Health & Diet
When I received Megan Gordon’s new cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (Ten Speed Press), I thought rather jadedly, “Another whole grains cookbook? Really?” Fortunately, I don’t judge a cookbook by its cover.
This cookbook is a keeper. Here’s why: Gordon is an enthusiastic and unpretentious cook. Although she owns her own successful bakery, Marge, in Seattle, she describes her cooking style as “quite simple” and is refreshingly honest about eating real foods: “I don’t fear fat. I eat eggs, drink whole milk, and eat full-fat yogurt,” she says. She does, however, limit sugar, and generally adheres to a well-balanced diet of seasonal, unprocessed whole foods. A realistic and balanced diet. That’s something I can embrace.
The book is divided into seasonal chapters and further divided into recipes that are best for busy weekdays, leisurely weekends, and brunch. Interspersed throughout the book are personal anecdotes about the author’s journey from high school English teacher to “accidental baker” who falls in love with Sam and moves from San Francisco to Seattle — Another natural way to sweeten her recipes.
People talk about “cancer scares” like they’re monsters in our closet ready to pop out while we’re sleeping. Pam Braun had a cancer scare of Freddy Krueger proportions. Hers made other monsters look like those of the fuzzy Pixar variety. Pam decided that she didn’t really want to have cancer and that there had to be a way through it. She found that way in food. You could say she cooked and ate her way through cancer. Now she has a cookbook: The Ultimate Anti-Cancer Cookbook that shares her healthy recipes. Pam tells us what got her through that nightmare and out on the other side.
You had a 15% survival rate. What were your first thoughts and reactions?
When you first get a diagnosis like that, you pretty much stop breathing and can hardly speak. Being a baby boomer, my immediate reaction was that my life was over. Back in the 1950’s, a cancer diagnosis pretty much meant a death sentence. Of course it’s not that way anymore, but that’s where my head went first. Some people say cancer is a gift. For me it was in many ways. One being, after you get the diagnosis, you pretty much have instant clarity as to what’s important in life and what isn’t. Instantly! It’s like a light switch going off in your head. “Oh, that’s what life’s about!” After a couple of days though and the news had time to sink in, I got incredibly calm about everything, oddly so. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and to get really upset, but it never did. I just stayed calm. I thought, “I’m going to do everything in my power to survive, but if I don’t, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” I was recently told, that people who adopt that kind of “letting go” attitude, do better at surviving. Clearly it worked for me.
How did you find food as a healing tool?
My brother-in-law had gotten cancer a couple of years before I did. My sister started researching food for him, so when I got sick, I already had the idea of food as medicine in my head, so I just started my own researching. When I got sick 9 ½ years ago, there wasn’t too much scientific evidence out there. Since then, a lot of data has come out showing that certain foods may help cause cancer and certain foods may help prevent it. However, my odds were so low, I knew I had to do everything within my power to help myself. It just made sense to me to stay as healthy as I could through the cancer journey. It seemed more logical to me to eat a salad rather than a jelly donut.
When is a diet book, not a diet book? Diets are often considered temporary, just until you lose weight, or get a medical condition under control. But if you are celiac, then gluten free is more than just a diet, but a a way of life. Some dietary changes are necessary, others might be considered optional. Several books have caught my attention recently, because on first glance you might think they are diet books, but they could really be seen as "lifestyle" books, because they represent changes for the long term, not the short term.
Recently I was at a breakfast with Mark Bittman and he discussed his latest book, VB6. After being told his health was at risk, Bittman decided to adhere to a new way of eating, "vegan before 6 pm." Everyone wants to talk to him about cheating, and the first thing he did at the vegan breakfast was request dairy milk for his coffee. Let's just say he's flexible and that's probably key to his success. He's lost weight, lowered his cholesterol and blood sugar.
VB6 is not a cookbook, although it does include about 60 recipes, not all of them vegan, it's more about how to change the way you eat. Bittman also reduced processed non-whole grain foods like white bread, pasta and rice. Whether you go vegan before 6 pm or just start increasing the number of vegan meals you eat in general, the benefits seem pretty clear. And if you're worried about what options you'll have for breakfast, Bittman covers that too (think smoothies, cereal, tofu scrambles, nut butters on whole grain toast and fruit parfaits).
Michelle Dudash, licensed nutritionist, TV personality, wife, and mom hopes to make life easier (and tastier) for busy parents and kids with her cookbook Clean Eating for Busy Families.
Dudash understands that the best intentions for healthy family dinners can be thwarted by late work nights, hectic schedules, difficult recipes, tempting take-out, and finicky eaters. That’s why she has designed doable, healthy, whole-foods recipes, most of which can be made in under 30 minutes.