Fine, we might have a bit of a bias against thinly veiled diet books (if you're going to write a diet book, fess up to it before you invite us to the dinner table). But we really do judge every book on more than just its cover. Honest.
Yes, the cover shot for Pretty Delicious: Lean and Lovely Recipes for a Healthy, Happy New You, the latest release from Candice Kumai, a former Top Chef contestant turned Cook Yourself Thin Lifetime television host, is pretty - right down to the pearls, pink cake stand and pumpkin pancakes with apple butter.
And like The Nordic Diet, many of the recipes are promising. But the it's-not-really-a-diet-book-argument is something we can't get past. Unfortunately with Pretty Delicious, Kumai takes that faux diet so many steps further than The Nordic Diet by slathering on the cute factor with her chapter headers ("Brekkie & Brunch") and recipe titles. Among Kumai's tips in the Introduction are "go 'ovo' board for dinner." Yeah, yeah, we get it. A frittata is a perfectly lovely idea, but we could do without the verbal cheese.
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On down the Introduction line, she gives us "3 steps for skinny success" which include the statement that "diets suck." Then we get a monologue on why you need to "get real" and follow Kumai's "lifestyle changes." Just because an author doesn't call a book a diet book doesn't mean it isn't a diet book.
This is the sort of cookbook to be approached like a blind tasting of wines with really silly labels. It might be a good book (or wine) if you could get rid of your inevitable preconceived notions when you see a recipe with a title like "dill-lite-full cucumber tea witches" or "sexy strawberry cheesecake."
The unfortunate thing here is some of the recipes, such as that "sexy Swiss chard with golden raisins and pumpkin seeds," sound perfectly lovely on their own without the sex-appeal sass -- Kumai and Kim Barnouin, a.k.a. The Skinny Bitch really should hang.
As a matter of fact, if this review gets as many fantastic reader comments as our review of Skinny Bitch, we might actually consider "bitchifying" our pantry per Barnouin's request and trying Kumai's "miso gorgeous glazed salmon." Because how we somehow shifted from reader comments about no one presumably talking to us in high school to questions about the work of Gil Marks, one of the finest Jewish culinary historians, is pretty oddly fantastic. Or at least that's what high school losers like us will be thinking while we are cooking up Mark's kaletzin (Russian farmer's cheese-filled pastries) this weekend rather than Kumai's "hot-stuff" spinach-artichoke dip.