& & by Susan Hamilton & &

He galloped into kitchens and homes with his luxurious, fat-laden recipes for nearly four decades. After a 23-year journey of intensive nutritional research combined with his many years of cooking experience, Graham Kerr is now advocating low-fat, healthy cooking, and he's bringing his message to Spokane Friday night.

"I want to help people understand how to change their lifestyles to accommodate a healthier diet," he says from his home in Mt. Vernon, Wash. And he speaks from personal experience. In The Galloping Gourmet TV series in the late '60s and early '70s, Kerr pursued the pleasures of the palate. Using hearty portions of butter, cream, eggs and humor, The Galloping Gourmet was one of the most beloved cooking shows of all time. Its success earned Kerr's wife Treena, the show's producer, two Emmy nominations as producer of the year for daytime television.

In 1971, a tragic accident left Graham temporarily paralyzed and Treena suffering from long-lasting complications. But Graham says it helped him change. "Life gave me an opportunity," he tells me. "My condition forced me to stop The Galloping Gourmet."

On his doctor's advice, he recuperated by taking his family to sea. "When we got sea sick from our high-fat diet, I made the family change their eating habits," he says. "But there was no joy in it, and they refused to eat such bland food."

After Treena had a heart attack in 1986, "I realized that I tried to change my family's diet the wrong way," Graham explains. "After eight years of eating a high-fat, high-sodium diet, I had expected them to change too radically. And I had made it too difficult for my family to change their eating habits by offering them food without taking into account T.A.C.T." T.A.C.T. is Kerr's acronym for taste, aroma, color and texture. "What I really needed to do was delight them, so I strove to wrap my caring for them in pleasure," he reveals.

The Kerrs were told that Treena's condition was serious, and they realized that dietary changes were in order. Kerr went back to the kitchen to work with his wife's food likes and dislikes. "It's like making a painting of a person using their food preferences," he says. "Then pleasure is the matting that you place around that painting of their preferences. And the frame is the boundaries of their diet."

Graham created a new cooking style called "Minimax," or food with minimized health risks and maximum taste, aroma, color and texture. He returned to the TV screen with the cooking show Simply Marvelous in 1988. He's devoted four cookbooks and nearly 250 television programs to the Minimax concept and has proven that you can have your taste and eat healthy, too.

Graham's personal philosophy revolves around a concept he calls "pull up a chair," which he developed while lecturing to fellow travelers on the Queen Elizabeth. "Here I was talking to people about having a healthy lifestyle that were gaining more weight as we went," he says with a chuckle. "Just before my last lecture, I got the idea for my summary from a simple chair. It has six parts -- four legs, a back and a seat. The legs are the foundation of our lives -- food, exercise, friends and relaxation. The seat of the chair is self-assessment and the back is our personal values.

"When you put it all together," he explains, "you have individual creativity in your cooking, a realistic and energetic exercise program that works for you, relaxation that can be active or reflective, and friends that you enjoy inviting into your home to share meals with you. Then you have your personal values and knowing who you are, which holds all the parts together."

For Graham's speaking engagement in Spokane, he wants to convey "what it means to have caring wrapped in pleasure." He will also speak about lifestyle changes that benefit health. "We'll learn how to garnish good habits," he adds.

And what brings him to Spokane? "The Heart Institute Community Partners have looked at trying to bring Graham Kerr to Spokane for quite some time," says Jerrie Heyamoto, the Institute's community relations specialist. "His food knowledge, teamed with his focus on health and his light-hearted and entertaining presentation style make him a powerful resource for helping all of us live a healthier lifestyle."

Museum of North Idaho @ Museum of North Idaho

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 31
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