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Customer Review

196 of 209 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A flexitarian delight and then some, October 4, 2012
This review is from: True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure (Hardcover)
Sam Fox is a restaurateur. Michael Stebner is an executive chef and of course Andrew Weil is a legendary health guru with international tastes and a surprising expertise in the kitchen. What they've done together aside from writing this book is found and operate True Food Kitchens, a growing chain of restaurants where the emphasis is on food that is (as in the subtitle of this book) "Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure."

What this means can be discerned by going over the recipes in the book. This is not a vegan or even a vegetarian cuisine. This is an international cuisine fit for an epicurean flexitarian! The emphasis is on the fresh, bold, and organic with little meat, some chicken and a bit more fish. Many of the recipes are inspired by Weil's concept of the "Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid." There's a color photo of the "pyramid" in all its glory on page 46--no words, just the foods themselves. At the apex is chocolate (!) followed by red wine, food supplements, spices like ginger and chiles, and foods like fish, beans, avocados, mushrooms, veggies and fruits, etc. (You can see the labeled pyramid at Dr. Weil's website.) At the base of the pyramid which represents foods that should form the bulk of our diet are the veggies and fruits.

Weil says that he used the Mediterranean diet as a template in his design of the pyramid. He explains that these foods and not the highly processed foods found in the stores and in most restaurants lead to less inflammation in the body and to a healthy life style. The cuisine (I'd call it an international cuisine based on healthy food choices), Weil writes, "includes fewer foods of animal origin, except for fish and high-quality dairy products like yogurt and natural cheeses." (p. 47)

Yes, this is the middle way of moderation between veganism and bacon-corn syrup gluttony (if you will). Vegetarians are not going to be thrilled and vegans are going to be offended. But there are recipes for vegans dishes (e.g., Butternut Squash-Apple Soup with a cashew base on page 97) in contrast to, well, the recipe for a "Bison Umami Burger" on page 140.

Dr. Weil doesn't eat beef but believes that bison is a healthy substitute. I would say, perhaps--at least for now until and if it becomes popular, and then the food producers will make it as unhealthy as commercially produced beef. There's a recipe for the (vegan) "Umami Sauce" on page 236. Key ingredients are tamari, nutritional yeast and garlic.

I am writing this before dinner and wow are the recipes making me hungry! This is the perfect cook book for me since I've long followed a similar diet and much prefer cooking at home with my choice of ingredients done my way to going out to eat. But compared to the authors of this book I'm just a chef's helper with a limited range. Weil, Fox and Stebner demonstrate a deep and abiding knowledge about and love for food. We're all foodies under the skin, but some like Weil are really in another league. I've read and reviewed several of Dr. Weil's books, always favorably and always with some reservations. I'll skip the reservations here (since they are few and insignificant) and just say that I am amazed at Weil's understanding of food and his vast experience. He has clearly spent a good portion of his life experiencing food, thinking about food, eating food and cooking food! (And yes I thought he was doing yoga.)

The book begins with an Introduction that is an interesting conversation about food and the restaurant business among Weil, Fox and Stebner. Next comes "The True Food Pantry," a list and description of somewhat unusual but characteristic ingredients, such as agave nectar, chiles, flax meal, tahini, etc. Then come the recipes in chapters entitled, "Breakfast," "Appetizers," "Salads," and so on to "Desserts" and "drinks." There are mini essays on such things as "True Whole Grains" (page 21) and chapter intros written by Weil or Stebner. The recipes are also introduced and/or commented upon by either Weil or Stebner identified by their initials.

The book is beautifully designed and edited, full of easy to read bits of information about food and diet. The full color photos of the foods are gorgeously mouth-watering.

--Well, okay, one reservation: this cuisine requires not just a love of food but the time and energy to go to good markets on almost a daily basis and to keep on hand (and fresh!) a number of specialty ingredients. I'm thinking of the pickled cucumbers, the umami sauce, the dashi sauce (requiring, e.g., kombu and bonito flakes) and a variety of chiles and of course fresh fruits and vegetables. The only way you can achieve this is to really immerse yourself in food and to love what you're doing. But I think the reward is well worth the effort because not only will you be eating healthier, you will find that you can eat reasonable amounts of delicious food with relish, and because you have spent that extra energy shopping and cooking, you will have help in keeping a healthy weight.

Favorite substitution: Kalamata olives for anchovies in the Vegetarian Caesar Dressing on page 233.

Favorite tip: When toasting nuts realize that they are still cooking after being removed from the heat source. So as a general rule, "once you can smell the nuts, they are done." (p. 243) I learned this the hard way with sesame seeds and foraged Digger Pine nuts.

In a nutshell, this is now easily my favorite cook book.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)"
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 13, 2012 10:25:57 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 14, 2012 5:29:12 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 13, 2012 2:50:55 PM PDT
Excellent review!

"once you can smell the nuts, they are done."
It's wise to do so.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2012 7:36:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2012 7:36:50 PM PDT
@hhc. No.

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 1:50:42 AM PDT
Thanks for a great review.

I was surprised to see in this book, that Weil is using "Agave Nectar"!
Which has now been proven to be as bad for you as using "Corn Syrup". It does not
matter if it is Organic or not, it is still clogging arteries.
Not so sure I want to buy this book now!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2012 11:45:33 PM PDT
A says:
Dr Weil is no longer using Agave Nectar, I'm assuming he made that decision after the cookbook was printed.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 23, 2012 7:08:55 PM PDT
Hopey says:
Now I'm really confused! On 4 September 2012, Dr. Weil says he's no longer using agave, instead switching to maple syrup. Yet on the Dr. Oz Show on 12 October 2012, he uses it as the only sweetener in an anti-oxidant drink!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 23, 2012 7:13:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 23, 2012 7:14:29 PM PDT
I think the "issue" of agave nectar really is a question of how much. The problem with corn syrup is also how much but also the fact that most corn syrup in this country comes from genetically modified corn.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 1:40:11 PM PDT
I use a little agave now and then and haven't died yet. I think moderation is key.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 11:08:14 AM PDT
There's a page in the book about his choice of sweeteners. He basically concludes that they all come out to the same thing, so that the key is to use relatively little sweeteners and to eat dessert rarely and in small portions.

That said, the cauliflower curry soup I mentioned in my own review called for a bit of sweetener, which I left out; it really didn't need any.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 10:03:07 PM PST
I saw that show also, and was turned off when he used it.
Dr. Weil should have investigated Agave Nectar before he wrote the book, as A. Now said , Dr Weil is no longer using it!
A little to late now , I returned my book, but of course it is still in the book, and most people are not going to know what Dr. Weil has now said about it!!
Shame on him.
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