The Conscious Cook vs. the Skinny Bitch(es)

Rory Freedman, Kim Barnouin and Tal Ronnen are the polar opposites of meat-free cooking. Freedman and Barnouin (a former model with a degree in holistic nutrition and former modeling agent) authored Skinny Bitch, the New York Times Bestselleing diet book that spawned an entire line of bitchy diet books (Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven, Skinny Bastard). Ronnen, a pedigreed chef, is the author of The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. Ronnen is a favored chef among the celeb set, including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Arianna Huffington, his book is also a New York Times bestseller (and Wall Street Journal bestseller and Epicurious top 10 cookbook of the year).

The Skinny Bitches use shtick, swear words and backtalk to get folks on a somewhat subversive (the words "vegetarian", "vegan" or "meat-free" appear anemically in their marketing literature) meat-free weight loss bandwagon. The authors speak to people who have "that voice" in their heads - the nagging, disappointed self-hating one - to sell books. The Skinny Bitches' Red Wine "Beef" Stew is basically nothing but a low-fat stew recipe with fake meat in place of real meat. Nothing groundbreaking - and nothing a person with a regular cookbook and access to Morningstar crumbles at the local Safeway can't accomplish on their own.

Tal Ronnen approaches the topic of meat-free cooking straight-on, referencing the fact in his book title and then relying simply on his talent for creating tasty recipes to sell the idea. This man obviously just loves to cook - apparently as much as he loves animals. Ronnen's Gardein "Chicken" Scaloppini, a favorite of both Oprah and Ellen, incorporates Asian influences with the addition of ingredients like udon noodle cakes and pea shoots. The recipe is a creative take on a meaty standard, and something the average home chef will find a challenge - but likely a welcome one.

The Verdict: The Skinny Bitches are just that - two skinny bitches who had a good idea at a good time. Their books are riddled with illogical and contradictory diet advice (processed food is the devil, yet highly processed fake meats are recommended in recipes; meat is rotting flesh so is bad for you, vegetables are alive and, therefore, good for you) and one would be hard-pressed to find any original or groundbreaking ideas in them.

Tal Ronnen is a sincere and proven chef who relies on nothing but his knowledge of food and love of cooking meat-free meals. The recipes in his book are creative and refreshing, and do not make any diet claims at all - other than making the reader a more "conscious" cook.

Since one doesn't need to be actually conscious to get through any of the Skinny Bitch books, this versus victory goes to the Conscious Cook. No matter how you market it, the tastiest always wins.

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