There is a geographical midpoint between living to eat, and eating to live. It's where health comes from the pursuit of pleasure, and pleasure comes from the pursuit of health. It's where you love the food you eat, and the food you eat loves you back -- by nurturing your health and vitality, by contributing years to life, and life to years. It's where good food and good health are not a difficult choice, but a daily partnership. My family and I have long lived there- and my case today is that you and yours can, too. It took us years to find our way there- but I can now offer you a shortcut. And yes, this place even has a name: Cuisinicity.
Loving food that loves us back has long figured in my public health mission. Appropriately, my initial awareness of this option -- for myself and my family- was itself a byproduct of love: my love for my wife, who, as fate would have it, loves me back.
My wife, Catherine, was born in North Africa, and raised in Southern France. Her birthright, therefore, incorporated some of the world's greatest and most nutritious cuisines. In particular, she was raised on a French Mediterranean diet- long famous for its culinary delights, and now equally so for its health benefits. Catherine learned cooking from her mother, and in particular from her aunt, Danielle -- who isn't a famous chef only because she never chose to be. Anyone ever privileged to sit at a table spread by Danielle will readily corroborate.
Catherine was brought to the U.S. as a teenager by her mother who was looking to establish a career here, leaving most of her family back in France, where they live still; her mother went back years ago, and now lives in Montpelier in Southern France. Catherine learned English while attending high school here in Texas. She graduated high school, and went on to U.C. Berkeley, majoring in psychology. She then went on to Princeton University, where she earned her PhD in neuroscience.
All of this is relevant to the Cuisinicity story, which really began when Catherine and I met and fell in love. She was doing post-doctoral work in neuroscience at Yale, and I was doing my second residency in Preventive Medicine and getting my masters degree in public health. Catherine audited an epidemiology course I was taking and the rest, as they say, is history. A few decades and five kids later -- a whole lot of history, indeed.
But back at the beginning, I was already an adamant proponent of healthful eating and lifestyle as medicine- and working hard to become a genuine nutrition expert. Catherine, meanwhile, was a devoted foodie. I loved good food, too -- but would have eaten tree bark and gravel if that were the only way to be healthy. Catherine loved good health, of course, but would have rolled her eyes if getting there required giving up the delights of great food.
There were challenges in this tension, as I'm sure you can imagine. But we were married -- and committed to common ground in all things. That meant marrying my uncompromising devotion to nutrition to Catherine's comparable passion for great food.
We got there meal by meal, recipe by recipe. When we had reached child number four, Catherine decided she had done enough in neuroscience (she had, in fact, made some very important contributions). In its place, she applied her scientific training and mindset to the daily products of our home kitchen. She modified recipes, ingredients, proportions, and preparation methods as only a trained scientist would -- altering one variable at a time, keeping others constant, and "analyzing" the results. In this case, that analysis meant trying the product for dinner. As ever, science meant, in conjunction with such trials, the inevitable, occasional error. Errors were discarded, lessons were learned, and formulas refined.
Those of a certain age -- my contemporaries -- may recall the Donny and Marie show. The Osmond siblings opened their program with a song, Marie declaring herself "a little bit country," and Donny "a little bit rock n' roll." They went their respective ways, and went together.
Catherine and I settled on a similar arrangement, but for meals rather than music. I'm a whole lot of theory, and she is the hands-on practice. I know a bit about eating optimally; Catherine knows how to turn that into meals that delight us every day.
There is more to Cuisinicity than delicious and nutritious. These recipes, after all, are the product of a hectic home kitchen subject to the daily chaos of a large family. These recipes are simple and convenient; economical and family friendly. You don't get to Cuisinicity with a private jet or VIP pass. The family minivan will more than suffice.
You may worry even so that you and your family have a long distance to go. If you have a typical American diet, that's true; you are a very long way from loving food that loves you back. But the thoughtful, careful crafting of recipes actually helps you get there from here- by rehabilitating your taste buds as you proceed. The more wholesome the meals you eat, the more you come to prefer that purity. Recent animal research shows how a "cafeteria diet" can corrupt the palate, and such methods have long been applied to our food supply, contributing significantly to what ails us. Cuisinicity is a thoroughly delightful remedy.
Appropriately, I am writing this on Labor Day -- typically a day of respite and recreation, family and feasting. And so it should be. The whole point of health is that it makes living better. Healthy people have more fun! It makes no sense to give up pleasure for the sake of health. But losing health to the pursuit of pleasure is even worse, since health takes all pleasure with it if it goes away.
Pleasure and health, theory and practice -- can go together. We can love food that loves us back. For Catherine and for me, it's been all about love from the start. It's a pleasure now to pay it forward.
The Cuisinicity website -- featuring the recipes my family has loved, and on which we have thrived all these years -- is now freely accessible to all, thanks to Catherine's hard work. It's cyberspace, so there is always more room at the table. On this day that is much about families, mine invites you and yours to join us.
Everything at Cuisinicity is freely accessible to all. Sign up for the e-newsletter and updates; follow on Twitter; like on Facebook; and all that cyber-stuff we do these days. Most importantly - enjoy, and as Catherine says at dinner every night- Bon Appétit!
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP is otherwise known as Catherine's husband. Together, they have five great kids, ages 15 to 25.