By Kim Dannies
Always on my to do list is to lose the five stubborn pounds that perpetually come and go, and recently, I did (again). Not to humblebrag, but it was easier this go round. Instead of strictures and restraint, I focused MORE on food, not less. This notion, counter-intuitive to anyone who has ever dieted, came as a revelation to me. The fresh thinking was sparked while reading about chefs who have lost a significant amount of weight while on the job. Much of the advice was simple common sense — portion control, exercise, knock off the booze.
What really got my attention was the concept of the “umami bomb.” Umami is why we go bonkers for bacon; it is the fifth flavor delivered by goodies such as aged cheese, ripe tomatoes, seaweed, pork, seafood, mushrooms, poultry, soy and fish sauce. Chefs who regularly infuse food with umami bombs are consistently more satisfied with their food, faster. This means less consumption and more opportunities to eat foods they ENJOY. The result: less hassle with the scale.
ENJOY is the operative word here. I don’t deprive myself of what I like, within reason. For example, I could easily eat 600 calories of healthy stuff I don’t particularly enjoy, and be haunted for the next three hours feeling unsatisfied. (So then maybe I backslide by eating another 400 calories of raw cashews.) I’d rather just eat 600 calories of something I really like in the first place. Savoring food, not suffering over it, makes me happier, healthier and more committed to my target weight.
Amplifying the flavors of food helps to satisfy cravings. I aim to steer clear of processed ingredients, white flour and sugar, but enjoy adding combinations of sautéed mushrooms and onions, tomatoes, shaved parmesan, anchovies and soy and fish sauces, to dishes. Dream meals contain bits of bacon, sausage and Emmentaler Swiss cheese. Other tricks of the trade — poach garlic in olive oil until soft and use it like butter, cut way back on red meat by eating more seafood, especially clams and scallops.
Takeout portions are for two and loaded with sugar and butter—take control of your own destiny by cooking umami bomb meals and you won’t surrender even one precious notch on your belt.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.