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Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too: Eating to Be Sexy, Fit, and Fabulous! Paperback – April 3, 2007
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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“I’d follow Chef Kelly anywhere… [Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too] is infused with her smart buoyant spirit . . . and her intriguing recipes.” (Michael Ruhlman, author of The Making of a Chef)
“[H]as a zest for life on every page and recipes that are full of flavor, intense, and passionate.” (Mark Miller, chef/owner Coyote Cafe, and author of THE GREAT CHILE BOOK)
“[D]eliciously advances the proposition that the good life and the well life are not only compatible, but indivisible.” (Bryan Miller, author of Cooking for Dummies and former restaurant critic for the New York Times)
About the Author
Chef Melissa Kelly named her restaurant Primo, located in Maine, after her grandfather, Primo Magnani, a local butcher. Primo has two satellites in Marriott hotels in Orlando and Tucson. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Kelly is a 1999 James Beard Foundation Award winner.
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Kelly does a good job of introducing an uninformed reader to the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Her emphasis on eating real, high-quality food highlights one of the most important qualities of the Mediterranean diet. Her recipes and notes regarding serving sizes (especially with wine) are quite useful. Her tips in Chapter 11 of the book are great, and should have been the guide for the entire book. Anyone who follows the tips will be on the path to good health.
While I recommend the book for the above reasons, I believe that it is important to also note the flaws. First of all, Kelly notes various studies regarding the Mediterranean diet, but does not provide the sources of those studies either in the text or in a bibliography. It would be nice to be able to consult those sources about which she writes, and noting the sources would give her statements more substance. For this reason, the book seems more opinion-based than fact-based.
The main problem I have with this book is in the diet itself. Kelly mostly bases the diet that she describes on an Italian diet, but the meal she describes would not be eaten by Italians on a daily basis. A meal consisting of an aperative (which is hardly ever a martini in Italy, as Kelly states), antipasto, soup, pasta, a fish course, a meat course, salad, cheese and dessert could be found at Italian weddings or on special holidays, but a typical day would be quite different and significantly lighter. Kelly does reduce the meal components for her seven-day sample menu, however.
Having lived in Italy and taken an interest in why Italians seem slimmer and healthier, I have done quite a bit of research into the subject and would give this book 3&1/2 stars. Kelly provides a good introduction and tips for those who have little to no knowledge of the Mediterranean diet, and the book should be read (keeping in mind, of course, the weaknesses found within) for its general tips on food quality and enjoyment of food.
EDIT: In my original review, I failed to point out two things. First of all, as another reviewer states, there are quite a few (and often incorrect) foreign phrases thrown in throughout the book. While some work, many seem needless.
I would also like to note that the final part of the book (chapters 11, on) seems like a completely different text, less contrived, more "inspirational" and more informative. These chapters would have been enough to make a successful book.
Unlike Giuliano's vignette-styled success, Kelly takes a foodie's approach: food snobbery and sheer gastronomical delight reign supreme tempered with gluttonless slow eating and small portion sizes. Her best tip? Special treats like a scoop of gelato shouldn't be eaten every day, but when one indulges the three-bite rule should be enforced; delight in only three bites and then stop before excess rules over commonsense.
Kelly's book cruises along tracking other `real food' diet/lifestyle road maps like the "Sonoma" and "Fat Fallacy" regimes. If there is a difference its intaglio is the wealth of recipes that Kelly includes from seasonal staple dishes from menus of her famous restaurant composed of fresh ingredients facilitated by Primo's own vegetable and herb gardens. After explaining her Italian-American rearing on Long Island (you go girl---I am also an Italian American from Old Bethpage), she divides the book into familiar components---forgive my explanatory license here. Topics like `high flavor', `variety', `olive oil', `the market and garden', `tapas portions', `whole grain', `meat control', `eating at the family table', `water and wine', `eating little but eating well', `heart healthy', `living a small rural life', provide a glimmer into the svelte world of the archetypical Mediterranean woman with the addition of health factoids and individual stories that are geared to launch the convenience driven American mindset into a landscape resplendent with a cornucopia of good choices and the breathing room to utterly enjoy and savor the options.
Although not your typical diet book replete with dietary dos and don'ts, Kelly does round out her information with a nuts and bolts chapter that answers the obvious questions of how? how much? and when? with a seven day-menu planner that controls portions, includes the wholesome foods discussed in the previous chapters and adds a little meat for a little excitement.
Along with this, she plugs the idea of balance and contentment which seems to embody the Mediterranean woman and calls to mind that relaxed feeling that one gets even after a short two week trip abroad. Even though she admits that life in America seems very far away from life in the Mediterranean, she asserts that she "almost [has] it right" bolstering her opinion with Charlotte Cushman's words "To try to be better is to be better."
Kelly's chatty style reflects the ease she employs to welcome us into her quasi-Mediterranean world. At times her enthusiasm runs amok and she falls into the same annoying foreign language usage utilized by Mireille Giuliano in FWDGF. Overtly, Mireille shamelessly uses her `French-ness' to charm her super-sized American audience; sadly Kelly's pseudo sophistication runs the foreign phrase gamut using too-cutesy italicized comments from Gibraltar to Lebanon that annoy rather than instruct and detract from otherwise good information.
Bottom line? While Melissa Kelly's all-American pluralistic approach in "Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too" works well on the level of providing good information and interesting recipes, it seems that the current marketplace is saturated with so many books advocating real food and slow eating that they all seem to cover the same ground. Under the guise of learning the newest need-to-know slenderizing secrets of different cultures, we learn only a few simple facts: Eat well, eat slowly and enjoy life. Recommended to those who would appreciate some staple Mediterranean recipes.
Diana F. Von Behren
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