THE LOW-CARB KITCHEN
KEN MACQUEEN in Vancouver
"Want to see a picture?" asks Karen Barnaby, setting down her camomile tea to fish a photo from a pocket of her chef's whites. It shows a near-spherical Barnaby at 235 lb. That was four years and 70 excess pounds ago. "Such a lard-ass," she says with a ready laugh. Barnaby, a Vancouver cookbook author and executive chef of the Fish House in Stanley Park, accepted her weight as an occupational hazard -- until her mother died five years ago. "She was only 64," she says. "I thought: wake-up call."
She endured almost a year on a low-fat diet -- things like brown rice, tuna and vegetables. "I thought I was going to kill myself by the end of it," she says. "The weight loss was so minimal and I just felt crazed all the time." Then she read the low-carbohydrate best-seller Protein Power, by doctors Michael R. and Mary Dan Eades. "They're describing me to a T," she thought.
Dealing with her carbohydrate "addiction" meant giving up pop, eliminating great lashings of sugar in coffee and ignoring the ever-present mounds of bread, french fries and pasta at the restaurant. There's plenty of meat, fish, cheese and greens in their stead. "The energy you get is amazing," Barnaby says with evangelical zeal. "My skin cleared, the soreness in my knees went away. I used to have heart palpitations -- that stopped. My cholesterol level is lower. My blood pressure is low-normal now."
She used her flair for innovation to create diet recipes. Really, New York-style cheesecake with Brazil nut crust is diet fare. Some are posted on a diet support Web site: www.lowcarb.ca.
More are slated for a forthcoming, still untitled cookbook. She's started popular low-carb theme nights at the restaurant. On the latest menu: Hungarian-style mushroom soup with leeks and sour cream. Winter greens with prawns, prosciutto and pine nuts. Braised lamb shank. Cauliflower and roasted garlic puree. Spinach with three cheeses. Banana bread pudding with chocolate sauce. Abundance is Barnaby's hallmark. "Cook well. Eat well. That's always been my philosophy," she says. "I've just translated it into low-carbing."