Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Sober Kitchen

By Liz Scott

Reviewed by Patricia Gauss.

Liz Scott, professional chef and recovering alcoholic, wanted to create a cookbook for others in recovery. Her original intent was to “use my training,palate, and a little creativity to develop new recipes and redesign old ones that would be sober safe and maybe even healthier and tastier than the original.” During her search, she recognized the lack of, and need for, basic information on diet and nutrition for recovering alcoholics. The Sober Kitchen (copyright 2003, Harvard Common Press) is her answer to that need, and offers a wealth of nutritional information geared specifically for recovering alcoholics.

The Sober Kitchen is organized to address the various stages of recovery beginning with Phase One, early recovery, and (what else?) nonalcoholic beverages. Also in this section are information and recipes for healthy snacks, bar food, and simple comfort foods like soups, as well as tips and recipes for some sweet treats and quick fixes for cravings.

Phase Two focuses more on complete meals and sobriety maintenance, including dinner entrees, side dishes and veggies, breakfast items, desserts and baked goodies. Phase Three gets into a more intermediate cooking level with sections on vegetarian cooking, foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other important supplements, and foods prepared with more unusual ingredients (like curry and soy products). Finally, Scott gives us nonalcoholic recipe makeovers for dishes such as beef burgundy, chicken marsala and beer battered shrimp.

Scattered throughout the book are anecdotes, information on alcoholism and a little culinary history, too. She warns that alcohol may be lurking in some very conspicuous places (Pam cooking spray, who knew?), and dispels the myth of all alcohol “burning off” during the cooking process (as much as 85% can be retained depending on the method and length of time cooking). These things are important, she notes, because even trace amounts of alcohol can be enough to trigger very powerful cravings, especially during early

There are mini-primers throughout on such topics as essential vitamins and minerals, buying and storing herbs, cuts and cooking guidelines for beef, pork, lamb and chicken, and different types of mushrooms, potatoes and salad greens. She also provides some tasty and creative substitutions for alcohol, such as strong tea mixed with molasses for macerating fruit, and flavored vinegars, fruit juices and nonalcoholic extracts to substitute for brandies and wines in a variety of entrees and desserts.

The Sober Kitchen doesn’t end with the last recipe, however. Ms. Scott offers both an extensive bibliography and an excellent list of titles for suggested reading, along with some culinary resources and a list of recovery organizations. While written for the recovering alcoholic, The Sober Kitchen is an interesting, nformative and readable cookbook, worthy of shelf space in any foodie’s collection. You can visit Liz Scott's web site at

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