{FOF Guru Book Review} The Earthbound Cookbook

If anyone is an authority on organic food, it’s Myra Goodman, co-owner and co-founder of Earthbound Farm, the world’s largest grower of organic produce. Her first cookbook, Food to Live By (2006), was praised by a Library Journal book reviewer who compares it to The Organic Cook’s Bible by Jeff Cox (Wiley, April 2006), one of those most well-known organic cooking resources to date.

In her latest cookbook, The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet (Workman Publishing, 2011) Myra pairs green living tips with all new recipes. Is this cooking guide as fresh as her first? FOF book reviewer, Darla Martin worked her way through and reported back.

In a nutshell, describe this cookbook.
It is about eating well and living green. It includes lots of recipes and green living tips.

Did you read her first book?
No, but I would like to now.

Did you enjoy it?
Yes, indeed.

Was it a page turner, or did you have to push through it?
Even though it is a cookbook, I read it page by page just like a novel.

What recipes and tips did you like most? What did you like least?
I liked finding new ways to cook a few veggies. I tried the cauliflower tart which I liked very much. I have marked the Coconut-Crusted salmon (p. 134) to make soon and the Chicken and Green Olive Enchiladas (p. 109). I’ve made enchiladas before but this is a new twist. The Jicama and Orange Salad with Orange-Sesame Vinaigrette sounds like a great winter salad to make when traditional greens and tomatoes aren’t in season.

I didn’t like searching here and there for the green living suggestions, which are sprinkled randomly through out the book.

Is this book similar to any other books you have read? Which?
I own and read a lot of cookbooks. This is a nice addition to my collection and I think it has a definite “California” feel.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share . . . ?
While I enjoyed the book, I don’t think I’d recommend it for everyone. Several recipes called for hard to find ingredients, such as lemongrass, or ingredients that are expensive such as truffle oil. I’m a dedicated foodie and live in a cosmopolitan area (San Fransisco Bay) so I’m willing to hunt down unusual or even expensive items. I don’t think that most people would.

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{FOF Book Guru Review} The Crabby Cookbook

The Crabby Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 2011) is a collection of humor, survival tips and recipes for the “kitchen-challenged,” written by FOF actress Jessica Harper (star of movies such as Minority Report, Stardust Memories and Pennies from Heaven). “I thought it was high time a book acknowledged that not everybody experiences the joy of cooking; that sometimes cooking for a family on a daily basis can be really irritating!” said Jessica in a January, 2011 interview. “This book, with 135 easy recipes, is for those people, crabby cooks like me!” On the book jacket, former-Gourmet editor and New York Times restaurant reviewer, Ruth Reichl, called it “soo much fun. You stand in the kitchen laughing when you should be cooking.” Does FOF book guru, Karin Zindren, agree?

What is the genre of this book?
Cookbook.

Did you enjoy it?
It’s one of the most entertaining cookbooks I have ever read.  It can be read in part or in total and you won’t miss a beat.

Would you recommend this to other FOFs?
Yes. Even as I read the book, I would call friends and family to tell them about it.

What part did you like most? What part did you like least?
I liked the stories just themselves and the recipes were a bonus. I made the Killer Pumpkin Pancakes for my granddaughters who HATE any type of pumpkin and loved these. I also made the Bruschetta with Someone Elses Tomatoes and the Slammin’ Yam Soup (I’m vegetarian so I used veggie broth and it was still great!). The Cauliflower in Disguise was great too, I even tripped up my husband with this one! Some of the recipes were too ambitious for me, probably one of the few down sides to the book.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share . . . ?
If you ever felt alone in world of cooking, this book is one you should definitely read…more than once!  Oh, and try some of the recipes, they were worth the effort.

Want to review books for FOF? Apply to be a book guru, here.

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{FOF Book Guru Review} Lost and Forgotten Languages

Ruiyan Xu’s first novel, Lost and Forgotten Languages (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), is the story of Li Jing, an investment banker from Shanghai who, after a massive accident, loses the ability to speak Chinese. His wife, Meiling, is devastated that she can no longer communicate with her husband, and the two become more and more distant as the book progresses. Rosalyn Neal, an American doctor, offers Li Jing’s only hope for recovery and Li Jing ultimately falls in love with her. According to Publishers Weekly, “The characters are portrayed with empathy and care, but the suspense over Jing’s fate is lost in too many narrative digressions and an ending that falls flat.” Does FOF book reviewer Karen Smith agree?

In a nutshell, what is this book about?
This story is about language, how words bind intimate relationships and also how we see and present ourselves. Author Ruiyan Xu got the idea for her book during her childhood. Her family emigrated to the U.S. from Shanghai and she felt isolated because she didn’t speak English. Like most children, she learned it quickly and she lost her native tongue. When she returned to China in her teens, not knowing how to speak Chinese made her feel isolated once again.

Did you enjoy it?

I found it enjoyable, yet deeply troubling.

Was it a page turner, or did you have to push through it?
Not a compelling page-turner in terms of pace or plot, but steadily interesting.

What would you want to ask the author, now that you’re done reading?
I would like to ask Ruiyan Xu about her own experiences with languages lost and found: did she find herself with different personalities in English and Chinese? Is it possible to use language independent of culture?

Would you recommend this to other FOFs? Did you find yourself telling friends about the book as you were reading it?
I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a book that asks more questions than it answers.

What part did you like most? What part did you like least?
My favorite part of the book was the trip that James, Rosalyn and PangPang made to Hangzhou. That interlude shows the characters what is possible in the alternate universe of the English language, both good and bad. I found the ending unsatisfying.

Is this book similar to any other books you have read? Which?
While I haven’t read anything directly comparable to this work, the disintegration of a marriage and family because of new language barriers takes the reader into the familiar territory of love and loss, flirtation and affairs, betrayals and misunderstandings.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share . . . ?
There is a shallowness to Xu’s characters that makes it difficult to be more than a spectator to their situation. A better writer would have given the characters more depth so we could identify with them. Instead, Xu keeps us focused on the language problem itself. What would happen if you were ‘robbed’ of your native tongue in a traumatic accident? How would you talk with your spouse? What about your job? Your children?

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{FOF Guru Book Review} Over the Rainbow Bridge

A few months ago, we asked FOFs to tell us about the charities and organizations that are most important to them. FOF Shirley Enebrad responded to our call. “My little boy Cory was diagnosed with leukemia at age three. He died right after his ninth birthday,” said Shirley. “One of the things he made me promise before he died was for me to help other parents going through the same difficulties that we faced alone.” As part of this mission, Shirley joined and eventually became the president of the Candlelighter’s Childhood Cancer Foundation of Western WA, a support system and organization for families facing childhood cancer. She also wrote a book about her experiences called Over the Rainbow Bridge. Here, FOF book guru Katherine Watson shares her review of Shirley’s story.

In a nutshell, what is this book about?
Over the Rainbow Bridge follows author Shirley Enebrad on an emotional roller coaster as she deals with divorce and then, being the single parent of a terminally-ill child. In the book, Shirley recounts the years she spent advocating for and protecting her nine-year-old son Cory, who was plagued with cancer and suffered through painful chemotherapy treatments. Cory made the decision to terminate chemotherapy and end his life naturally and Shirley supported his decision.

What is the genre of this book?
It is an autobiography. Shirley tells her own story with Cory’s story weaved throughout.

Did you enjoy it?
I can’t say I enjoyed the book. It isn’t easy or pleasant to read about a suffering child. However, Shirley does a nice job of showing what Cory contributed during his short life on earth, including his words of wisdom and his description of heaven and God.

Was it a page turner, or did you have to push through it?
The issue of allowing a child to decide to end chemotherapy, motivated me to continue reading.

What part did you like most? What part did you like least?
This book helped me understand the thought processes of a grieving parent. Shirley is confronted by medical personnel who have been trained to sustain life and heal and are not always equipped to deal with emotions of patients and families.

Would you recommend this to other FOFs? Did you find yourself telling friends about the book as you were reading it?
I work in a hospital setting with pastoral care and social workers. The nurses and hospital workers I spoke with feel they deal enough with death and dying in their professional lives and would not choose this book for relaxing reading. If someone is prepared to make the emotional investment needed to read about a terminally ill child, then this is a remarkable story.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share . . . ?
This book confronts a tough ethical issue that parents of terminally ill children wrestle with — letting your child choose to end treatment. Shirley let Cory choose and he made the decision to end life naturally. Shirley’s decision was an insightful and selfless act, in my opinion, but other readers might argue he was too young to make the decision himself or that she gave up hope. Shirley was self-assured and proud of how she handled matters. Since people have different cultural backgrounds, belief systems and needs to give them direction, I’d hesitate to give this book to a parent of a terminally ill child.

Want to review books for FOF? Apply to be a book guru, here.