Pros: Incredible wealth of information on natural foods
Cons: A bit dry
Rating: 5 out of 5
Margaret M. Wittenberg is a VP of Whole Foods Market as well as a former member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board, and she’s been in on the whole foods movement for decades. Her New Good Food: Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well is a reference guide to a vast array of whole foods, their production and use, and their labeling. It doesn’t include recipes and photos as Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking, and it’s a bit dryer. Where Heidi’s book is meant to give you a taste of whole foods ands a starting point from which to experiment, Ms. Wittenberg’s book is an in-depth reference you can refer to whenever you see an ingredient you’d like to try but don’t know what to do with. In fact, I think the two books are remarkably complementary.
Whether you’re looking for information on produce or whole grains, seafood or meats, dairy or sea vegetables, it’s in here. I’ve already done quite a bit of reading in whole foods books, and yet I learned plenty of new and fascinating things in this volume. Much of it is incredibly practical. For example, if you want to know the difference between Tamari, Shoyu, and Soy Sauce—the practical differences in how they’re produced and what they contain—that’s all in here. You’ll understand how to figure out which ones are fermented vs. which ones are produced chemically; which ones are better for high-heat cooking vs. which ones are better as a condiment and why; and so on. If you want to know the complex process by which Tamari was originally produced (as a by-product of miso production), you can read about that, too.
Or maybe you’d like to delve into the wide variety of sea vegetables available in the whole foods market, but you don’t know how to even begin using them. Ms. Wittenberg’s book identifies each one and provides detailed instructions for using them in various types of cooking.
New Good Food includes plenty of information on various sweeteners—not just how they’re made, but what sorts of sugars they’re comprised of and how quickly those sugars break down in the body (essential information for diabetics). The section on produce includes information on the peak seasons for a very wide variety of items so you’ll know when to go looking for them at their best. Information on whole grains from around the world includes not just historical and nutritional information, but of course basic cooking methods as well.
Super Natural Cooking has specific recipes where this book does not, and it includes lovely photos and a more lively text. However, as an exhaustive reference work New Good Food is an utterly fantastic volume to keep on your shelves. I expect to make quite a bit of use of both volumes side-by-side.