Book Review: The Green Kitchen

The Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl is one of the most modern cookbooks I own. The authors began documenting their family meals just over three years ago on their award-winning vegetarian food blog Green Kitchen Stories. I first came across their app around Christmas, when it was named one of the top foodie apps for iPad.

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Frenkiel and Vindahl call their vegetarian and ‘90% gluten free’ recipe book, ‘a guide, of sorts, to our way of eating’. It is a highly personalised collection of recipes and, to my knowledge, one of the first mainstream titles to embrace ingredients and techniques of the raw food movement. ‘Open our fridge,’ reads the introduction, ‘and you will probably be attacked by an organic and locally harvested cabbage… nut butters, spreads, a goat’s yoghurt and three different versions of plant milk… we don’t have a perfect and clean home, but we do love whole foods.’

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The Green Kitchen Danish rye bread, which I baked as one of my recipe tests, is made with whole rye grains, sunflower seeds and carob so it costs quite a lot to make. The recipe is sound, easy to follow, the resulting loaf is tasty and not far off those I enjoyed on a recent trip to Copenhagen. Due to its price and the length of preparation time, however, this loaf is not something I would make that often. By contrast, the family meals I tried, including beanotto and a Swedish hash, were simple and cheap, but not dishes that I personally would ever need to consult a book for.

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What I find most surprising is The Green Kitchen opening manifesto (can I call it that?) about how Frenkiel and Vindahl feel children ought to be fed. They say you should, ‘try to reduce or eliminate gluten and dairy products during your baby’s first year or two,’ and give ‘no sugar during your baby’s first years’.

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Children’s nutrition is an emotive subject, and I was quite taken aback at my strength of feeling when reading Frenkiel and Vindahl’s words on the topic. I too have a cupboard full of pulses, seeds and whole flours. I rarely, if ever, give my daughter sugary foods. Although I eat meat and dairy, I am trying to limit my consumption because I agree that a vegetarian, even vegan, diet is the only environmentally sustainable way to eat. I also understand – as someone who has lost loved ones to bowel cancer – that Frenkiel and Vindahl’s way of eating could possibly add years to your life. But in short, this book makes me feel guilty for enjoying the foods I do.

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I was really excited at the prospect of reading and using The Green Kitchen as I feel wholeheartedly that families need to eat a broad diet rich in whole foods and fresh vegetables. I love the look of the book: it is tantalisingly photographed and beautifully organised. For those who are new to the idea of raw techniques and whole foods, there is a thorough glossary of ingredients and their common uses and the advice for encouraging healthy eating habits in kids is grounded in truth, if a little idealistic.

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I find it hard not to read The Green Kitchen as a world of affluent extremes. While I’m certain it does, and will continue to, inspire health-conscious home cooks to try new approaches, I can’t see how it will help families unused to healthy eating become more accustomed to it. Frenkiel and Vindahl’s is simply too wildly different and virtuous a way of eating for most Brits, at least, to adopt. My feeling is that, as with so many modern vices, and so much modern advice, The Green Kitchen needs a big fat label on the front reminding us: ‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’

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The Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl is published by Hardie Grant Books at £25 hardback/£12.50 ebook.

I received a review copy of The Green Kitchen free from the publisher.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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2 comments on “Book Review: The Green Kitchen

  1. May 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Oh man, I feel responsible for bigging this up! The thing is, I read cookery books as a form of escapism, it’s a bit like really amazing interiors blogs – I don’t expect to love all of it, and taken together it all looks way too extreme to fit the messy, imperfect life that I love, but the hope is that the whole is inspirational or thought provoking in a vague way and specific things within it are useful. I don’t think I own any cook books that would fit my life perfectly, from which I cook every day, all day. So when I read about their food rules for their daughter I thought, “shit, that would never suit me,” but I didn’t read it as a criticism of the way I feed my kid, just a peep into someone else’s life. And I love to snoop into other people’s lives xx

    • May 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Hey Hattie, you’re totally right, beautifully photographed lifestyle cookbooks are a great form of escapism and The Green Kitchen is well worth a read just for this aspect alone! I never imagined when you recommended the book that you and yours were all sitting down to a plate of sprout ceviche every night! I think it’s me who has taken it all a bit too seriously xx

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