Pro-vegetarian PCRM names worst cookbooks of 2010
Sorry, Trisha Yearwood and Gordon Ramsay. Too bad, Ina Garten. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine doesn't like the way you cook.
The PCRM, whose name doesn't hint at its pro-vegetarian/vegan mission, has fingered what it deems the five least-healthful cookbooks of the past year. The list, which includes Yearwood's "Home Cooking," Ramsay's "World Kitchen," Garten's "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?," the Top Chef team's "How to Cook Like a Top Chef," and "The Primal Blueprint Cookbook" by Mark Sisson and Jennifer Meier, features books whose recipes in PCRM's view rely overmuch on fats and meats. Yearwood's book, for instance, is cited for a recipe calling for 8 large eggs, a pound each of bacon and sausage, cheese tortellini, cheddar cheese, tater tots and butter.
The group also supplied a list of cookbooks it had previously selected as the most healthful of the decade. Not surprisingly, it features books that range from vegan to, well, vegan. Here are the titles; you can read summaries here.
"The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook," Nanci Alexander; "The Kind Diet," Alicia Silverstone; "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)," Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin; "The Conscious Cook," Tal Ronnen; "The Engine 2 Diet," Rip Esselstyn; "Cooking the Whole Foods Way," Christina Pirello; "Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen," Bryant Terry
PCRM argues that eating fat and meat contributes mightily to the obesity epidemic and raises people's risk of such diseases as diabetes and cancer.
I agree that most of us probably would do better to cut back on fatty foods and add more plants to our diets. But I wonder whether PCRM might not have done a better service by finding some more common ground between its "worst" and "best" lists. It's a huge leap from "The Primal Blueprint Cookbook" to "The Kind Diet," and I'm guessing not a lot of meat lovers out there are ready to make that leap. Perhaps if books such as Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and his vegetarian cookbook of nearly the same name had been included, for instance, folks might be better persuaded to investigate the world of plant-based eating.
PCRM's director of nutrition education Susan Levin, who I always enjoy talking with, told me on the phone that "I'm not really in the business of half truths. I do support and am thrilled to death with Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. But my job is not to promote something when I know something else is better in terms of health. I'm not in the business of social or cultural commentary or saying things that are more appealing to hear, but what science has shown. That's my job. Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan have their jobs. They're not opposed to each other, just a little different."
(As a side matter, I would have appreciated it if PCRM had noted that "Professional athlete-turned-firefighter Rip Esselstyn," author of one of the "best" books, is the son of PCRM advisory board member Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. Levin tells me the relationship had nothing to do with the selection.)
Levin acknowledges that fatty, salty, sugary foods taste good and appeal to our tastebuds, "probably for some biological purpose." But, she says, people can adapt to the taste of more healthful foods. She, for instance, likes the taste of beets, spinach and kale -- and doesn't need ranch dressing to make them appealing. When it comes to adding fat, salt and sugar to foods, she says, "You might as well just put heroin in it. Yeah, that's appealing, but there are drawbacks."
Jennifer LaRue Huget
| December 23, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Cancer, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity, Prevention, Vegetarianism
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