Good-Health Reads: Ellen Kanner

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With so many health-transforming books being released, WholeFoods wanted to know what the experts are reading. Here, Ellen Kanner, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner, shares her thoughts on three books she couldn’t put down.

I eat food. I also cook food, write about food, grow food, guide mindful eating workshops, develop recipes and am a soulful vegan. So to me, food is more than dinner. It’s wellness, pleasure, place, inspiration, education, culture and connection. Food is about everything we bring to the table, from who grows what we eat to who we share a meal with… if we’re awakened and receptive to it. These three new books help connect us to all food can be, each in its own way.

Food Fix by Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook

So many of the illnesses that plague us are linked to diet and lifestyle. People are always hoping for a quick fix. Dr. Michelle Cook won’t give you that. What she will do is make your life easier — and healthier — with her e-book, Food Fix.

Cook, a clinical nutritionist with 20 books to her credit as well as her new venture FoodHouseProject.com, has curated 30 foods for optimal health.  She explains why each earns a place on her list, from its nutritional benefits to how it interacts with the body. The foods aren’t surprising (what, you were expecting sausage pizza and beer?).  Cheer up, it’s not all kale. It’s also nuts and avocados, with their luscious healthy fats, and sweet, juicy berries, cherries, figs and mangoes. The twist comes in how Cook reverse engineers these whole foods in the book’s Fix section, with a customized list of foods to cure whatever ails you. There’s food fixes for serious health challenges including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as conditions impacting quality of life. Struggling with depression?  Don’t reach for the ice cream, reach for the oatmeal, which aids in production of serotonin, the happy-making neurotransmitter.

These foods aren’t substitutes for medical care, but they’re natural body-supporting solutions, available without a prescription and they all belong at everyone’s table. Take Food Fix even further with its companion e-book, Food Fix Recipes.

 

Vegetables Unleashed by José Andres and Matt Goulding

Award-winning chef Jose Andres is the force of nature behind 30 restaurants and the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which mobilizes and sets up disaster relief kitchens around the world. And yet, the man can still say, “Fruits and vegetables are sexy.”  His new vegetable-forward book, Vegetables Unleashed will make you a believer.

Andres can be plenty cheffy, but these recipes coax forth flavor with minimal fuss and simple techniques. Got broccoli, olive oil, salt and an oven? You, too, can master stupid-easy, stupid-delicious roasted broccoli. There’s traditional Spanish dishes from Andres’ beloved homeland, like escalivada and gazpacho, and others veering far from any culinary tradition — hello, compost potatoes.

Co-author/amanuensis Matt Goulding is tasked with keeping up with Andres in the kitchen, in the field and at the market… and occasionally talking him down from creations like cabbage juice popsicles. Instead, you’ll find a vegetable-intense sancocho, the satisfying stew Andres and his World Central Kitchen team served to thousands in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (scaled down to serve a more manageable 6 to 8) and so-brilliant-why-didn’t-I-think-of-it whole roasted cauliflower with barbecue sauce.

Vegetables aren’t the only ones unleashed here. Andres’ culinary genius is matched only by his exuberance, and both are on full display. Vegetables Unleashed is liberally seasoned with Andres anecdotes and Peter Frank Edwards’s bright, bold food photography. Not purely vegetarian by any means, this book can make you love vegetables and make you a better cook.

 

Black Sea by Caroline Eden

Odessa in the Ukraine, Constanta, Romania and Istanbul, Turkey all border the Black Sea, but each has a complex history and flavor all its own. The place names themselves evoke the Old World, a world still somewhat hidden from the West even in these increasingly gentrified, globalized times. They’re illuminated in Caroline Eden’s haunting book, Black Sea.

Recipes like Odessan slaw of grated pickled black radish with caraway, a tangy Romanian soup of sauerkraut, sour cream and dill, and Turkish halvah pudding heady with rosewater capture the flavors and foodways of each city, but they don’t pretend to be the main event here. They exist to give you a taste of place and are only one component of Eden’s “transporting and multi-sensory piece of travel writing – one that you can read, see and eat.”

Eden is a journalist, not a chef. The recipes she shares bend toward simple and doable, highlighting the indigenous ingredients along the Black Sea. It’s her impressionistic, immersive reportage you’ll really hunger for, though. “Over centuries, the trade of empires large and small has passed across the waves, as has much migration. Russian émigrés, deportees from the Caucasus and refugees from the Balkans. In hope, and in fear, thousands have crossed this sea.” The sweep of her writing bespeaks her compulsion to share, yet honor and preserve, what makes this region unique.

Photographer Theodore Kaye’s accompanying images, cast in cool, silvery light, capture not just the life of these places but the mood, sometimes bleak, sometimes boisterous, as yearning and turbulent as the Black Sea itself. It has seized Eden in what she calls an “imaginative grip.” It will likely seize you, too.

Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.

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