Cookbook Review: Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler
With an intro endorsement from actor Woody Harrelson, who just so happens to also be vegan, Chef Renee Loux Underkoffler seeks to present not just the ins and outs of raw cooking, but also the beauty in it.
So, I picked up a copy of this via Better World Books back when a close friend and I were getting into trying some new raw food recipes. They’re great in the summer for a change from salads when you want something cool, fresh, and healthy to eat. Plus, I’m always interested in learning more, so I was excited to see that Underkoffler provided more than just recipes, but also chapters featuring the benefits of the various raw ingredients and preparation techniques. Unfortunately, ultimately this cookbook really did not work for me.
First there’s the fact that a book seeking to show the beauty of raw foods has zero color pictures and almost no black and white illustrations. It is almost entirely straight text. Very unattractive in a cookbook!
Second, the background information goes on for an excruciatingly long time. The recipes do not start until page 261 of the book! And as much as I like learning more about some veggies and fruits, it felt like information overload to me. If I really wanted to know all the properties of every fruit and vegetable out there, I’d become a nutritionist. Knowing the basics, such as what is provided by the scientists in DASH–lots of servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good for you–that’s really all the consumer needs to know. Well, that and how to properly assemble the foods for the right tastes and textures.
So I was pleased to get to the recipes, but only found three that I found to be at all doable by me. The rest required either an insane amount of prep time, special tools, or special ingredients that even with all of my grocery options in a city like Boston I was unable to even fathom where I would find them. (Vegans should also note that the recipes make abundant use of raw honey).
I, admittedly, have yet to try the three recipes I did find, primarily because they all require a blender, and mine is broken. I did save them to try in the summer during a hot spell of a week. But even if Underkoffler’s recipes are delicious, they are overly involved and intimidating, even to someone like myself who cooks a ton. I suppose her market might be raw chefs, but then why have the entire beginning of the book be toned toward beginners with no idea what’s in fruits and vegetables? The book is a bit of a mystery to me, honestly.
Ultimately, although the title of the cookbook is lovely, the recipes and content themselves are not. Underkoffler’s cookbook lacks a true direction. It is unclear if her target audience is talented raw chefs or the average American developing an interest in raw foods. As such, neither audience is properly served. I would not recommend starting with this book if you have a new interest in raw cooking, but chefs may be interested in flipping through the recipes in the back to see if any are new ideas to them.
2 out of 5 stars
Source: Better World Books