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Anxious Eaters: Why We Fall for Fad Diets

Janet Chrzan and Kima Cargill. Columbia Univ, $35 (360p) ISBN 978-0-231-19244-6

“Fad diets aren’t a product of ignorance, lazy or wishful thinking, or purposeful mendacity” but “a product of deep and enduring cultural and psychological processes and needs” according to this sharp study from nutritional anthropologist Chrzan (Food Health) and psychologist Cargill (Food Cults). The authors contend that all fad diets—which they define as “a novelty diet that makes big promises and often has little scientific evidence supporting it”—are similar in that they’re a response to a “set of concerns or anxieties,” which makes them exceptionally easy to fall for. Chrzan and Cargill dig into Paleo eating (with its “firm belief that the problem is located within the cultural food system”), the Atkins diet (which “shifted the discourse about how and why people gain weight and how best to lose it”), and food addictions (a growing concern for people, despite not being recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association). The authors are especially sharp in their examination of “clean eating,” which they note has no agreed-upon definition despite its ubiquity, and in pointing out that fad diets are so pervasive in America specifically thanks to a “cultural goal of conquering and mastering nature, self, and destiny.” Students and scholars of psychology and nutrition will want to check out this smart and comprehensive survey. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Designer Within: A Professional Guide to a Well-Styled Home

John McClain. Gibbs Smith, $45 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4236-6022-4

Interior designer McClain “pull[s] back that proverbial curtain to reveal design solutions” in his heartfelt debut, a collection of clever styling tips and tricks. It’s crucial to create a home that “greet[s] you like a warm hug every time you walk through the door,” he writes; to help readers do so, he begins by laying out his six-step design process which includes defining one’s needs, finding inspiration, creating a “project direction board,” and having fun. McClain then tours his favorite projects room by room, highlighting key components behind their success: in his own home, brass “book toppers” jazz up coffee tables while bold patterns play with warm-toned colors in the upstairs lounge area, an old-Hollywood-style house features a tiled kitchen that “brings in the drama,” and a bathroom in a mid-century modern abode “purposely leans more toward the modern side.” McClain drops lots of advice along the way—add “one piece of interesting dissonance to every room” to make “everyone stop and take notice,” for example—and his fun approach takes the intimidation right out of design: “What do you do when you have too much space in a kitchen?! Create a bar area, of course!” Armchair designers looking for inspiration will find it on full display here. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Vegan Chinese Kitchen: Recipes and Modern Stories from a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition

Hannah Che. Clarkson Potter, $35 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-13970-7

Honoring a Chinese cuisine that dates back to the Xia dynasty in 2070–1600 BCE, Che, creator of the Plant-Based Wok blog, serves up an invigorating collection of recipes that put a plant-based spin on the dishes of her heritage. The Chinese word for vegetarian, su, connotes foods that are “simple, quiet and plainly unadorned,” exemplified here by delectable dishes like blanched lettuce in a delicate ginger-soy sauce, stir-fried lotus root, and cucumber salad heated with chili oil and garlic. Separate chapters on tofu and tofu skin (with maker profiles) recast bean curd as a worthy ingredient dished out in many forms, from dried sticks to deep-fried. Che delves into the tradition of tofu as “mock meat” (as in tofu-skin “roast goose” rolls) with a historical long view that casts it as playful rather than ascetic. Meanwhile, an informative chapter on gluten, “the ‘muscle’ of wheat,” touts the ingredient’s strengths (including its “meaty texture and ability to absorb flavor”) and offers instructions for making it from scratch. “Dessert doesn’t really exist in Chinese food,” Che explains, but a few sweet soups conclude a chapter on congee. Family photos interspersed with glamour shots of food feel right in a book whose style so perfectly aligns with its winning subject. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Wild and Free Family: Forging Your Own Path to a Life Full of Wonder, Adventure, and Connection

Ainsley Arment. HarperOne, $27.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-299823-1

Parents can “live a more meaningful, adventurous life” with their families, l, advises Arment (The Call of the Wild and Free), creator of an online homeschool community, in this gentle look at “carving your own wild path in the midst of modern culture.” Twelve years ago, Arment, her husband, and their two kids left their life in the Atlanta suburbs serving a “company’s purpose, society’s purpose, [and] the school system’s purpose” and moved to Virginia Beach, where they began their homeschool community. Insisting that parents get to choose whether their kids grow up stressed or peaceful, Arment covers such topics as misbehavior (suggesting a three-step process of “calming... connecting... and communicating with” kids), creating a family culture (laying out “your values and vision”), embracing adventure as a classroom (getting outdoors), and how to “not grow weary” as a parent (accepting help during difficult times is a good idea). While readers in search of statistics and case studies won’t find them here, Arment nonetheless offers a wealth of personal anecdotes and feel-good wisdom—understanding kids, she writes, “is realizing, as they grow, that they don’t merely change but become more themselves.” For parents looking to “cast aside convention,” this is just right. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Oldest Cure in the World: Adventures in the Art and Science of Fasting

Steve Hendricks. Abrams, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4847-9

Fasting, long regarded as being “on the wrong side of respectability,” deserves serious consideration as a medical treatment, argues journalist Hendricks (The Unquiet Grave) in this thought-provoking survey. Hendricks writes that the practice has been shown to help with illnesses as varied as asthma, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines. But it’s “simply too counterintuitive to think not eating could make you healthier,” and the medical community has yet to embrace it. That’s a mistake, Hendricks insists: it’s cheaper than drugs and has fewer side effects, and he touts it as an “astoundingly and variously useful” method that’s been hiding in plain sight for millennia. The author weaves a fascinating personal narrative (fasting helped his idiopathic hypersomnia) with a comprehensive history of the practice, from prehistoric humans who fasted from necessity up to modern-day clinics that use it. While enthusiastic, Hendricks is careful not to oversell fasting’s benefits (there’s much it “cannot do, no matter how many incautious boosters say otherwise”), and he pulls no punches when highlighting flaws in research, as with studies that emphasize “profit rather than health.” His levelheaded, irreverent approach and sharp reporting set the book apart. The result is a winning mix of captivating storytelling and fascinating science. Agent: Max Sinsheimer, Sinsheimer Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Yiayia Next Door: Recipes from Yiayia’s Kitchen, and the True Story of One Woman’s Incredible Act of Kindness

Daniel and Luke Mancuso. Plum, $30 (224p) ISBN 978-1-76098-811-1

Gestures of neighborly love give rise to soulful recipes in this collection of Greek comfort foods. In the family home where their mother’s life was tragically cut short by domestic violence when they were young, the Australian brothers were the beneficiaries of pastries, soups, and casseroles passed over the fence by a neighbor they called yiayia (“grandmother” in Greek). Here, they share her recipes and their “Mum’s,” as well as memories of their own Greek heritage cuisine. While the classics are covered in recipes that often draw upon vegetables fresh from the brothers’ backyard garden (eggs with peppers, spanakopita, avgolemono soups), there are novelties, too, like lamb racks glazed with a strawberry jam and red wine sauce. Though “yiayia” prefers to keep her identity private, step-by-step photos show her hands working translucent filo dough for cheese pie, and braiding Easter bread. Her kitchen tips, meanwhile, reflect a no-fuss, no-waste sensibility: home cooks are encouraged to wash and reuse foil and zip-top bags, while excess chilies from the garden are strung together and hung to dry. Cooking recipes like their Mum’s cannelloni “helps fill a void in our hearts,” the Mancusos say, and their book is sure to do the same for others. This delivers the goods on every level. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Danielle Walker’s Healthy in a Hurry: Real Life. Real Food. Real Fast.

Danielle Walker. Ten Speed, $35 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984857-66-8

“These recipes are designed to help you spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your people,” promises chef and wellness advocate Walker (Against All Grain) in this enticing collection of gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free meals. The dozens of tantalizing fares on offer prove that these dietary restrictions do not sacrifice flavor: ancho-citrus shrimp tacos get drizzled with roasted pineapple salsa, while Peruvian steak with french fries pack in spice and protein (to turn up the heat, Walker recommends adding habanero hot sauce to the mix). From dishes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less (Cajun chicken “pasta”) to meals that don’t require any cooking at all (pesto, chicken, nectarine, and avocado salad), Walker’s recipes are sure to delight busy home cooks. Likewise, Walker’s sheet pan meals—such as her sweet-and-sour pork, and herb-crusted black cod with harissa cauliflower—prove to be delectably handy for harried weeknights, as do her tips for “freezer cooking,” which allow readers to make and freeze up to five recipes ahead of time: her foolproof creamy sausage, kale, and sweet potato soup, for instance, takes under 15 minutes to make and cook. Whether home cooks have dietary restrictions or just want to eat healthy, this is a book that they will turn to time and again. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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I Wish My Dad: The Power of Vulnerable Conversations Between Fathers and Sons

Romal Tune with Jordan Tune. Broadleaf, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5064-8157-9

Mental health advocate Romal Tune (God’s Graffiti) and his son Jordan explore the role and impact of fathers in these heartfelt reflections. Each chapter summarizes a chat with one of Tune’s friends or colleagues that centers on what each son wished for from his relationship with his father. Tune’s former coworker David, who was five when his father died of a cerebral hemorrhage, wishes his dad would’ve taken better care of his health; Simon, a friend, “never felt like he knew his dad because he was so emotionally guarded” and tells Tune, “I wish my dad put feelings before finances”; and Jorge, a pastor, wishes his father had been able to be vulnerable with the family. Many of the tales convey heartrending trauma—one man watched his dad die in a car accident and others are victims of abuse—but several of the men report repairing relationships: “Fathers never lose the opportunity to make changes,” Tune writes. While many of the voices sound the same (reasonable, reflective, and self-aware), and the format gets a little repetitive, the takeaways at the end of each chapter are rich with insight. These thoughtful conversations offer a powerful look at “the cycle” of toxic masculinity. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Knot Bad Amigurumi: Learn Crochet Stitches and Techniques to Create, Customize & Design Cute Creatures

Vincent Green-Hite. Quarry, $24.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-7603-7677-5

“Almost any tangible item can be turned into a cute stuffed doll,” asserts Knot Bad blogger Green-Hite in his delightful debut that draws on amigurumi, a Japanese crafting style for making 3D dolls. He begins with a thorough overview of necessary materials, covering the standards such as darning needles, scissors, and stitch markers, and noting that his projects require “budget-friendly” acrylic yarns. Beginners will appreciate the close step-by-step look at basic crochet stitches and techniques—including slip stitches, slipknots, and turning the row—and needlework tips on changing yarn colors and sewing a hole shut. The 25 patterns that follow are all adorable and adorned with embroidered faces: there’s a purple smiling “Bubbly Boba Tea,” a blushing “Breezy Beach Hat,” a charming pink “Fragrant Flower,” and a “Mushy Mushroom” that’s full of personality. In several of the projects, crocheters will learn unique amigurumi techniques: the “Lush Lily Pad,” for example, is notably crocheted with flat pieces instead of in the round , and the “Thrilled Turtle” requires additional embroidery work on its shell. This fun guide is a must-read for crocheters of all levels. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Mediterranean Dish: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat

Suzy Karadsheh. Clarkson Potter, $32.50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-23427-3

“Eat with the seasons. Use mostly whole foods. And, above all else, share!” enjoins food blogger Karadsheh in her vibrant debut, a generous trove of go-to recipes steeped in the Mediterranean’s diverse culinary traditions. Karadsheh makes that credo abundantly evident with dishes that put a modern twist on traditional recipes with streamlined techniques tailored to the home cook (“no chefy skills” required). The panzanella is transformed into Mid-summer Tomato and Peach Panzanella, marrying Karadsheh’s Egyptian roots with the signature fruit of her current home in Atlanta. Elsewhere, tuna salad is elevated from the ho-hum, mayo-laden version thanks to Dijon dressing laced with sumac and adorned with kalamata olives, while vegetables and fish are crusted with the versatile dukkah, a toasty blend of sesame seeds, nuts, and spices. Showcasing seasonal and plant-based ingredients (chickpeas, tahini, freekeh)—which reflect the “farm-to-table spirit” of Levantine and Mediterranean pantries—Karadsheh’s recipes are well suited to a variety of occasions, be it a hearty breakfast of spanakopita egg muffins or an azooma (feast) offering ful mudammas (stewed fava beans), and come complete with cooking wisdom from the tetas (grandmothers): “Give generously of yourself,” Karadsheh writes, and “the work of your hands is laced with deliciousness.” This is as full of flavor as it is hospitality. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2022 | Details & Permalink

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