen.

Kaminsky doesn't promise any specific diminution of belt size or avoirdupois. The question he poses as his premise is straightforward: "How does a guy who loves food and wine gain control of what he puts in his body?" The answers, which he spins out over probably more pages than it would really take to sell his message, are simple — stuff we probably basically knew or at least suspected all the time but needed somebody readable and sensible to remind us of: No white stuff (refined sugar, white flour, potatoes, etc.; yogurt and eggs are OK), skip dessert, eschew sweetened beverages. Cut out "high-value targets" — those go-to treats you probably feed yourself all too readily (pizza, ice cream). Above all, structure what you eat around what Kaminsky calls "FPC," Flavor per Calorie. If you buy really, really good-quality meat, fish, produce, and so on, he posits, then less of it will satisfy you. You'll end up spending the same amount of money you would have on larger quantities of cheaper stuff, you'll enjoy it more, and you'll start dropping pounds in no time.

As he sums it up, "[D]evote some thought to what tastes you want to experience, in what order, and in what amounts, and thereby begin a process that culminates in sitting down to a meal and enjoying every bite to the fullest." Come to think of it, that sounds like pretty good advice even if you're thin as an asparagus stalk.

Click here for Kaminsky's Sunday Frittata with Frizzled Leeks recipe.