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Heading For The Light
by Pat Barclay

Health-conscious Canadians are whipping up anappetite for `Low Cholesterol Cheesecake` and `MockGuacamole` JUST WHAT, may one ask, is going on? Because, of the 12 new cookbooks reviewed here,fully half are devoted to "light" or vegetarian cooking. Is thismerely a case of a bandwagon being thoroughly jumped on, or could some largergame be afoot in the kitchens of Canada? If significant popular concerns can bereflected in the design of clothing (as the British social historian JamesLaver has argued), then why not in something as basic and ubiquitous as thecooking manual? Maybe what`s happening is that Canadians are deciding to adoptpreventive nutrition before universal health care shows any more signs ofdegenerative disease. Take, for example, Rose Reisman Bring`s Home Light Cooking(Macmillan, 299 pages, $19.95 paper). Reisman, though "neither anutritionist nor a dietician," has published five cookbooks in five years.Light Cooking, sheexplains, "was conceived shortly before the birth of my fourth child. ..[When] ... after a difficult pregnancy ... [and] ... my son`s difficult start,the value of life and good health were incomparably reinforced." Hermission to produce "a sound diet that my family ... can enjoy and benefitfrom" makes the book an effective fund-raising tool for the CanadianBreast Cancer Foundation, which wilt receive a portion of the proceeds. Atypical Reisman recipe wouldn`t recognize tofu and granola if they turned up inthe soup; her focus is on producing tasty, low-fat meals from mainstream foods.Just two quibbles with this well-designed book: better forget it if you can`tcat peppers, and, in this supposedly enlightened age, do we really need toencourage the consumption of veal? I once spent a painful hour driving behind atruckload of panicky calves and vowed I would never eat veal again. And Ihardly ever have. Bibianne Robitaille the food we eat as a form of preventivecare. Low Cholesterol Chez Bibianne (Centax, 88 pages, $9.95 paper) contains recipes that are low in fat,salt, sugar, and cholesterol, to be cooked either indoors or on the barbecue("Browning meats on the barbecue grill at a low heat helps reduce theamount of fat"). These are useful, basic recipes ("Hearty ChickenSoup," "Cod Casserole"), with some tempting flourishes(83-calorie-per-serving "Low Cholesterol Cheesecake," "LovelyLight Salad"). And cooks who enjoy rolling up their sleeves and gettingright down to it will appreciate Robitaille`s instructions for skinning achicken: "...with your hands, starting close to the neck, pull on the skin(as if removing a jacket)." Also in the "light" category isnumber 19 in Jean Pare`s phenomenally successful "Company`s Coming"series (eight million copies sold since April, 1981), Light Recipes (Company`s Coming, 156 pages, $10.95 paper). Pare`s downhome yet authoritative style worksas well as ever in this new collection, which includes substitutes for thosedietary outlaws, cream cheese and whipped and sour cream. Maybe one secret ofPare`s success is that though she`s no slouch as a gourmet cook, false pridedoes not deter her from including a recipe for, say, "Mock Guacamole"(incorporating cooked and squished frozen green peas) or "Red Bottom Pudding Pie" (featuring notdiaper rash, silly, but frozen raspberries). She`s that rare exception, a culinary expert who wouldn`tscare you to death if she caught you in your kitchen in the middle of asouffle. Another expert is Jeanne Marie Martin, who has five health cookbooksand more than 150 magazine articles to her credit. Martin`s Vegan Delights: GourmetVegetarian Specialties (Harbour, 224 pages, $14.95 paper), eschews meat,poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, gelatin, honey, and sugar. As formargarine, which the previous authors recommend for baking and some frying:"...it should be avoided completely," announces Martin, and goes onto quote one MD who dubs it "nothing more than plastic butter" andanother who declares: "It seems increasingly likely that eating margarine,instead of preventing heart attacks, actually accelerates the process whichcauses them." On the positive side, Vegan Delights provides dietary information on eatingvegetarian food safely and helpful tips for maximum enjoyment (eat fewer rawfoods if you`re feeling cold; how to cook non-musical beans). Martin`s recipesrange from complex (would you believe "Spinach Tofu Calzones," with24 ingredients?) to comforting ("Brown Rice Breakfast Chews,""Home Apple Pie"). Her well-organized index, suggestions for furtherreading, and 63 pages of general information make the book a useful guide foranyone with a serious interest in what the dust-jacket refers to as "thevegan lifestyle." Vegetarian Cuisine (Betty K Books & Food, 118 pages, $10.95paper), by Dr. Betty "K," follows the author`s successful CaribbeanCuisine andis similarly inspired by her Guyanese heritage. With such tempting recipes as"Green Banana Salad," "Mangoade," and "Callaloo Soup," Dr. Betty "K"lifts vegetarian cooking straight out of the "But it`s good for you"class and sets it down into "Now, that sounds exciting."Her dishes seem remarkably simple to prepare, too, provided it`s possible tolocate a couple of mysterious ingredients called "Betty K seasoning"and "Betty K soya cubes." If you`re stumped, an SOS to the address atthe back of the book should help. Another testament to the good thingsimmigration has brought Canadians turns up in A Taste of the Mediterranean,Vegetarian Style (Taste of Lebanon Enterprises, 172 pages, $16.95 paper), by Mary Salloum. As the co-owner, with her children, of two Calgary restaurants,Salloum is in an excellent position to experiment with and perfect her recipes.For an explanation of why vegetarian cooking has grown so popular, one needlook no further than the colour photos in this book. Once upon a time, most Canadians`definition of a health food was an apple. In The Apple a Day Cookbook (Ragweed, 256 pages, $13.95 paper), J Janet Reeves - whose previous cookbookcelebrated the potato - explores the apple`s widespread appeal and collectsmore than 200 recipes, from "Apple Eye-Opener" to "Christmas Wassail." Also included are arresting bits oftrivia, such as the news that "Eating an apple cleans the teeth ... [and removes] ... more bacteria than two three-minute brushingsfollowed by a gargle" and "Agatha Christie claimed her best ideascame to her while eating apples in her bathtub." Two more books, The Muffin Baker`s Guide (Firefly,140 pages, $8.95 paper), by Bruce Koffler, and The Great Canadian Bread Book (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 224pages, $18.95 paper), by Janice Murray Gill, are also in-depth explorations ofbasic foods. Koffler offers "baking tips" and nearly 100 muffinrecipes, some with unexpected ingredients (frozen lemonade, banana chips); Gillsupplies 96 pages of advice on such topics as "Shaping the Dough" and"Troubleshooter`s Guide" before knuckling down to her 150 recipes.She also quotes from Maria Chapdelaine andRoughing It in the Bush in an entertaining chapter summarizing the history ofbread-making in Canada. A browse through the books describedabove provides convincing proof that a new spirit of imaginative, healthy,let`s look-afterourselves-in-case-no-one-else-does cuisine is abroad in theland. In characteristically Canadian fashion, however, two additional titlesserve to remind us that diversity is a many-splendoured thing and that hedonismis still an option (when we get the chance, and when no one`s looking). You canspot the attitude even in the dustjackets: Canada`s Wine Country Cookbook (Macmillan,252 pages, $19.95 paper), by Shari Darling and Michelle Ramsay, boasts animpressionist painting of food and wine in bright, fresh colours, while Byron`s New Home Cooking: 110Recipes for Busy Cooks with Demanding Palates (Penguin, 241 pages, $19.99paper), by Byron Ayanoglu, sports a vivid photo of the author wearing a purpleshirt and a gleeful expression. Also present are a scrumptious-looking platterand lots of excited-looking type. Both books boldly present their recipes asfeasts fit for kings, and it`s easy to believe them. Darling and Ramsaycollected much of their material from award-winning vintners and chefs. Eachrecipe is accompanied by suggestions for appropriate wines, and useful hintsand explanations precede the main text. Ayanoglu, who once spent a weekendcooking Chinese food for Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, writes nearly asenthusiastically as he cooks. Though his recipes are certainly appetizing, thereal fun of this book is in reading the introduction, in which Ayanoglu shareshis culinary techniques, secrets, and adventures. Also new this year is the 23rd edition of Anne Hardy`s Where to Eat in Canada (Oberon,405 pages, $14.95 paper). Compulsively readable, especially when you`re on theroad with the munchies and there`s no food in sight, this useful guide belongsin every traveller`s luggage. After a browse through the cookbooks reviewedhere, though, the answer to the question "Where to eat in Canada?"could well be: "At home."

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