Book Review — The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating

The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating
Anthony Warner
Oneworld Publications, 2017

When I created this site, one of the first policies I decided upon was NO DIET BOOKS. Having started out my food writing career as the editor of a blog that debunked nutrition claims (only to have it become a pro-diet blog when I moved on), I can’t stand the constant parade of bloggers and nutrition experts offering unsubstantiated, and often dangerous, health advice to readers. In that respect, I feel as if Anthony Warner and I are kindred spirits.

Warner has spent a quarter century in the food industry. With a degree in biochemistry, he has worked with food manufacturers to create many foods that appear on UK grocery shelves. He has spent the last few years blogging and writing pieces for other publications as The Angry Chef, trying to set people straight about the false information they get from self-proclaimed health and lifestyle gurus.

The book is heavy on the science aspect of things, which might throw some people off. Don’t pick up The Angry Chef for the snarky skewering of Gwyneth Paltrow or that Food Babe chick. That’s there, but Warner spends more time explaining science things than dissing the pretty skinny girls who want to sell you a book about their detox plan.

Warner works his way through various diets and health plans (because health gurus never want to call their plan a diet, to promote wright loss, even though that’s what it actually is), torching Paleo, clean eating, GAPS, detox and more. He spends a lot of time looking at the psychology of the sell, essentially how we’re tricked into believing the claims based on the use of language and plays to human nature such as the desperation of cancer patients for whom traditional medical treatments have failed.

Overall, the writing style, which works so well for Warner’s blog, becomes a bit disjointed here in a full book format. The offhand discussion between the parts of his brain and “Science Colombo” sometimes feels like it’s meant to be a comedy routine and not a discussion of health and science, and Warner often spends a lot of time on tangents of psychology that an editor should have demanded be tightened up significantly.

My concern with this is that it may turn off the very people who need the information Warner has to offer. As a society, we’re quite brainwashed into aspiring to some image of ideal health, and will try all kinds of cockamamie plans and tricks to try to achieve that. The slim, photogenic lifestyle guru with the detox plan (and matching t-shirts and tote bags for sale in her online shop) has the message down to a “science”. Warner’s message often gets clouded by his meandering writing style, or over-explaining either science or psychology to the point where the reader becomes bored.

While he’s right, and righteous, there needs to be more here to engage the reader, especially the ones who desperately need to be converted away from Paltrow Science and towards reason and logic. He offers some lists and tips to help weed out the charlatans, but probably the best tip always is to not take health advice from an uncredited stranger on the internet. Especially one who became a health “expert” by curing their own health problems with smoothies.

Detox Day 3 – Uncle!

It was the parmesan cheese that did me in. I am sad and pathetic and weak.

I had made a quinoa and kamut pasta with sauteed rapini and without even thinking about it, sprinkled the parm across the top. D’oh! As the point of the whole exercise was to keep the body free of all foods that were potential toxins, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. In theory, I should start all over again, not just brush off what I could and not worry about it.

Then this morning, the coffee called to me. “Sheryl…” it whispered. “You know you want me. I’m a delightful dark roast of Tanzanian peaberry beans. You made me yourself in your little roaster. Did you know that organic coffee is actually an ANTIoxidant and has a plethora of healthful properties? Remember that study that showed that women who drank a cup of coffee per day had a lower rate of Alzheimers disease?” And then the coffee won. Because even greater than my fear of being fat, cancerous and full of illness is my fear of being eighty and not remembering where I left my teeth.

Continue reading “Detox Day 3 – Uncle!”

Detox Day 2 – Stop Eating My Balls!

I understand now why people doing detox for drugs and alcohol get sent off to be locked up and monitored 24/7. It’s not because they might cheat, it’s not because they might hurt themselves or others. No, it’s totally to keep other people with the good shit away from them. Because there’s nothing worse than trying to break your crack habit when everyone around you has a big ol’ pipe hanging out of their mouths.

A food detox is even worse because you can’t go cold turkey and neither can anyone else. You’ve got to eat and so do the folks around you. And they just might choose to eat a big plate of cheese and crackers washed down with a tasty glass of beer, all while you sit in the corner gnawing on an apple that turns out to be half-rotten. And then, the travesty of all travesties, they take the one sweet treat you’ve made for yourself so you won’t go insane, and eat those too!

I love my husband, I really do. He’s been supportive of me in every way, no matter what cockamamie idea I come up with, no matter what scheme I develop. He is down with the detox diet, just as long as I continue to make him tasty food. Now, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we eat a pretty healthy diet for the most part, so the detox meals I’ve been serving up so far are not rare or unusual. So far, hubby is happy. However, he has the option of eating additional foods, or non-detox foods, whereas I don’t, at least while I’m working on this experiment. Which is why when I found him with his grubby little hand in the container of date and coconut balls this morning, I went a little ballistic. That’s my only source of sugar, yo. I have willingly given up cupcakes, candy and chocolate – unless I start mainlining maple syrup, all I’ve got are those little balls of ground-up dried fruit. Yes, they are tasty and healthy and we should have some in the house all the time, I agree. But those ones, right there, those fuckers are MINE.

Continue reading “Detox Day 2 – Stop Eating My Balls!”

Detox Day 1 – I Dream of Cupcakes

So I turned myself into a human guinea pig and decided to go on a two-week detox diet. This was in part out of writer’s curiosity and because it would make a good topic over on FitFare, the blog that I edit and write for, but as those of you who know me IRL are aware, it’s been a damn stressful few months and I’ve been eating crap, and I just wanted a week or two to allow the crap to work its way out of my system.

So far, so good. Mind you, it’s only mid-afternoon and already I’m getting sick of brown rice. And I’ve already cheated. It’s a small technicality, because I planned to cut out processed soy products (faux sausage, ground round, soy cheese, etc), but I used soy milk to make rice pudding this morning for breakfast. I’m also not exactly sure how I’m going to live without wheat for two weeks. Flour, bread; the staff of life, yo! It’s really going to kill me to be without bread. I’ve got brown rice flour, and kamut and spelt flour (again with the cheating, as both as related to wheat), and I’ve got millet, quinoa, and oats, and well as kamut and quinoa pasta – but I just know I’m going to break down and scream for bread by Day 4. There’s also a beer geek gathering at a local pub scheduled for Thursday night. I don’t suppose one beer will kill me, but it sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Continue reading “Detox Day 1 – I Dream of Cupcakes”