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It just makes sense. The most delicious food is the most healthful. A few years ago it dawned on me that all my favorite cuisines were either from the Mediterranean or Asian regions. I daydreamed about a "MediterrAsian" restaurant, thinking what a catchy name I had cleverly invented. Surely no one else would ever join such different styles of food together. Or would they? I plunked "mediterrasian" into a search engine and was transported to a place even better than my imaginary restaurant.
Ric and Trudy's website was like an oasis to me. All my life I had never had to worry about my weight, but that changed when I became pregnant at age 29. By the time I found their website, number two was on the way and my metabolism wasn't keeping up. Dieting was completely foreign to me, and being a foodie who loved cooking, I dreaded the idea of having to give up fats like cheese, olives and avocados, or carbs like pasta, potatoes, and fresh fruits. All the popular diet programs either consisted of calorie counting (i.e. small portions of reduced fat or non-fat foods) or of eliminating carbs and eating lots of protein. My dream diet was more along the lines of French Women Don't Get Fat meets Yan Can Cook, but I didn't know how to translate that to every day life, or if it would even be healthy. Joining a gym sounded about as appealing as going to the dentist. Formal exercise and sports were not this bookworm's cup of tea.
So when the Mediterrasian Way presented that third, balanced option, it simply felt right...and had the scientific basis to back it up--not just from recent times, but going back centuries. As I explored the extensive website, it was like coming home--from a nutritional and culinary perspective, it all resonated with my knowledge and experience, gleaned from both my own education and being raised by a health-conscious ethnically diverse cooking-oriented family. Not only did the theory make sense, but the authors had translated it into practical menus and recipes for every day living.
The emphasis on natural movement was something I had always intuited, so it was refreshing to see that validated by the longevity reported in studies of Mediterranean and Asian cultures based on an active (and simultaneously restful) lifestyle combined with healthful cooking. Granted, I couldn't achieve that level of movement with my nose in a book or up against a computer screen all day, but as a mother of little ones and a homemaker in a house with stairs, my once somewhat sedentary existence has been exchanged for a life made up of fairly rigorous hands-on tasks.
I was tempted to print out the whole website, but instead I emailed the authors, thanking them for creating such an amazing resource and suggesting they turn it into a book. Well, I wasn't the only one, so it came as no surprise when about a year later, Ric informed me they were doing just that. I was quite willing to pay to hold a printed and bound version of their website in my hands, but the book is actually much more than that. It's a chronological journey and explanation of The MediterrAsian Way, as well as a treasury of creative meal planning ideas and recipes with pages of mouthwatering full color photographs.
Like the way of life it outlines, the book is light enough to read in a day, but so rich in content that I keep returning to it to absorb the principles and implement the techniques. Because no foods are excluded, this style of cooking and eating lends itself to very versatile and flexible menus.
In a literary sense, it reads more like a guidebook than a textbook, perfect for the armchair traveler, but also meaningful to those of us who've been overseas and are delighted to revisit the flavors and lifestyle we tasted while abroad. Thanks to Ric and Trudy's excellent direction, I have found my MediterrAsian restaurant--right in my own kitchen.
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Book Review: The Mediterrasian Way: A Cookbook and Guide to Health, Weight Loss, and Longevity, Combining the Best Features of Mediterranean and Asian Diets and Lifestyles
Authors Ric Watson and Trudy Thelander (Wiley '07)
Why is it that members of some specific cultures live long healthy lives? Seeking to answer this question, from Down Under comes a phenomenal first book by New Zealanders Ric Watson and Trudy Thelander--The Mediterrasian Way. It is a model of how to live healthily in the modern world using the time-tested cuisines and lifestyles of the Mediterraneans and Asians.
The Mediterrasian Way incorporates the most recent studies regarding nutrition, diet, exercise, and relaxation. Over 150 delicious recipes and beautiful photos of prepared dishes are included. A 14-day meal plan and the MediterrAsian.com website tie-in are also lifestyle change boosters.
Writing from his own experience, author Ric Watson explains how his tragic motorcycle accident altered his physical well being. The road to recovery was long and difficult, but by changing his diet from the standard meat and potatoes to traditional Mediterranean meals, he began to regain his health when doctors believed it was impossible.
The daughter of physicians, Trudy Thelander recalls her family relationship with her sister-in-law, a Chinese-Malaysian, who taught the author her own Asian cooking. Finding similarities between the two cultures, Ric and Trudy researched the basic elements of these 5,000 year old lifestyles. Both cultures include daily physical activity, a base diet of whole grain carbohydrates, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, olive or vegetable oils, and vegetables. Both consume daily water, tea, and wine in moderation.
Further cutting-edge scientific research cited in their groundbreaking book includes The Seven Countries Study, The China Study, The Lyon Diet Heart Study, among others. The authors developed The MediterrAsian Balanced Meal System (MBMS) based on this background, showing how the Mediterranean or Asian meals are easily prepared, and allow for a greater volume of food with less caloric intake. More importantly, they demonstrate how the MBMS enhances the body's functioning with its use of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and lean protein (poultry, seafood, soy products).
A best example is p. 95 of the book:
Western Style Meal: 1 quarter-pound burger with cheese, 1 large fry, 1 large soda, 1 ice cream sundae (1,679 calories)
Mediterranean Style Meal: Sicilian salmon and pasta with roasted red pepper, zucchini, basil, and pine nuts, 1 slice crusty whole grain bread drizzled with ½ T extra virgin olive oil, large salad with tomatoes, olives, romaine, and red onion, served with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, 1 glass red wine, bowl of mixed berries served with a scoop of sorbet (860 calories)
Asian Style Meal: Bowl of fragrant broccoli and mushroom soup, rice paper roll stuffed with chicken breast, snow pea sprouts, and peppers and served with a soy-sesame dipping sauce, Cantonese shrimp, cashew nut, and mixed vegetable stir-fry served over steamed long-grain rice, 1 glass cold beer, fresh fruit salad with mango, lychees, and pineapple (810 calories)
Each meal is generous portions, includes a drink and even dessert. Amazingly, calorie counts for the Mediterranean and Asian meals are about half that of the Western meal.
Living and eating the Mediterrasian Way can help prevent alzheimer's, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. It can lead to weight loss, increased energy levels, and a strong immune system; in essence The Mediterrasian Way is the secret to a longer and more enjoyable life.
The reader of The Mediterrasian Way will not just be able to try new recipes, but will understand why it is important to eat these foods. This book is not a diet book, it is a way of life, and should be in every American home for reading, tasting, and experiencing.