Insights by Goldie
Health-filled gifts keep on giving

Sound Consumer | December 2007

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

I’m frequently asked to recommend cookbooks and health books (as well as cookware and small appliances). Now seems like a sensible time to mention some of the books I’ve recently recommended and, very briefly, why.

If you have some tips to share or comments about my choices, by all means, please call or write me. In another column early in the new year, we may continue the discussion if there’s sufficient interest.

Cookbooks
Although I have hundreds of cookbooks, I seldom follow any recipe. I use cookbooks for reference, idea starters, sometimes to salivate over the gorgeous pictures, or to immerse myself in the pleasure of reading recipes and rich lore of other cultural food histories.

My most time-honored, tattered and splattered cookbook for nearly 20 years has no photos or frills. It’s Nikki and David Goldbeck’s “American Wholefoods Cuisine” and it offers 1,400 great, easy and healthful vegetarian recipes. Many include dairy and eggs, but substitutions are possible. The book is so packed with features, it’s useful and adaptable in any omnivore’s kitchen.

The best approach is simply to examine a copy for a few minutes; it generally sells itself. Or read a few of the enthusiastic reviews at amazon.com. It was unavailable for a few years but now is back in print and virtually unchanged.

That’s important because the Goldbeck recipes never are overly time-consuming, difficult or fussy. They fit my philosophy that “gourmet” recipes are those that use the finest, most nutritious whole ingredients. Prepare them simply but attractively, and simply let nature’s colors, textures and flavors speak for themselves.

Of special note are sections featuring, for instance, super-quick and easy recipes (“Short Order”), and the “Food Reader,” which is a guide to purchasing, storing and maintaining foods. My favorite section is “The Food Factory,” which includes easy whole-grain breads and dry mixes for the pantry, easy yogurt making, simple pickles and sauces, and many spice blends, condiments, dressings and dips.

Additionally, every kitchen needs (deserves!) a copy of the marvelous “Joy of Cooking” — especially the 2006 edition, updated on the 75th Anniversary of this original encyclopedic and legendary book of American cooking.

The grandson of the original author has added five new chapters, incorporating numerous recipes and good information on whole ingredients, including tempeh, tofu and grains such as quinoa. Natural, organic and whole, unrefined foods were not previously covered, so this addition makes the book even more useful and deserving of the respect and recognition it has long enjoyed.

Health books
Thousands of books on health vie for space and attention, and with widely different approaches. I’ll mention only one now, “The World’s Healthiest Foods,” subtitled “Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating.” I only discovered it a couple of months ago and frankly it’s difficult to talk about this book except in superlatives.

I’m increasingly enamored and impressed as I work my way slowly through its 800-plus pages. The book is available only from the Mateljan Health Foundation, at the exceptional free Web site, www.whfoods.org.

George Mateljan, a pioneering figure in natural foods 30 years ago, founded Health Valley Foods. When he retired and sold the business, he created the exceptional non-profit health research foundation noted above. For all who use the Internet, please log on. The depth and breadth of information there is just not available in any other single place.

You will find full nutritional analyses of more than 100 highly recommended foods, with photographs and videos of preparation techniques, nutrition reviews, discussions on merits of nutrients, organic production and health issues — and I’m sure there are topics and sections I’ve not even discovered yet!

Amazingly, the entire Web site is free. What a gift!

When I noticed the book for sale (it’s the only item sold and revenue helps keep the site free), I skeptically mused, “What more great information could a $40 book provide?” But when I received it, I was even more impressed than before.

I’ve been learning so much as a result of the careful work in this book, from the nutrition research reviews, new health facts and tips, and food preparation techniques that enhance both food quality and nutrients. I also appreciate the fact that information is clear, direct, fairly presented and never overstated.

Finally, the formatting, design and organization of the material make it so readable — it’s a real “page turner!”

Happy holidays!

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