Friday, September 14, 2012

Foodie or Not Foodie. Just Hand Me the Chocolate

Last Sunday, I finished Hero Food by Seamus Mullen. It's time for my opinion of said book. This is going to be a very mixed review.

The book starts off good, with an explanation of how he discovered he had RA. He gives his background and why he cooks the way he does. It's interesting but he doesn't really, in any of the chapters of the book, explain why he came to select carrots as a hero food. Why was he drawn to carrots and not say, broccoli? I would have liked more insight in why he chose the foods he did. I think he had guidance to get started in that respect and it's not credited.

You need to be a cook to utilize most of these recipes in this book. If you don't know what blanching means or how to deglaze, this is not a book for you. He also recommends kitchen equipment, such as a mandolin for thin slicing, that the average cook isn't likely to have. This rather annoyed me because I don't want to be buying things, like a pressure cooker, just to try his recipes. Yet, if you buy Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you know you're going to be asked to purchase items you probably don't have. Perhaps I should have a stock pot, but I don't and, so far, I've not seen a need for one.

He recommends foods that will be well-nigh impossible to get fresh in someplace like Monona, Iowa. I have a luxury in that I know where I can get reasonably fresh octopus, should I choose to make his seared octopus salad. But it struck me that if I lived in Iowa, for instance, perhaps even in a large metropolitan area like Cedar Rapids, fresh octopus would be hard or even impossible to obtain. He devotes a whole chapter to the wonders of anchovies. Even I, living outside Chicago, would have a hard time finding fresh of some items.

Many of the things he recommends you eat fresh are two to three times the cost. He strongly recommends farmer's markets and getting to know the local farmers who could supply you with fresh vegetables, meats and fruit. That's all well and good, but even if I chose to strike up a rapport with a local farmer, I can't pay what he would charge for fresh. I wrestle with this, a lot. I think it's one of the reasons we have a problem with obesity. Fresh costs twice to three times more than processed. Organic prices have come down, but some things are just too costly for the average person to afford. I don't begrudge a farmer charging what he charges because it costs more to raise free-range chickens. They are, hands down, better for you, but the cost is not something my budget can easily absorb. Hence, I would have to buy frozen corn or berries, not fresh.

The biggest complaint I have about the book is that, as you read through it, it's less a book about how food helped him recover from RA and more a book about Spanish cooking. 75% of the recipes in the book I will never make. They require an ingredient I've never heard of, a cooking technique requiring a gadget I don't own or are made with foods I don't care for. I am not interested in poaching quail eggs. Why are those different from antibiotic free, free-range chicken eggs? (You do know brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs, right? Brown shells are a result of what the chicken is fed. My dad said you can get chickens to lay all sorts of colored eggs just by adding things to their food.)

I'm glad he found relief in food, but I would have preferred more tips on how to incorporate those foods he felt helped him into a diet. Obviously, he does that, but how? There would have been plenty of room for his Spanish recipes and I wouldn't have felt I wasted $35. He prefers savory items so there was only one chapter for any kind of sweets and there was nothing on chocolate. In doing some research, he's part of Rachel Ray's food empire and I can follow him on Facebook. Hmmmm. Looking at the book from that jaundiced eye, it becomes less a book about eating healthy and more a book about Spanish cooking.

So, this will go up on the shelf. I photocopied the list of foods he recommended. It's on the back of the book. I'll try to incorporate more of those into my meals. If you love world food and would like to cook something from Spain, this, most definitely, is a cookbook for you. If you are looking for a guide as to what foods to eat to ease RA, this isn't. Carrots, I love. Mushrooms, I don't.

Beverage:  Earl Gray Tea


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