Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: The Guilt-Free Gourmet

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Guilt-Free Gourmet 

Author: Vicki B. Griffin

Author's web site: https://www.lifestylematters.com/

Date: 1999

Publisher: Remnant

ISBN: 1891041258

Length: 400 pages 

Illustrations: graphics on every page, some food photos

About Vicki Griffin, The Guilt-Free Gourmet, and Griffin's related video presentations (not sold on Amazon), this web site is of two minds.

Grandma Bonnie Peters used the recipes in this book to launch her undercapitalized, therefore short-lived, but widely appreciated line of Allergy-Ease Foods. She and Griffin have met, and approved of each other. Though most of Griffin's recipes aren't gluten-free and she actually recommends using more grain protein in the diet, GBP maintains that she was able to base delicious gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, corn-free, soy-free, yeast-free, and even citrus-free recipes on Griffin's recipes. Well, she obviously based them on something, and some of them certainly are delicious.

Seventh-Day Adventists have long been identified with a healing tradition that features vegan cooking. It was at S.D.A. "sanitaria" and school cafeterias that classic American foods like peanut butter, Postum, and cornflakes were invented. These places were also the home of traditional Adventist vegan dishes like pecan loaf, cashew casserole, and soybean sausage. For the majority of humans who can digest wheat gluten, and can be healthy vegans for years, getting their B-vitamins from a healthy balance of yeast organisms helping them metabolize wheat, this culinary tradition is as healthy as it is palatable. 

Traditionally the recipes for the seasonings that made "vegan meat analogs" (like Morningstar Farms') so successful, so distinctly not meat yet so satisfyingly reminiscent of meat, were handed down to new members of the church in "cooking schools." (GBP teaches in those.) But there was never any real reason not to publish them to the masses. Vicki Griffin persuaded a publisher to market S.D.A. culinary traditions to the health food crowd. It worked. "New" copies of this first, apparently risky, small-publisher-type book are currently selling for ten times their original value on Amazon. 

I, shall we say, formed an emotional allergy to Seventh-Day Adventists during my churchgoing early years. I look at Griffin's tense, furiously cheerful manner on the video and recognize the all too typical S.D.A. who may believe that we're saved by Jesus Christ alone, but we need to be saved from introversion if we've inherited it. I've known too many women like that. Typically slim, healthy, energetic, well preserved, and in theory attractive, they exude an unmistakable--though subtle--pheromonal odor of tension and dissatisfaction with themselves, or with anyone they really, deep down, do manage to like. They're drawn to people who accept their quieter, calmer personalities, but they've not really accepted their own personalities; they've internalized a need to push, nag, blame, boss, and bully those people toward a social style as miserable as their own. However healthy their recipes may be, therefore, a meal eaten at their tables (and how they urge visitors to their churches to eat at their tables!) will be sickening.

Griffin also overstates her claims and oversimplifies her findings. Many cases of clinical depression are in fact symptoms of physical illness, and often that illness is what Dr.Kathleen Desmaisons calls sugar sensitivity. Hyperactivity is often a food reaction. The perceptual distortions involved in some cases of autism and even a few cases of schizophrenia are associated with food reactions. Wonderful psychological and psychiatric benefits can come from improving an individual’s diet, but I still find it very unlikely that all the behavior problems at a certain school were “completely cured” by changing the menu in the cafeteria. Some children are going to feel worse not better, and perform worse not better, when they're given “healthy bagels” instead of potato chips; I'm one of them. However, the simple way to cure all the behavior problems at a school is to make attendance a privilege contingent on appropriate behavior. Make attendance a privilege, withhold that privilege from problem kids, and you will have well-behaved kids even if the cafeteria serves nothing but peanut butter sandwiches, with the options of taking it or leaving it.

And of course I'd rather enjoy a leisurely breakfast with hand-ground blue corn meal pancakes, delicately flavored Virginia-grown sorghum molasses, and tea brewed from hand-picked herbs dried over the fireplace, than grab a Mountain Dew and Fritos for breakfast on a road trip. Of course I wouldn't try to eat "road food" every day, or recommend that anyone else do. Even so, I’ve never noticed that having a Mountain Dew and corn chips for breakfast prevented me from being able to add, or spell, or follow directions, or even drive...actually, even that “healthy bagel” wouldn’t prevent me from doing those things, although it would make me discouraging (and noisome) company. 

The thing is, I used to take friends to the Allergy-Ease Foods Test Kitchen. We'd be alone with GBP and possibly some of the grandchildren. I'd think, "Five dollars for soup, salad, and a sandwich? Best deal in Kingsport! What's wrong with the people who aren't packing into this place?" I suspected the relentlessly educational pro-vegan posters and Vicki Griffin videos were part of the problem. I kept imagining ways Griffin could have made her video (and her cookbook) less unappetizing. I would rather eat plain hash browns, or even "yeast-flavored hash browns," than "Healthy Hashers!" any day. Maybe it's the exclamation point that reminds me that, if you have candidiasis, yeast-flavored hash browns are not health food. 

Instead of repeating the story that feeding children even one nutritious meal a day is going to teleport today’s schools back to the days when school attendance was always a privilege not a right, which is about as credible as repeating “Billy chanted ‘Rain, rain, go away’ for six hours and then it stopped raining,” she could just use the Power Point screens for recipes and the video track for the physical movements people copy in order to follow the recipes. A little objectivity, an awareness that people who are going to sprinkle yeast on their hash browns have already heard that that might be good for them, would do so much for this book.

One person's food is another person's poison. Whatever Griffin was eating was obviously working for her body, and still is; a glance at the book or the video was enough to establish that, especially if you knew that she was, in fact, out of college when she wrote it--and still is. Gina Griffin was her grown-up daughter, and Vicki Griffin still looks great. But I remember eating that kind of food. I remember being skinny and flabby and sallow and sick all the time, because I was eating that kind of food. I remember forcing myself to act cheerful and energetic, undoubtedly being even more annoying than Griffin in her videos, when I actually felt cheerful and energetic maybe one day every two or three months. 

But it is undeniably tasty, low-fat, and vegan. So, if you don't have special dietary restrictions other than a desire to cook something vegan, or if you don't mind editing around your own dietary restrictions, The Guilt-Free Gourmet is a good cookbook. You get lots and lots of recipes, many alternatives for veggie burgers and fat-free dressings and low-calorie fruit desserts. You learn the seasoning secrets to create your own "meat analogs," without the preservatives and artificial flavorings that are inevitably added to the Worthington, Loma Linda, and Morningstar Farms products in the supermarket...or even without the wheat gluten on which those products are based.

In my quest for restricted-diet meals that people who are not on a restricted diet can enjoy too, I’ve bought many cookbooks, transferred the interesting recipes to my files, and put the books up for resale. I don’t currently own a copy of Griffin’s cookbook; I recommended it highly and sold it fast. 

The trouble was that this book hasn't been reprinted. Instead, a shrewder publisher offered to publish Griffin's recipes in a series of less complete, more expensive books. That's the way they're currently being sold, and they're not even showing up on Amazon. The original, valuable cookbook is semi-rare now.

So, it's a Fair Trade Book. Secondhand copies in good condition aren't fearfully expensive--yet. To buy it here, thus showing due respect to both Griffin and me, send $10 per copy + $5 per package (i.e. $15 for one copy, $25 for two copies shipped together) to either address at the bottom of the screen. Out of this we'll send $1.50 per copy to Griffin or a charity of her choice.