True Food by Andrew Weil

The advocate of the healthy life should live it by example, and Dr. Andrew Weil does.  Using his  background of botany and medicine, Weil has established himself as a leader in “well being” through his books and columns.  Complementing his latest venture, a restaurant in collaboration with chef Sam Fox, Weil has produced a cookbook – True Food.

Cookbooks can be adult picture books, full of enticing pictures of delicious dishes that drip off the pages, with recipes that you may or may never actually try.  Weil’s True Food offers ideas for those trying to eat healthier, without sacrificing taste.  Although the book leans toward vegan offerings, Fox’s influence is obvious with a few recipes for meat; the last chapter also includes drink mixes, some with vodka and whiskey – and a pomegranate martini.

I marked a few appealing recipes: the kale pesto, bison chili, pistachio dream; others to skip –  Korean broth, glazed burdock root.  The sea buckthorn fruit drinks might be worth tasting – if you can find sea buckthorn – the latest berry with promises of immortality – like acai, before being immersed in sugary drinks and smoothies.

Weil’s comfort not only comes through food; his introductions to chapters include quiet and forgiving thoughts on the merits of fresh natural ingredients that can just as easily be whipped into a delicious meal as those with less quality.  His comments on added ingredients used to mask staleness or inferiority, reminded me of a commercial I watched recently, proudly proclaiming that the restaurant added pancake batter to their scrambled eggs.

His food pyramid has chocolate at the top – no better recommendation for me to keep this book.

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James Beard Award Winner

The James Beard Foundation Awards for cookbooks were announced in May, and I have been waiting for my library to shelve the winner for the Cookbook of the Year:  Modernist Cuisine  by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet.  Since this is a six volume tome, priced at over $400, I may have a long wait.

Gabrielle Hamilton also won for the Writing and Literature category.  If you have not yet read Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, check out my review – here

“There are two things you should never learn to do with your father: learn how to drive and learn how to kill a chicken.”   Gabrielle Hamilton

Chocolate and Zucchini

At first glance, Clotilde Dusoulier’s recipes in Chocolate and Zucchini seem to be easier to read than to make.  As a Parisian who relocated to San Francisco and then back again to France, Dusoulier offers  recipes that will make you want to be a gourmet.  She includes lovely menu listings – both in French and in English.  Each recipe has a story and mouth-watering pictures, and like Julia Child, she carefully explains each step simply and clearly.

The introduction is too long and repetitive, but the heart of the book is divided into three sections of recipes and stories.  The first section – “Simplicity” – includes four recipes for each of the topics: salads, sandwiches, savory tarts, soups, eggs.  Some are not so simple, but all look delicious – the kind of food you’d order in a bistro.

The second section – “Entertaining” – raises the level with food for dinner parties and buffets.  The Boulette D’agneaux aux Pruneaux (lamb and prune meatballs) is only one of many that had me thinking I’d look for it the next time I found a good French restaurant – not so sure I’d try making it though.

Finally, the last section – my favorite – “Sweet Things” – offers a mix of easy and glamorous cakes, tarts, and desserts, starting with an easy recipe for the chocolate and zucchini cake from the title and escalating to chocolate hibiscus crème brûlée and blancmange with basil or raspberry coulis.  The lemon butter cookies caught my eye – lusciously lemony – access the recipe by clicking here.

The stories accompanying each recipe demonstrate Dusoulier’s love affair with food and she has her own blog Chocolate and Zucchini to check out for more ideas.

The Pioneer Woman – Blogging for Fun or Profit?

Should the mad ramblings of a blogger be picked up for a book, a movie, a guest shot on the Today show (too late for Oprah)?  It has happened, after all  – from blog to book success.  All that’s needed is a good idea – something different, creative, innovative.

Ree Drummond found the pot of gold on a fantasy ranch, with her Marlboro Man and her cookbook – The Pioneer Woman Cooks   –  but Amanda Fortini’s New Yorker article – O Pioneer Woman – does not forgive Drummond’s switch from blogging for a connection to readers to her sharing her life for profit.  One of the most successful bloggers on the web, Drummond recently left the ranch, the children, and the man behind, to tour in luxury as she promotes her memoir, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, (soon to be a movie with Reese Witherspoon), and her children’s book, Charlie the Ranch Dog.  But it’s not the books that have given Fortini a sour taste; it’s Drummond’s decision to blatantly recommend products that pay to advertise on her site.

Whenever I brought up the subject of ad revenue, Drummond grew acutely uncomfortable…revenue for 2010 was ‘solidly one million dollars’ … not including book advances, royalties, and the movie option.

If her discriminating readers know, they don’t seem to mind.  Fortini says, “She is who her readers would be if they had more time, more money…” Her popular blog keeps offering recipes, pictures of dogs and children, and now the road trip.  The site is slick – not the work of an amateur blogger (she has hired a web development firm to host and manage the site), and the ads are subliminal.  It’s all about perception, isn’t it?

Check it out for yourself at the pioneer woman blog.  If you like her stylin’ on the blog, you’ll probably like her books.

The Book Club Cookbook

Whenever I think of book clubs, I remember a New Yorker cartoon that has a bereft reader complaining that she was asked to leave the discussion because she had read the book.  Most book club participants come for a discussion (whether or not it’s about the book), but many also come for the food.  In The Book Club Cook Book, Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp offer both – lists of books nominated by book clubs across the country with appropriate recipes to inspire discussion.

Although no questions are included, the authors do include a short summary of each book and a book club profile that offers insights into how the club facilitated discussion.  The recipes sometimes seemed forced but with good intentions – Swedish Pancakes for Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water; others obvious – Honey Cake for The Secret Life of Bees.   Most seem too complicated for the tea and cookies club crowds.

The best part of this book is the 100 titles in the table of contents.  I had a great time checking off the books I’d already read, and found a few I could add to my wish list. The book was published in 2004,  but you might still find a few to read.  Here’s a sample…

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and CLay
  • Angle of Repose
  • Atonement
  • Bee Season
  • Daughter of Fortune
  • Devil in the White City
  • The Emperor of Ocean Park
  • The Hours
  • The Kite Runner
  • Motherless Brooklyn
  • Pope Joan
The authors offer more in a recent update called Table of Contents that takes a different approach.  The focus is on fifty authors – James Patterson, Lisa See, and Eleanor Lipman, and more.   The recipes are from the authors  – some draw from their favorite restaurants – with a short introduction on their motivation for writing.   Gelman and Krupp also conveniently list the all the authors’ book titles with each entry.

Both books are primarily cookbooks, with some recipes worth a try, and the added ingredient of some good book referrals.

Related Post: The Book Club with Just One Member