Cookbook review: Against the Grain

If you are interested in this book, you had better stock up on tapioca flour (same thing as tapioca starch) and light buckwheat flour.  There are recipes that call for other types of flour such as rice flour and oat flour, but you can make quite a few recipes with just tapioca starch and light buckwheat flour.  In case you are new to gluten-free eating, despite the name, buckwheat doesn’t actually contain any wheat and is gluten free.  If you can find someplace that sells the flours in bulk, great.  Otherwise, be prepared to shell out up to $10 for a small bag of these gluten free alternatives.

The food turned out just fine.  It’s definitely different from baked goods with regular gluten, but the food was certainly edible.  The recipes were easy to follow and understand.  Most seemed to be fairly simple.  The most “difficult” part to trying recipes in this book was that I didn’t have many of the gluten free alternatives on hand so had to do some shopping.  Tapioca starch was easy to find, but I had trouble finding light buckwheat flour and brown rice flour.

The concern that I have with this book is that it uses tapioca starch quite a bit.  They call it tapioca “flour,” but they’re the same thing.  Starch is pretty much sugars (carbs) with very little other nutritional value.  That being said, tapioca starch is used in all of the gluten-free cookbooks that I have seen because it gives structure/texture so I guess you get the gluten-free, but have to deal with the carbs to make up for it.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books.

book review: Crazy Rich Asians

I found this book by mistake.  Well, not exactly, but it requires an explanation.  I haven’t posted any reviews for a while because I had eye surgery a few weeks ago.  After many years of wanting, but being deathly afraid of, Lasik surgery, I finally went ahead and got it done.  Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for regular Lasik so I had to get PRK surgery (the big difference is that they remove the epithelial layers on your eye rather than cutting a flap, which saves corneal tissue).  PRK requires a longer period of time to recover because that epithelial layer has to grow back … and it hurt.  A lot.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to read or watch movies or anything for a while so the day before my surgery, I downloaded some audio books from the library.  This book happened to be one of the audio books that were available.

I learned that I can’t stand listening to audio books.  Even when there is a good reader who does different accents for the different characters, the reading is so slow.  I found myself getting impatient with the reading and wishing that I could pick up the book to read for myself.

The woman who did the audio book for Crazy Rich Asians put on a snobby accent for every character.  That’s really not how I imagined the characters sounding (British accent is not equivalent to snooty!).  I was interested in the story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to listen to more than a few chapters of the book and couldn’t wait until my eyes had healed enough so that I could read the e-book for myself.

I finally got to do just that yesterday.

In a way, this book reminded me of Pride & Prejudice, not because they had similar plots, but because of the humor presented.  The book obviously pokes fun at rich socialites and, of course, the moral of the story is that money is nice in some (most) situations, but it isn’t everything because, according to the old old cliche, money can’t buy love. The plot is pretty obvious and there really aren’t many surprises.

I’m not filthy stinking rich and I’m not Chinese so I have no idea how accurate the book was, but the cultural beliefs seemed to be accurate.  There were also footnotes throughout the book explaining certain customs and translating certain phrases.  It was rather fun to pick up some new swear words in Mandarin (hey, it’s helpful to know if someone is insulting you).  It was fun to read about how rich people live … and think about the Weird Al song about first world problems while reading about these rich people.

The book was a light, fun read that doesn’t require much thinking.

book review: Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian Nation is written by unapologetic atheist, Sam Harris.  It is a short read that, while addressing Christians in particular, decries all religion as being equally unbelievable.  While I am not an atheist myself, I found that I couldn’t come up with good arguments against him.  Some of his arguments are: 1) many Christians believe that those who don’t believe in Christ will go to Hell.  Many other religions have similar beliefs. Those other religions also have sacred texts that support their beliefs and who is to say which religion is correct?  2) There is much evidence to support evolution.  Some argue in support of intelligent design by saying that something must have created the Big Bang to spark the creation of everything.  Doesn’t it stand to reason then that there was something else that created this thing that caused the spark?  3) There are many inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible.  If the Bible isn’t taken literally, anyone can interpret whatever they want from the Bible.

There were other points brought up, but those were the ones that stuck with me the most.  Whether or not you are Christian, it is an interesting read.  It’s good to challenge your beliefs once in a while and to question why you believe what you believe.