We all know that if we want to live longer, healthier lives we need to eat more fresh food that is produced cleanly and sustainably. Alas, that is getting harder and harder to do. The world food supply is saturated in about 5 million tonnes of pesticides per year, which cannot easily be removed by home washing, and which are now linked to cancers, brain and nerve damage and reproductive disorders (1).
We all need more fresh fruits and vegetable in our diet, both for our own health, and that of the planet (2). However, to get truly healthy produce you either need to grow them yourself (after getting your soil properly tested) or buy them from a farmer or dealer whose source and production methods you know and trust. Assuming you can source clean, fresh whole produce, here are my three favorite cookbooks:
Food as Medicine by Sue Radd (Signs Publishing, 2016)
Sue Radd is a professional nutritionist and every recipe in this wise and invaluable cookbook is carefully based on tested science, not your usual wellness mumbo jumbo. It contains 150 delicious plant-based recipes designed for “meals that heal” addressing the different needs of the various organs of the human body, along with sound advice about what to keep in your panty, fridge or freezer. Every recipe contains information on its energy, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, sugar and micronutrient content, so you can plan your diet. Drawing inspiration from her Croatian grandmother’s home cooking as well as science, Sue’s focus is purely on natural, minimally refined plant foods. “Many of my recipes are based on simple peasant fare from countries I have visited and ‘aunties’ who have invited me into their kitchen,” she explains. But they are also designed to reduce the risk of “lifestyle diseases” like diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer and IBS.
The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has compiled 500 of his finest recipes into this magnificent tome. The thing I like most about Bittman’s work is that he considers not only the health and pleasure of the eater, but also the health of the Planet and how the food was produced. In that he differs from a great many other food writers, who either do not know or do not care that humans are presently devouring the Earth (3). Bittman’s cookery is often highly original, with interesting fusions of East and West, an accent on fresh plant foods (though he uses plenty of meats also) and lots of discussion in each recipe about its special features, handy hints and added grace notes. Apart from being a very good cookbook, it is also a most enjoyable read! If you are planning a dinner or a feast there is no lack of inspiration in this excellent work. Try the cold soba noodles with crab, cucumber and avocado.
The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon (Hardie Grant, 2016)
Asian cuisine is naturally rich in fresh, healthy vegetables, grains, spices and fruits and still largely defies the industrial trends that are ruining food and people’s health worldwide. For my money, Charmaine Solomon is the Queen of Asian Cuisine: she released her first Asian cookbook in 1976, nearly half a century ago, and has been adding to it ever since. The latest edition contains hundreds of delicious, healthy recipes from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanks, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, China, Korea and Japan. Like Sue Radd, Charmaine learned her cooking from grannies and aunties: “I have discovered there is no real mystery in being able to cook well —no magic potions or secret charms—just a healthy interest in eating well and getting the most pleasure form each meal,” she says. In the Age of COVID, her book enables the food-loving traveler to traverse the Far East in hundreds of delightful, tantalizing, health-giving and easy-to-cook ways, from the comfort of their own kitchen.
- See: Wu, Y.; An, Q.; Li, D.; Wu, J.; Pan, C. Comparison of Different Home/Commercial Washing Strategies for Ten Typical Pesticide Residue Removal Effects in Kumquat, Spinach and Cucumber. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 472. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16030472
- Cribb JHJ, Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019.
- Food or War, 2019, op cit.