Elevate Difference

Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook: Crazy Delicious Recipes That are Good to the Earth and Great for Your Bod

Assuming you’ve never heard of Skinny Bitch and its burgeoning franchise, here’s a quick primer. A diet book, marketed as a tough love, no-nonsense takedown of women who whine about their diets and think there is nothing they can do to change their bodies, ambushes its readers with a surprise crash course on the evils of eating animal products, meant to shock women into choosing a vegan diet.

Now, original co-author Kim Barnouin presents Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook: Crazy Delicious Recipes That are Good to the Earth and Great for Your Bod. On the cover, awash in bright, earthy colors, the author leans happily over a huge spread of actual food, smiling, positively un-bitchy, and ready to dig in with us. In short, nothing resembling the original franchise, to its benefit. I’m sure the brand drives sales and creates buzz but this cookbook seemed a welcome departure from the cold-hearted bullying and fat-shaming of the first. Why persist with a title that doesn’t seem to reflect the values of the book? I get it, though—Smart and Sassy Person Who Cares About Where Her Food Comes From and What Goes in Her Body Who is Also Vegan and Might be Thin Because of These Factors just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Let’s get to the good stuff, the fake meat and organic sweet potatoes! I’ll be the first to declare cooking vegan to be tricky. Not hard, and certainly not impossible, but for the average person in the average town with the average grocery store and average amount of free time… tricky. Especially for someone just getting her sea legs on the Good Ship Vegan, clarity of instruction, organization, helpful tips, and accessible ingredients are key. Pretty pictures help, too. Many recipes were illustrated with gorgeous full-page color photos, visually enticing and definitely influential in my test kitchen menu planning process. Most of the ingredients were fairly easy to locate at my neighborhood grocery store, but for the wilier ingredient outlaws, dropping extra dough at Whole Foods was the only option.

A rundown of the recipes we chose to make reveals mixed results. The Pasta, Navy Bean, and Spinach Soup was truly nourishing and delicious and I hope someone makes it for me the next time I’m sick in bed. On the flip side, the Cream of Cauliflower Soup was watery and lacking flavor, and as a meal, left me running to the cupboard for a snack an hour later. Following the instructions to the letter on the Masoor Daal (Split Red Lentils) produced a solid block of dried out lentils at the bottom of the pan, but so deliciously spiced was the block that we carved out chunks to eat with Cholay and Aaloo (Chickpeas and Potatoes). The Curried Chickpea cakes were the hands-down favorite for flavor, texture, and surprising ease of assembly. The Lentil Tacos with Fresh Salsa were a bland let-down (who knew tacos could taste bad?), but the Lentil Seitan Sloppy Joes were a yummy hit, a breeze to put together, and a fun, meatless take on a childhood favorite. Finally came the “big one,” my personal Moby Dick, the Asian Macaroni and Cheese, which took over an hour to prepare before it even hit the oven, and left us with anticlimactic plates of white on white cauliflower, tofu, and elbow macaroni, tepidly “Asian”-flavor, and markedly lacking “cheesiness.”

That was our recipe round up, and if you’re reading this then chances are you want to know if you should buy this cookbook. While I’ll be keeping a handful of recipes in rotation, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it with out a boatload of caveats, exceptions, and disclaimers. The recipes on the whole just didn’t yield results that felt worth the time, effort, or cost of extraneous ingredients, particularly those brand names that are suspiciously endorsed throughout the book.

A vegan diet and way of living doesn’t need a gimmick to make it appealing, and it doesn’t need to be dumbed-down, glammed-up, and packaged as an easily digestible weight loss tool. Ultimately, it’s too hard to gauge what the real goal of this cookbook is, and what our goals should be in reading it and eating by it; should we want to be skinny above all, or want to save the environment, or be healthy, or make food we enjoy preparing and eating the most? There are better vegan cookbooks on the market, and there are better weight-loss cookbooks, and I’d love to chat about how to find them and hear your own recommendations. In attempting to keep multiple balls in the air, Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook spreads itself too thin. It is possible to “have it all,” but you don’t need this cookbook to get there.

Written by: Kelly Moritz, March 2nd 2011