Terry Walters wants us all to eat clean
Food close to the source

By Kim Carlson
October 22, 2009

You can tell within the first five minutes of meeting Terry Walters — even though she’s had no breakfast and her lunch is an hour late — that she’s the picture of health. Her energy is enviable; her skin practically radiates. You might feel a little like the woman sitting near Meg Ryan in Katz’s Deli; you want “what she’s having.”

At least, that’s what happened to me.

Luckily, I can find some of Walters’ health secrets in her new book, CLEAN FOOD.

CLEAN FOOD promises 200 recipes for super-nutritional foods. Foods, like collards, that you otherwise might not eat enough of, plus some that, properly prepared, taste great and are, according to Walters, really good for you and that you probably haven’t thought much about eating at all: teff, adzuki beans, kombu.

The recipes are organized by season, helpful in a book whose author suggests we should “eat closer to the source of our food.”

The word “vegan” hardly appears in the book, but these are indeed vegan recipes; it’s just that Walters eschews labels. This is simply the food she likes and that she feels contributes to her good health.

Walters told me she began learning about — and tweaking — a macrobiotic diet years ago as a college student, when she was diagnosed with high cholesterol. “I wanted to make kale and brown rice taste better,” she says.

Together, she and her mother stopped eating meat and dairy, limited their intake of sugar, and restricted their diet in other ways. But when her mother got derailed — or “fell off the wagon,” as she put it — Walters knew there had to be a middle ground.

Over the years, she found it; her path eventually led her to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. Not surprisingly, she continues her brand of healthy eating to this day, at home (with her family of four) and in her work (teaching cooking classes at home in Connecticut and elsewhere).

Oh, and she runs marathons, too.

A few years ago, when some of her students suggested she put all of her handouts into a book, she did just that — and self-published CLEAN FOOD in 2007 (although it now has a publisher: Sterling Epicure).

Walters doesn’t preach, nor does she exercise complete restraint in her own life; in fact, she admits to a fondness for salt-and-pepper Kettle chips.

But she’s firm in her belief that what and how we eat has immense impact on our health, and that small changes can have a big effect. When Walters suggests you should “choose food with intent,” she’s very persuasive.

“If the food in your home nourishes you, then when you go out, you can choose,” she says. “It’s doable.”

So what’s in CLEAN FOOD? I liked the recipes for Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder and Lentil Walnut Pâté, which indeed are doable — as most of the recipes are. One of the challenges is stocking your kitchen with ingredients you may not currently have on hand, like nori or ume plum vinegar, and then using them up.

And there’s thoughtful advice throughout, as in the section titled “Ways to Improve Health and Well-Being,” where Walters reminds us that we should, when in doubt, choose to eat something green — collards, kale, or mustard greens, say. (Not so different from Michael Pollan’s advice to eat plants.)

Besides all of that, the book is appealing to look at — despite having no food photography. Walters oversaw its clean design from the start (which was hardly changed in the Sterling edition). You want to peruse this cookbook — and you’ll probably want to cook the food that’s inside, especially when you read on the cover that no less a cooking guru than Mario Batali calls it “the most exciting book based on fresh produce and simple recipes I have used in years.”

Hmm. Is Mario going vegan — or did he just want what Terry’s having?


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