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In certain circles of the blogosphere, and likely the rest of the world — health and fitness circles, environmental circles, foodie circles — the buzz these days is about “clean” eating. Being that I regularly dip my toes into each of those circles, The Naked Foods Cookbook is right up my alley.
The author starts with an overview of the precursor to the cookbook, the original Eat Naked. It’s not necessary to read that book (as I have not) in order to understand the cookbook, though I’m sure if you wanted to dive deeper into the concepts Floyd would be a worthy guide. The focus is on getting the maximum nutrition possible with a minimum of processing. In most cases, naked equals raw, organic, and local.
While the authors could have gone on about how raw, organic, and local is the way to go for environmental, political, or many other reasons, they don’t get preachy about it, which I certainly appreciate (though I have on occasion gotten a bit preachy myself). The message is loud and clear: they recommend the foods they recommend, prepared in the way they recommend, because they are more nutritionally beneficial than other foods.
The book also does a marvelous job of offering alternatives, often offering a number of substitutions with varying degrees of nutritional benefit. With some of the hard-to-find ingredients they use, that’s a very good thing. In any case, many of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan, or can be made so with a few simple substitution, and the same thing goes for gluten-free.
As for the recipes, they are divided by types of dish. Chapters include Basics; Better than Naked (the chapter in which foods are slightly processed to make healthier versions of everyday ingredients, such as yogurt, ketchup, and mayonnaise); Breakfast; Salads and Sides; Sauces, Dressings, and Dips; Soups and Stews; Entrees; Sweet and Savory Snacks; and Desserts. Many of the recipes sound like something you might already make, like Maple-Sage Glazed Pork Tenderloin–they just happen to feature healthier ingredients or techniques here. They are also categorized by time taken to prepare — In a Rush, Everyday, or Impress the Neighbors — which is good for those of us with other things to do besides slave away in the kitchen.
There were three drawbacks to this book, varying in importance. The most important one was typos. Granted, I had an ARC, and some typos are expected, but the book has been officially released now, and I’ve gathered comments around the web decrying the same typos I was seeing. Normally, I try not to let typos bother me, but when the typo is in a measurement it can cause serious confusion. For example, there is a big difference between ½ cup and 12 cups.
The second drawback is that, as I mentioned, some ingredients are difficult to find. I think the only place I’m going to find some of the ingredients called for is on the internet. If you have access to raw, organic, and local foods, as well as some I’m-not-even-sure-what-this-ingredient-is items, you’re good to go. Otherwise, prepare to make some substitutions, or just skip a few recipes.
The third drawback is time. Sure, some of the recipes are quick, and some are even easy. The authors make it sound like everything is a breeze and you will be living clean and eating naked with no worries for the rest of your days (as long as you have a local source of raw milk!). And I suppose if you lived a life entirely devoted to making unprocessed food at home and scouring farmers’ markets, it could be simple to follow such a diet plan. Unfortunately, sprouting my own grains really does take time out of my day, and it would be faster for me to drive the 15 miles to my local grocery store and buy some organic yogurt than it would be for me to source raw milk (the sale of which, by the way, is illegal in some states, including mine) to make it with.
Let’s not even talk about how expensive it is.
Would I like to follow the diet and lifestyle prescribed by The Naked Foods Cookbook? Sure, for the most part. Do I think it’s feasible? No, not unless you build your entire life around your diet. For a nutritional therapist (Margaret Floyd) and food photographer (James Barry), that’s quite possible. For the rest of us, probably not.
I do think the cookbook offers some wonderful guidelines and some delicious recipes. The nutritional principles are sound, and the dietary style is something to work towards. If we could work just a few of these recipes or techniques into our lives, we would probably all be a little healthier. I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf, at least until I’ve tried the mayonnaise.