Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Book Review: The Guilt-Free Gourmet

Title: The Guilt-Free Gourmet

Author: Vicki B. Griffin

Date: 1999

Publisher: Remnant

ISBN: 1-891041-25-8

Length: 400 pages

Quote: “What is found within the pages of The Guilt-Free Gourmet is accurate, well researched health information and recipes that are almost totally free of harmful excitotoxins and other adulterating additives….a balance of nutrients that not only prevent disease but promote health and longevity.”

And lots of things to do with tofu that actually make the stuff taste interesting, too...but that’s if you’re gluten-tolerant. That’s the bad news. Vicki Griffin and daughter Gina have put together a wonderful collection of nutrient-balanced vegan recipes based on your ability to digest wheat and other whole grains (and also yeast) as primary proteins. If you did not inherit that ability, a minority of their recipes will still work (and they’ll taste pretty good), but the Griffins’ grain-based diet will not work for you. All bodies are not created equal.

For those who can use a grain-based diet that’s grown out of the Seventh-Day Adventist healing tradition, as taught at places like Hartland and practiced by doctors at places like Loma Linda, this is the ultimate, the best and biggest ever, of the Seventh-Day Adventist “cooking school” cookbooks. This one is so good that even the Griffins have thought it might have been too good a bargain and have tried letting it go out of print in order to market shorter books for similar prices.

Frankly, when I browse through this book, page headings like “Tender Gluten Steaks” and “Cheesy Tofu Scramble” bring a bitter taste to my mouth. Literally—all that whole wheat and nutritional yeast people dutifully munched in the 1970s Granola Period tended to become rancid and bitter very fast, especially in dutifully un-air-conditioned kitchens. And then when I remember how sick all that “health food” made me, and kept me, up to age thirty—how rare, and what a “high,” just not feeling sick all the time used to be in my wheat-stuffed undiagnosed-celiac youth…

Grandma Bonnie Peters bought multiple copies of this book. She gave one to me. I choked on it, emotionally, and rushed it out to the booth in the flea market that used to be the physical home of my bookstore. It sold within hours, to a trusted friend from whom I thought, “Oh well, if I do miss anything in it I can always buy it back”…and he wasn’t a bookseller, or a seller of anything, but a visitor to his home pounced on this book and had to have it, out of his kitchen, for a handsome profit he admitted. GBP apparently lent out her last remaining copy, couldn’t get it back, and started upbraiding and guilt-tripping me for not getting another copy for her, as online prices for this book started to enter the collectors’ range…

Well, finally I found a price I could afford to pay, from a legitimate charity store…in Michigan, y’all. I’m sure some correspondents will appreciate knowing that I was able to buy GBP a copy in aid of an organization that helps disabled residents of Michigan. I’m paging through the recipes again…

Now there is a lengthy section of “Health Helps,” over 100 pages in about the third quarter of the book, that may be read as preaching or nagging. (That, too, would have been found at a traditional S.D.A. “cooking school,” as taught by GBP and by her teachers and their teachers and so on back to Jethro Kloss’s day.) This is a true American Folk Tradition that happens to have developed among literate people, in close correlation with advances in medical science. Whatever your feelings about Adventists may be, their folklore is sociologically fascinating.

But let’s stick to the recipes, which begin without much of a preamble, on page four, with breakfast dishes. Finding the ones that are naturally gluten-free, that I could use as they appear, takes some searching. In addition to gluten, I personally don’t seem to tolerate coconut. I automatically substitute “shredded almonds” for “shredded coconut” in recipes. If you can either use coconut or allow that much substitution, you can use the very first recipe, “Regal Rice Pudding,” which is naturally 100% free from wheat gluten. The next naturally gluten-free recipe, “Almonds Ahoy Granola,” appears on page 13. The first one I personally can use with no editing is “E-Z Almond Milk,” on page 18. The first one that appeals to me is the “Garden Lentil patties” on page 38; the “Perfect Patties” on page 40 have a sweet and/or bittersweet taste, depending on whether you use real sorghum molasses (which I prefer) or the burnt cane-syrup residues sold in supermarkets as molasses, on which I’m less than keen, but I could eat them.

That's what reading this book is like for celiacs, pretty much, all the way through. We have to do a lot of editing.

The good news is that, according to Grandma Bonnie Peters, who is a vegan, it's easy editing. With other gluten-free vegan cookbooks, she says, she has to go to the health food store for things she doesn't normally have on hand. With The Guilt-Free Gourmet, she can use what she has.

She maintains that her "Allergy-Ease Veggie Burgers" are her edited version of some of the Griffins' "loaf/burger" recipes. Which one or ones she won't say...I know Veggie Burgers involved pureed green beans, which may give some readers a hint.

I have finally bought her a copy to replace the one I inadvertently sold, using an Amazon giftcard I received for writing on non-book topics at some other site, and here's what I had to say about it on Amazon.

Seventh-Day Adventist "cooking schools" are a sociologically fascinating example of a folk tradition that developed among literate people, alongside scientific development. Church ladies would demonstrate cooking vegan, grain-based food for new members of the church and distribute recipe collections along with sweet, edifying thoughts about health and faith. Most of these collections were "published" by mimeographing or on privately printed cards. Over 250 pages of vegan recipes, over 100 pages of reflections (with lots of published references), and lots of nutrient data make "The Guilt-Free Gourmet" the biggest and best collection in this genre. You'll learn the secrets of making fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts taste almost like the savory meats, tangy cheeses, and creamy desserts vegans miss...with minimal salt and no added MSG.

Wheat gluten is the primary source of protein for many vegans. For about two-thirds of humankind it's healthy. The majority of recipes in "The Guilt-Free Gourmet" feature wheat gluten. Nevertheless, I know gluten-free cooks who swear by this cookbook as their primary reference, having found it easy to adapt the Griffins' recipes to suit their requirements. The secret recipes for "Grandma Bonnie's Allergy-Ease Veggie Burgers," made with no wheat, corn, yeast, soy, citrus, or animal-derived products, were adapted from loaf/burger recipes in this book. "Grandma Bonnie" herself says that lots of gluten-free cookbooks feature more elaborate, expensive recipes but "The Guilt-Free Gourmet" has more simple, easily used or adapted recipes for things she can make without going to the health food store.

Here's another comment on some other things on Amazon. Seventh-Day Adventists traditionally call the products of the Worthington and Loma Linda food companies "health foods." Then they bicker about that among themselves, because Fri-Chik and Choplets and Prime Stakes and Big Franks and Bolono and Wham and Prosage and so on all contain lots of MSG in addition to the wheat gluten. All of these "vegetarian meat analogs," the ones sold in tins on Amazon and the frozen ones sold only in real stores, are tasty and low-fat, but...if you joined the church you'd soon hear, "Worthington and Loma Linda foods are designed to be healthier than the things meat eaters eat." If the church was big enough (and lucky enough) to have an official Health & Temperance Minister like GBP the person would add, "At the 'cooking school' Sister Peters will be demonstrating how to make healthier 'health foods.'"

Thanks to the Griffins, non-Adventists can now learn how to make that kind of "health foods."

To buy it here, send $10 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either of the addresses at the very bottom of the screen (down below the Amazon giftcard widget), and we'll send the Griffins $1.50. (If you send a U.S. postal money order, you don't send a surcharge to me because you pay it at the post office.)