|Copyright: The Dairy Education Board|
Sunday, September 12, 1999
CalciYum – A Book Review by Robert Cohen
SATYA (the resource)
The word "satya" is the sanskrit word for "truth." SATYA is the journal for the philosophical vegetarian. Those who publish SATYA describe their enterprise as a "magazine of vegetarianism, environmentalism, and animal advocacy." Each monthly issue is a collector's piece of wit and wisdom covering the A-to-Z tenets of eating a plant-based diet, from the aesthetics of the foods we eat to the Zen of vegetarianism, SATYA covers it all. I was recently asked to review a cookbook for SATYA, and that review appears in today's column and in their current issue.
I have previously written about how calcium in milk is not adequately
absorbed and why milk consumption is the cause of bone disease. My
calcium column also includes alternatives to milk and dairy products:
Long ago, if a Viking died in battle or with a weapon in hand, his supreme reward was an eternity of feasting in Valhalla, the Norse equivalent of my daughter's recent Bat Mitzvah. In Viking kingdom come, there was a buffet table of heavenly foods to be enjoyed for everlasting culinary rapture. Visions of sugarplums, loins of veal, breasts of chickens, and wedges of cheese might have occupied the fantasy-filled mind of a dying sword-wielding Norseman. Perhaps such a diet insured that there are no longer any Vikings left to live or to die. In any event, the stunning photos and mouth-watering recipes contained in David and Rachelle Bronfman's CalciYum come close to describing my personal vision of Valhalla by exemplifying the highest ideals of culinary artistry.
Who am I to review such a cookbook? Besides being the NOTMILKMAN, having written an anti-dairy book with the not-so subtle title, MILK-The Deadly Poison, I'm also the director of the Dairy Education Board, and maintain an Internet site called notmilk.com. I attended America's premiere cooking school, the Culinary Institute, and once owned a restaurant. I lecture on milk and calcium alternatives, and love to cook and eat, sometimes ingesting food as if there is no tomorrow. I also have three daughters and a wife, and the last thing I want to do is share a home with four women whose brittle bones shatter because "Dad" refuses to allow body secretions from cows in our refrigerator.
CalciYum captures the essence of the dairy industry dilemma. Where does one get calcium if no milk is consumed? By offering tasty calcium alternatives, this book eliminates the need to eat what I refer to as "pus with hormones and glue" (all milk and dairy products). Furthermore, CalciYum offers the solution to my end-of-year gift-shopping challenge. There is no better way to show how nutritious and delicious a plant-based diet can be than to include this book on any Chanukah or Christmas gift list. I plan on giving copies to the cynics of my inner circle, family and friends who believe that vegetarian diets are boring and only fit for rabbits and sheep.
Is the CalciYum cookbook too perfect? That's like asking whether Loni Anderson was too perfect. Come to think of it, she did have some artificial support which, to many fans, made her more appetizing. This book is not just good, it's too good. CalciYum contains sixteen pages of full color photographs making it a cookbook worthy of placement in Barnes and Noble's art section. Could there be marbles underneath the vegetables holding up those chunky pieces of okra and kernels of corn facing page thirty-three, or is there some magical antigravity device working for the Bronfmans? The Campbells Soup Company marketing team took such liberty in promoting their savorless chowders of my youth. Would my soupe de jour look as magnificent if I followed the Bronfman's recipe? The inside front cover credits Mark Shapiro for the extraordinary photographs. Credits are also given to a food stylist, a prop stylist, and an art director of food photography. No wonder the okra in my chunky corn chowder sinks to the bottom of the bowl. I have none of the above helping me in the kitchen.
Facing page 161 is a photo of "frozen strawberry dessert." CalciYum carelessly positions recipes and text on different pages, without thought to the reader's comfort. We are asked to turn back to page 142 to read a recipe that should be next to this photo.
I turn to page 142 and find this simplest of recipes. We made it at home, and my three harshest critics (ages 14, 13 and 10) loved the "Strawberry Yogurt Delight." The Bronfmans relate their tofu-based dairy substitute to their own child, which is a literary device that works for me. They write:
"We developed this recipe because our daughter loves the flavor and consistency of fruity yogurt. It's simple to make and more than a few times we've served it as a main dish for our daughter on her picky 'I don't want to eat' days."
The Bronfmans are more than just great chefs. They win my vote for parents of the year. After turning back to the photo on page 161, I observed that the dessert's garnishes included fresh mint and violet flowers. There have been times that I've thought of dispatching my daughters directly to Valhalla during their picky moments. Purchasing mint and African violets and using them as garnish never entered my mind as a solution to temper tantrums, but hey, I go along with parental violets as a preferred alternative to parental violence.
As a long-time reader of GOURMET, I delight in that magazine's wonderful recipes and accompanying photos. Yet, I have rarely seen as perfect a photo as CalciYum's Peanut Butter Marble Cheesecake facing page 160. This high-calorie high-calcium dessert sits upon a white porcelain dish sitting atop a finely woven linen tablecloth. On the plate is a golden fork, an offering fit for King Midas. To the side of the luscious wedge of pseudo-cheesecake is a bowl filled with perfect white roses. This photo is more than just a figment of somebody's imagination. Aside the slice of pie are wedges of the perfect fig. The moist red flesh is flawlessly geometrical, surrounded by a pulpy yellow outer layer and what appears to be ice-frosted skin. What creativity! The photo is the paragon of utopia, one's just dessert in Valhalla. The scene is worth thousands of words and instantly pleases one's visual and gustatory palates.
And there's so much more. Can there be a more-perfect soyburger in all of existence? The page 128 photo could convert a meat-eating Texas cattleman into a Lymanesque vegan. How long did it take the art director to perfectly curl each leaf of curly lettuce as the base to this burger placed on a multi-grain bun? Paper-thin slices of cucumber and sprigs of watercress adorn an 'orange thing' resting attractively next to the burger. Perhaps it's a scoop of tangerine sorbet or a molded aspic mousse of sweet potato. It really doesn't matter what it is, because it's art.
I plan to prepare the lemon-ginger with almonds, served on quinoa (photo on page 97) next Thanksgiving, and give thanks for the bounty and variety of calcium-rich grains and veggies that make good nutrition anything but boring. The dairy industry's myth that milk is a critical component of healthy diets is shattered by this CalciYum-alternative classic.
The wild rice and grain salad includes chopped figs, walnuts, scallions, and diced tomatoes. My favorite gourmet food emporium, the Barefoot Contessa in Easthampton, could easily sell such a dish in the double-digit dollar range, and be sold out early on any hot August day to those who "summer" in the Hamptons. Sadly, the photograph (page 64) contains liberal paper-thin slices of scallions but there is no mention of scallions in the written recipe.
Blessings and kudos to the art director and photographic team. Their influence turns a very good book into a very great book.
After reviewing the book and writing this column, I set up a distribution deal with the Canadian publisher so that this cookbook could be readily available to NOTMILK fans.
CalciYum can be purchased from the Dairy Education Board. This soft
cover cookbook contains 192 pages and we sell it for $15.00 plus $3 for shipping and handling. Should you wish to order a copy, call 1-888-NOT-MILK.
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