Bitch Magazine Founder's 'Cook Food': A Manualfesto for Everything You Need to Know About Healthy Eating
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An obstacle people often face when trying to eat a healthy, green, reasonably priced diet is a lack of cooking skills. Cookbooks don't always help. Most food authors attempt to teach people how to cook real food (as opposed to opening packages, dumping and stirring) and assume the reader already knows something about cooking.
Other cookbooks are written as if people who don't already know how to cook must not really want to know how to cook. These cookbooks seem to think that people should just be happy to combine processed foods in innumerable ways to create "quick and easy meals".
That's where this new book comes in. Cook Food -- which is earning rave reviews -- can teach people how to cook simple, tasty, nourishing, whole foods quickly, cheaply, and above all, intelligently. If you know someone who cares about the environment , their body, animals, and taste, yet nobody has ever taught them to cook, give them this book.
Lisa Jervis, who is perhaps best known for being the Founding Editor and Publisher of the magazine Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture, has written a slim, no nonsense book with a can-do attitude. Don't expect glossy photos. This isn't aspirational food porn. This is a manualfesto!
Vegan Approach to Sensitive Cooking and Eating
Jervis's book is entirely vegan, with very occasional suggestions for adding dairy products if desired, but that's not really the point, so don't stop reading just because you don't happen to be vegan. The book's main message is that cooking for oneself shouldn't be challenging, expensive, or time-consuming.
Jervis stresses cooking and eating consciously for your health and the planet. Whether we are meat eaters or not, we all need to eat our vegetables. And most of us could lower our meat consumption for the sake of both our bodies and the planet. Knowing how to prepare tasty veg-centric meals and getting in the habit of eating more of them is a great skill to have.
A Look at Our Food System
By way of introduction as to why the recipes in the book are vegan and almost always seasonal and unprocessed, the author gives a succinct primer on what's wrong with our food system with many nods to authors like Michael Pollan and Raj Patel.
She touches on complex issues such as why processed soy products aren't as good for the environment as some people think, and how affordability is relative, and why we shouldn't worry too much about micronutrients, or (gasp!) salt -- all of which serve to getthe reader thinking deeply about food.
But Jervis doesn't want us to think so deeply that we become paralyzed about our food choices, so she ends with a very smart bit of advice: "In the end, we can all only do the best we can, which actually means a lot."
A Well Stocked Kitchen
Before getting down to cooking, Jervis wants you to have the right supplies. The entire first section of the book talks about what tools, spices and pantry items you absolutely need and which ones you can actually do without. There are different tiers from "must haves" to "nice to haves" to "splurges," and as a cook, I can say the advice is solid.
Just as solid are her explanations of cooking techniques. Using a friendly, approachable style, Jervis sets out to teach you howto cook. I mean really cook. She defines and describes sautéing, blanching, roasting. She tells why to salt early in the process, how caramelization builds flavor, and how dried herbs behave more like spices and therefore should be added at the beginning, while fresh herbs lose flavor if cooked to long.