Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: The Gourmet in the Low Calorie Kitchen

(Blogjob tags: 1960’scookbookcooking with monosodium glutamatecooking with saccharincooking without added fatlow-calorie cookbookrecipes from foreign embassies.)

Title: The Gourmet in the Low-Calorie Kitchen 
Author: Helen Belinkie
Date: 1961
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: none
Length: 239 pages including calorie charts and index
Quote: "If you have gourmet tastes...and think this carries with it the burden of high calorie intake, forget your problem as of now...[T]he recipes that follow...are decalorized versions of gourmet dishes."
And, in some cases, it shows. This book represents a phase in American cuisine that some feel might be best forgotten--whipped-up skim milk as "cream," saccharin and sucaryl as "dessert," and monosodium glutamate as a seasoning to be added either in the kitchen or on the table.
In other cases, the way Mrs. Belinkie "decalorized" homemade foods set the new standard for the way we now expect foods to be made. Her waffle recipe calls for one whole egg plus two more egg whites, flour, salt, baking powder, and buttermilk. Radical? Of course not. Waffles are supposed to be dry, aren't they? You melt butter over them at the table, if you like butter, don't you? Well, yes, but in early twentieth century cookbooks buttery batters were considered "rich." A hundred years ago, poor people were still skinny people, and home economists', teachers', authors', dietitians, sometimes even doctors' concern was to help people make sure they got enough calories. Often they recommended too many.
So, in this book, modern readers will find several recipes that may now seem "classic" or "traditional." The stewed chicken starts with just one tablespoon of oil to soften the onions and peppers, rather than a glob of butter. The broiled chicken is basted with wine and allowed to cook in its own juices. The fish is baked or poached in water, wine, and/or lemon juice in which its own oil forms the "sauce."
"'Must I have a poached egg on toast every morning?' queried my dieting husband..." Mrs. Belinkie was glad to report that he didn't. The egg could be baked in a prebaked tomato, cooked as an omelet with lean meat or a souffle with cottage cheese, whipped into the batter of pancakes or waffles, or replaced with meat or fish.
The best thing I can say about the dessert recipes in this book is that a lot of them involve fresh fruit, and fresh fruit in season is likely to be much better than any of the things this book recommends doing with it. You already knew that.
So, who needs this book? Frankly I prefer the McDougall cookbook for dieters, but this one does contain a lot of simple recipes, and some elaborate ones, that don't call for a lot of added fat. Some ingredients on which Mrs. Belinkie relied are no longer on the market, for good and sufficient reasons. If you don't mind ignoring those and sticking to the recipes that focus on natural ingredients, you'll still be getting $5 worth.
Neither Helen nor Milton Belinkie has any use for the $1 they'd get if this were a Fair Trade Book, out of the total online price of $10 or $11 ($5 per book, $5 per package for shipping, $1 per online payment--if you send a real postal money order, you send me only $10 and pay the surcharge directly to the post office). However, the paperback edition is small enough to fit into the package with at least two Fair Trade Books, possibly more, all for $5.