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Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 1, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“‘Intelligence’ is the operative word. Kaminsky tells his story with engaging, thoughtful prose—no gimmicky diets, no impossible-to-follow menu plans. He believes in gratification, not denial.”
—Barry Estabrook, The Atlantic

“Kaminsky’s manifesto makes the not-altogether-depressing argument that some of us might be able to tame our gluttonous appetites (and maybe even slim down) by focusing on eating foods that deliver maximum flavor . . . Culinary Intelligence has nothing to do with shame, and everything to do with the idea of enlisting pleasure as your dietary ally.”
—Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times
“If you don’t want to be part of the obesity and diabetes epidemics in this country, read this book. Food-lover Peter Kaminsky lost weight and transformed his own diet without giving up delicious, nutritious, flavorful foods and he provides an entertaining roadmap for how hedonism and health can co-exist quite happily.”
—Arthur Agatston, M.D., preventive cardiologist and creator of the South Beach Diet

“Peter Kaminsky’s book shows that eating better definitely doesn’t mean compromising
on fantastic ingredients and delicious meals. It’s a great guide to how to make the most of your food.”
—Jamie Oliver

“Is Peter Kaminsky a double agent? For 20 years, he eats only the world’s best food, 'happens' to discover the cure for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and comes home to tell us to cook our own food, have lunch, and eat leftovers? A savvy, audacious book—long overdue.
—Bill Buford, author of Heat

“For most people, good health and hedonism make strange bedfellows. But for Peter Kaminsky, eating for pleasure is eating for longevity: the two go hand in hand, and happily.  His brilliant new book, Culinary Intelligence, isn’t formulaic or abstemious.  It’s a culinary doctrine deeply rooted in flavor, making cooking and eating well something to look forward to.”
—Dan Barber
“Peter Kaminsky’s rules for taking pounds off and keeping them off are based on a really good idea: Flavor per Calorie.  That works for him and should make dieting a pleasure.” 
—Marion Nestle, New York University, co-author of Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics
“Peter Kaminsky knows food from every angle there is. Culinary Intelligence breaks new ground by weaving together fascinating stories, wonderful insights about the way we relate to food, and practical advice for eating better and truly enjoying it more.”
—Kelly D. Brownell, Professor of Psychology, Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University

“Peter Kaminsky’s Culinary Intelligence is the ultimate food-lover’s handbook, full of mouth-watering prose and smart, practical advice for a new generation of conscientious eaters. With every turn of the page I was inspired and encouraged to make realistic, healthy choices, without the fear of sacrificing the pleasures inherent in eating well. This book will forever change the way you think about food and no doubt help us all tread a little lighter, on our plates, our palates and on the planet.”
—Gail Simmons, author of Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater


About the Author

Peter Kaminsky wrote Underground Gourmet for New York magazine for four years, and his Outdoors column appeared in The New York Times for twenty years. He is a longtime contributor to Food & Wine, and the former managing editor of National Lampoon. His books include Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine, The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass, The Elements of Taste (with Gray Kunz), Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way (with Francis Mallmann), Letters to a Young Chef (with Daniel Boulud), Celebrate! (with Sheila Lukins), and John Madden’s Ultimate Tailgating. He is a creator and executive producer of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, on PBS.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593375
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,147,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. E. Sander on May 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like some of the other reviewers, I found this book disappointing. There was so much fluff about the author and very little content about how to eat. The NY Times article about this book contained the bulk of its content in one small piece. I enjoyed the article, but found the book tedious and a waste of time.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was fun to read. I don't disagree with the opinions expressed in the 1-star reviews though; I just think those people misunderstood the book. This book is not instructions for you to learn how to eat, it's a memoir of how this man learned to eat. We are reading about his life and his experiences, and the only thing we get to tell us about our life and out experiences are what we can learn from how he went about it. This book is a starting place.

It helps that I've read previous books by this man. He's a good writer. And I liked reading new perspectives on episodes from previous books. Those helped tie things together in my head.
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Somewhere between memoir, philosophy and a diet book, Culinary Intelligence is a quick and enjoyable read with some good ideas. (I'm a pretty good cook, and I've picked up several new prep ideas - boiling radishes, who knew?). If you're even reasonably food savvy, there will be little new information here, but it's a great motivator for anyone who wants to get more flavor from fewer calories. A minor complaint: all the weight loss stories in the book were about men. Anybody who's ever attended a mixed-gender weight loss group knows that men lose weight *much* more easily than women; very few women could simply cut back on white food, desserts and pizza, and magically drop 40 lbs. Still, if you're eating the kind of food this book advocates, not cheating with junk, and getting reasonable exercise, you probably weigh about what you ought to, whether or not the weight charts think so.
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Peter Kaminsky writes about food in magazines and books and he collaborates with others (John Madden, Sheila Lukens, Daniel Boulud). When the rest of us overeat, we're just gluttons, but when he overeats, it's an occupational hazard like black lung for coal miners. Kaminsky blimped up and was dropped by his insurance company. This little book (210 pages plus some recipes) explains how he now thinks about food and dining and overcame this health risk and restored his insurance.

This is NOT a diet book, and it does not contain any "new information" about diets. It's a way to organize your mind - a logical framework - to succeed with a diet. Think of the diet as your coach or trainer and Peter Kaminsky as an older, successful all-star dieter offering his advice and motivational tips. "The coach will tell you to cut back on sugar, and I think the best way to do it is ..."

His fundamental principle is to get the most flavor from every calorie: Buy the best ingredients and prepare them well. He lays this out in the first chapter and the rest of the book applies this principle: elements of flavor, cooking, tips for the three meals of the day, travelling, and eating in restaurants.

He could have conveyed this in about 30 pages, but that's not a book. So, he had to choose: (a) some informative research or (b) some long-winded memories about eating and some recipes. I would have liked the former, but he picked the low-hanging fruit. The tip-off is on the dust-jacket blurb: "an entertaining road map..."

Entertainment is subjective, and I was not amused. Overall, I benefitted from Kaminsky's dietary advice, and he's helped me to change the way I eat. But, damn, what is all this self-absorbed clutter?
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I read the article in the NYT about this book and thought it sounded interesting. But while Mr. Kaminsky is certainly an entertaining writer, there really isn't any practical information here that you couldn't get from meeting with a good Registered Dietitian, or simply getting a good book on the "Mediterranean Diet".

As other reviews noted, this book is more memoir than how-to, so you can't really rate it as a diet book or program, even though it is trying to pass itself off as such. It is, however, a really good read to give to someone who thinks dieting means the end of eating flavorful food. The concept of "Flavor Per Calorie" is an easily accessible one, especially as it relates to having a smaller portion of full-flavored/full-calorie/full-fat food, as opposed to eating more of a less satisfying low-calorie/low-fat food that simply leads to overeating because you aren't satisfied. Ditto for eating fewer processed foods - freshly prepared foods do satisfy far more than processed because it's what your body craves.

But that being said, I was a little annoyed with Mr. Kaminsky's statements on how - if you put a little effort into it - you could find things like varied types of fish or grass-fed beef. I live in the upper Midwest, so grass-fed beef, not a large problem - expensive, but not logistically difficult. But since I don't want to have high cholesterol, I can't live on beef. Having grown up on the East Coast (including NYC), I miss being able to get fresh seafood and good poultry. If I eat less seafood than I'd like it's not because I'm afraid of cooking seafood (as he posits in his book), it's because I can't get good seafood to begin with. Not everyone lives in NYC and has connections to food suppliers as Mr. Kaminsky does.
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