Monday, June 26, 2006

BOOKS: Food Is Good

You can't officially call yourself a resident of the west coast until you finish your first cleanse. I don't care how long you say you've lived here, until you find yourself unquestioningly consuming unregulated tablets that claim to improve your liver function, as well as earnestly discussing your bowel functions with other cleanse survivors aficionados, you're just a tourist.

Rusty and I lost our cleanse innocence several years ago, and even though we've both come to sort of believe that all the tablets and tinctures that supplement most store-bought cleanse kits are utter snake oil, we still like to follow the cleanse diet for a couple of weeks every six months or so, usually at Rusty's behest. This is funny mainly because, while Rusty is generally the one to instigate a cleanse, he's also the first to rail against it. Here's a typical week of Rusty's internal monologue:
Pre-cleanse: "Boy, I sure am looking forward to this cleanse! I'm going to clean up my eating habits and cut out all that beer and sugar and grease. It's going to be great."
Day 1: "What should I have for breakfast? What... puffed kamut and soymilk? This sucks."
Day 2: "I know that technically bacon isn't allowed, but beef is, and they're practically the same thing."
Day 3: "Cleanses are stupid. Whose stupid idea was this?"
Day 4: "What's the point of eating healthy all the time in order to live longer if your life sucks because you can't eat anything good?"
Day 5: "Grumble."
Day 6: "I hate hippies and their dumb hippie ideas. We need another Vietnam to thin out their ranks."
Day 7: "Are we done yet? ONE MORE WEEK? Fuuuuuuuuck."
Guess which day we're on? Ding-ding-ding! If you guessed day one, come up to the head of the class.

Now, unlike Rusty, I actually think I eat pretty well most of the time. For the most part, I'm all organic this, and free-range that, and whole-grain the other. However, every so often chocolate needs to be reminded of its proper place in my life (i.e.
as an accompaniment to vegetables, rather than in lieu of vegetables), and the best way to get this message across is with a good old-fashioned shunning. So I ostracize all things chocolate for a couple of weeks, and it obediently resumes its rightful place after dinner and stops invading all my other fuelling stops.

The first few times we did the cleanse thing were grim experiments. We had no idea what we were doing and, equipped only with a pitifully short list of permitted foods, we pretty much just ate them in their unadorned state, almost dying of gustatory ennuie in the process.

Nowadays, though, we're somewhat pros at this endeavour and, armed with a battalion of cookbooks, I've promised Rusty that this will be the Best Cleanse Ever! If you've been thinking about cleaning up your culinary act, you may enjoy these, too.

Vegetarian Burgers by Bharti Kirchner
I heard about this cookbook at Vegan Lunch Box, where it received rave reviews. Having endured way too many summer barbecues where I was a slave to store-bought veggie patties, I declared that the summer of 2006 would be the summer of home-made burgers. So far, so good. I haven't made it past the quinoa and black bean burgers, which I've already made three times because they're so damned tasty. Sam loves them, too, especially if I reheat them and add a thin layer of hoisin sauce. Yum.

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
This is my favourite of all the Moosewood cookbooks. Most of the recipes are vegetarian versions of homey, comfort-food favourites, such as the homespun pot pie, which is magnificent. (I leave out the mushrooms, though, and substitute yams for the potatoes. The recipe is pretty flexible that way.) They also have a great recipe for roasted vegetable quesadillas and a nice section dedicated to one of my favourite eggy treats, the noble frittata.

Hollyhock Cooks
Along similar lines to the Moosewood Collective, this cookbook is a collection of recipes from the locally famous Hollyhock Retreat, located on Cortes Island. I've never been to Hollyhock, but friends have, particularly
The Fabulous Suzi, whose judgment can always be trusted on all things food-related. When I spied this cookbook at her place, I knew immediately that I had to have one of my own. My faith was not unfounded. This book more than paid for itself with the recipes for carrot soup and black bean and chipotle soup alone.

What's Cooking Vegetarian by Jenny Stacey
This is one of those massive compendiums of well-photographed recipes that I can never resist. Photos, cookbook editors! Photos! I can't understand the thinking behind cookbooks that don't include pictures of the final product. I don't know if it's a budget thing or if it's because cookbook editors, being foodies themselves, don't realize that the ignorant masses (i.e. me) need pictures to show us what the end result is supposed to look like or else we're literally flying blind. Take my favourite, most-used recipe from this collection, for example: how would I know just how to lovingly (and liberally) sprinkle grated cheddar over each individual serving of vegetable and corn chowder IF I DIDN'T SEE IT IN THE PHOTO?

Four Ingredient Recipes by Joanna Farrow
After sampling the tomato and tapenade tarts from this cookbook at
Shona's house, I had to get my mitts on this volume. Not only is it beautifully photographed, and not only does it come in a handy flipbook format that you can actually stand up on your counter while you work, but each recipe has only four ingredients! How brilliant is that? While it's not a healthy/vegetarian cookbook, per se, with only four ingredients per recipe it's easy to identify the bad/meaty ingredients and substitute them with something else. Four-ingredient cooking may be anathema to serious foodies who prefer more complexity and a greater challenge, but dude, it's right up my alley.


Meredith said...

Mmmm, food. Not so much with the soy milk though. I just posted a list of my favorite cookbooks on my site. The Vegan Burger sounds pretty interesting...

Tammy said...

Heh. Soymilk is definitely an acquired taste. I was forced to acquire it after I realized that cow's milk makes me totally congested.

The link you posted took me to an error page, but then I tweaked the URL a bit and found the correct (I think) page. Thanks for the link! I'm intrigued by A Year In a Vegetarian Kitchen. I may just have to wishlist that one...

Anonymous said...

FOUR ingredient??? I have a great cook book by Nava Atlas (it's vegetarian) that has max 5 ingredients per recipe.
And no pictures :(
My dad's a big reader and an artist and his favourite kinds of books are "picture books" - we just need something nice to look at while we read!
My favourite is an Indian cook book by Rebo publishers (no author) with the most gorgeous pictures. And did I mention the recipes are really good too?

Carol Blymire said...

Or, you could just watch Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee on the Food Network and you'll never want to eat ever again.......... that's my version of cleansing.

Em said...

Taking basic foodsafe put me off most foodgroups except cereals for a time. Then just when I got over that was about the time I entered the food service industry and although I tee-hee about where mass-produced food comes from now, I did a lot of bringing my own lunches for a long time.
Soy milk is all-around fine--just not for lattes. It is with a heavy heart that I make soy lattes because soy milk will not foam, no matter how long you steam it for. It bubbles slightly, but never foams. It's a bit sad, really. Then I feel bad for people getting soy lattes because the lattes made with actual cow juice seem so much perkier.
My cleansing ritual so far has meant doing veggie burgers instead of beef, avoiding most red meat and switching to Diet Coke.