Thursday, February 02, 2006

You Are What You Eat Cookbook

In today’s review I will reveal my true colours as a “food nazi”. So far I have tiptoed down the line of moderation but now is the time to come out, so to speak.

My standpoint is that good food is the basis of harmonious health. The problem is many people associate healthy food with bland hippy fare. The reality is a diet that is broadened with a variety of foods will encompass many flavours and has no reason be dull. Remember the taste of the first mango of the season? The sweetness on your tongue, the velvety texture, the sticky residue dribbling down your chin. Such simplicity is stunning, some would say almost orgasmic. Far from dull, unless mango isn’t your thing – so think warm ripe peach, an organic strawberry or a juicy rambutan.

I need to work at keeping my diet varied as the vagaries of my body has narrowed it somewhat. Most dairy products cause me to get perpetual sore throats and colds, they also create acute gastrointestinal pain so the joy of indulging in a slice of stilton or a creamy dessert is entirely lost on me. Vegetarianism in my early 20’s caused my gut to stop producing the enzymes needed to break meat down and the results are highly uncomfortable and just not pretty. As for peas and capsicum are concerned, no excuse just plain fussy, but I think we are all aloud a few exceptions.

I adore seafood, embrace the whole spectrum of fruits and veggies, experiment with grains, munch on seeds and nuts, devour nori and play with pulses. Melbourne is an exceptional place to live, with its ethnic diversity fresh ingredients, herbs and spices are plentiful. There is no reason that any dietary limitation should lead to a boring culinary life.

I have become the mistress of adapting recipes. No one has noticed the replacement of milk with soy in sweet recipes (fortunately small quantities of butter are ok, the person who invented margarine should have been shot). I scramble eggs without cream. Or when caught short have squeezed and crumbled tofu to eek out the eggs and added sautéed spring onion and semidried tomatoes. I once served this to a self confessed beancurdphobe who declared it was the best scrambled eggs he had ever had (I just smiled sweetly). Nothing replaces meat, but some deep sea fish like tuna gives a similar chew factor and satiety.

What makes me well may make someone else sick. There is no perfect diet, just a perfect dialogue with your own body to understand what makes it zing.

But my biggest gripe is with a lack of cookbooks that really embrace these ingredients, with recipes that are simple to prepare and results that taste good. Many vegan books come up with meals that make cardboard look appetising or fallback on 101 things to do with pasta. Worst are the ones that employ a host of pretend foods – soy cheese, not-bacon and horror of horrors – tvp.

So finally I have found a book that hits many of the right bases, Dr Gillian McKeith’s “You Are What You Eat Cookbook” (Michael Joseph Books. 2005). If I had watched the series McKeith’s doggedness and the smug Australian commentary may have put me off checking out the book. What little I saw reminded me of why I dislike the reality television genre. As for food nazi, I hand her the crown. I am a mere courtier by comparison. However, the book looks good.

The extensive recipes are largely gluten free, dairy free (except for a couple with fetta) and feature only a few carnivorous offerings (organic chicken) making it predominantly vegan + fish, which sings very nicely to me .

I will get back to you with seeing if the recipes pan out, but on first pouring over the book I have earmarked the following:
Shitake mushroom risotto using barely instead of rice.
Cauliflower and millet mash (I have tasted one before which was delicious).
Smoked tofu and kidney bean burgers.
Sesame rice balls with umeboshi plum paste.
Some great spreads/dips including sweet carrot butter, butter bean, asparagus and miso and nut butters.

The book also features a basic flavouring guide, healthy snacks and inspiration for tailoring your own muesli. The recipes appear very simple, after all she wrote them for people who only knew how to ‘cook’ frozen oven chips or order takeaways.

With the detoxing craze heading into another year of popularity (the lard revolution must be just around the corner) this book offers interesting tastes that fit the virtuosity of the phase.


Recipe update: Yes I have blogged my own version of smoked tofu balls!

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Blogger MelbourneGirl said...

hey i haven't been over this way for a while but am so rapt to find this site. will be back for more reading and commenting. i am harcore too when it comes to food.

it's very important, what we put in our bodies.

great recipes too


3:14 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

thanks :)

3:45 pm  
Blogger elaine said...

I must look at this book!

I know what you mean about the dairy thing, too. I struggle with milk and too much yoghurt makes me sick. Thank God I can still eat cheese!

There's a real soy phobia out there but I find that I can slip it in most recipes without people noticing too much.

10:31 am  
Blogger Zoe said...

My two faves in this vein are The Yoga Cookbook, Nourish and The Anti-Ageing Cookbook.

I've made most things in the Yoga cookbook and only one has not been excellent. Others very good too.

11:20 am  

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