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Reviews of food-themed memoirs, beach reads, and histories.

Serious Reads: Culinary Intelligence, by Peter Kaminsky

If you try to stay up to date on food and cookbooks, or even if you have casually perused the cooking section of your local bookstore, the odds are good that you've paged through one of Peter Kaminsky's many wonderful books. He has co-authored some of the most important cookbooks in recent memory, such as Letters to a Young Chef with Daniel Boulud, Seven Fires with Francis Mallmann, and The Elements of Taste with Gray Kunz. And his personal projects run the gamut from fishing memoirs to a thorough examination of the pork industry. Kaminsky is one of the loudest voices in food writing today.

So I was very excited to pick up his newest book, Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well). The book is Kaminsky's attempt at an eating and lifestyle guide. As a great lover of food and long-time cookbook writer, one of Kaminsky's occupational hazards was a slowly expanding waistline. In his late fifties, he began to think harder about the health risks associated with his indulgent eating lifestyle. So he formulated a simple and straightforward plan to weight loss.

Kaminsky's "culinary intelligence" (CI) boils down to this: Eat simply. Cut out processed foods. Maximize flavor per calorie (FPC) in every dish you cook, so as to make eating an enjoyable, pleasurable experience. Avoid using fat and sugar as a shortcut to flavor. Kaminsky has lost and kept off about forty pounds following these guidelines—not too shabby for a professional eater!

He makes a point of reiterating frequently that the point of CI is not to deprive yourself of foods and beverages that make you happy. Rather, the goal is to be more satisfied by using superior ingredients. Increase your vegetable and fruit intake, but try to buy produce in season so as to maximize FPC. Enjoy a beer at dinner, but make sure it is full-flavored and worth every calorie. Kaminsky draws in plenty of anecdotal evidence from his own experience with changing his diet. The reader is armed with plenty of tips and recipes to get started.

Kaminsky is a wonderful writer, and this book was a pleasure to read. He doesn't preach, and emphasizes that special occasions usually call for bending the CI "rules." Culinary Intelligence didn't revolutionize my thoughts on diet and moderation, but it was more relatable than other books of this genre. And some of the recipes at the back of the book—such as oven-roasted tomatoes and wine-braised oxtail—are absolutely mouthwatering.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

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