Top critical review
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Mostly processed whole grains
on July 6, 2009
Strengths: This book does include almost all whole grains (and similar species of food value such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat, although there is no mention of chia seeds). The first 113 pages of the book also give a comprehensive analysis of each grain along with the available varieties of each grain, as well as basic cooking directions for each variety, which is very helpful. An added unique and fun feature is a Grain Exchange paragraph at the end of each grain chapter, advising what other grains can be substituted for the topic grain.
Weaknesses: The majority of the book (pp. 118-300) almost completely focuses on recipes for using processed versions of whole grains, which was a major disappointment to me. Recipes for processed versions of whole grains are widely available in other books, so I felt sad that the author (Lorna Sass) opted to go the "easy way" with these recipes. Another disappointment was the recipes' extensive use of oils, dairy and meat products in cooking. Why bother to use healthy whole grains when you end up creating foods here that are as artery-clogging as what you can buy in supermarkets and "nuke" in the microwave in five minutes? There is also room for improvement even in the descriptions of whole grains in the front section of the book, since Ms. Sass does not include a column in the analysis box of varieties of each grain to make it clear right away which are actually whole grains and which have been partly milled; as a result, I had to go through the first 113 pages of the book with a pen to add that essential column of information, especially in the chapter on rice, where otherwise it really gets confusing: For example, of the 7 kinds of red rice, only 2 are 100% whole grain. Given that this book title begins with the words "whole grains" I was confused that Ms. Sass includes many partly milled or completely milled (i.e., where the bran covering is partly or completely removed) versions throughout the introductions of each grain species; be skeptical, therefore, of each individual listed variety of grain (especially in the rice section) until you can verify whether or not that particular variety is completely whole grain. See, for example, the Whole Grains Council website for clarification on these types of questions. True, in the first few pages of this book, Ms. Sass does state that she decided to include partly (or completely!) milled versions of each grain in this book 'because the cooking methods are similar.' Unfortunately, Ms. Sass, when you start dumbing down the book, you also start dumbing down the reader. A final disappointment was the 2-page section on pressure cooking of whole grains. Although Ms. Sass makes sure to promote one of her other books (on pressure-cooking), she unaccountably omits what should have been a fair warning that her recommended high pressure level of pressure-cooking destroys most of the B vitamin content of grains, as well damaging antioxidants and healthful phytochemicals, due to the above-boiling temperature created by the pressure-cooking process -- not a very satisfactory trade-off for the time savings in pressure-cooking, in my opinion (I have a masters' degree in Public Health), since the goal of whole grain cooking is to maximize the nutritional benefit. No pressure cooker for me, thank you very much.
Strangely enough, I do still recommend buying this book, and I am glad that I bought a copy, but too much of its contents have a "bait and switch" approach to the subject of human nutrition, I look forward to seeing a new edition of this book in the future, preferably co-written with another author who has nutrition credentials. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Here's hoping.