Normally I don’t review books, especially cookbooks. My wife suffers from Fibromyalgia, and a focus on healthy organic and natural foods has had a dramatically positive impact on her healthy and pain. From an environmental perspective, not to mention overall health,  a de-emphasis on meat as a centerpiece in meals is one of our dietary aspirations.

carolI’m channeling a bit of Tuscany, flipping through the pages of Carol D’Anca’s new book, Real Food for Healthy People; A Recipe and Resource Guide, the follow up to her Food not Meds: Eat, Love, Live (Volume 1)

Via Amerini winds upon a high ridge among farms and bright orange poppy fields. Roughly halfway between the Tuscan towns of Sant Ansano and Vinci stands  a small grey-stone family chapel. The surrounding hills are bathed in seemingly endless sunlight, with Azur skies and fat silver-tinged clouds as perfect as a Titian painting. A tall rusting flat-iron cross leans beside the wrought-iron door. Long abandoned, the overgrowth of grass and weeds img_1122conspire with the gently crumbling walls to create a bit of rustic art. Inside, dust layers the cooling interior. A single small wooden chair is toppled beneath a tiny pale blue alter and small simple Fresco of the Madonna.

Food is ubiquitous here, as with all of Italy. It is more than simple sustenance or a casual affair. It arises as an affirmation. Here food is even more than art, and is instead a celebration of life. D’Anca succeeds marvelously in capturing that celebratory spirit. Leave the meat aside, you won’t find any of that here. Real Food, however, is more than  a vegetarian cookbook. With a graduate degree in clinical nutrition from Rosalind Franklin University of Science and Medicine/The Chicago medical School, D’Anca offers a primer, regardless of kitchen and cooking acumen, for true healthy alternatives. As someone who cooks competently, loves meat and has experience in commercial kitchens, Real Food offers a well received break from the same old, same old.

At a time when 1 in 4 women will die of heart disease, and with hypertension and diabetes on the rise Real Food offers a full palette of sumptuously healthy and appetizing alternatives from debilitating and destructive diets replete with trans fats, refined sugars and copious amounts of salts. Real Foods provides recipes spanning breakfast, snacks, salads, entrees and deserts, all beautifully photographed, with 68 (Yes, I counted) simple and easy to make recipes.

The wife and I experimented with a number of recipes in the week and a half since the book arrived. Among our favorites was the Walnut Sage Pesto, the fresh and tangy Gremolata, delicious Caramelized Onion and Quinoa Tacos, the sweet and spicy Sweet and Sour Pineapple Cauliflower, Artichoke and Walnut Stuffed Belgian Endive and my favorite, a veritable panacea of flavor, Chia Breakfast Pudding.

In Tuscany we dined among friends new and old. Each bite of food seemed to awaken some new sensation, and to define a new memory. There is an Italian saying which says, “Uno non può pensare bene, amare bene, dormire bene, se non ha mangiato bene,” one does not think, love or live well without eating well. It might well have been the subtitle for D’Anca’s book

There are many cookbooks on the market, each with their own flair and style. What sets each of them apart is the author’s passion not only for the subject but for the food. There are those who cook for the money and those who cook for life. That is the essence behind Real Food for Healthy People: A recipe and resource guide, by Carol D’Anca. She treats her subject as a celebration, and she captured it beautifully.

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