Vegucation of Robin is an interesting book, just watch out for the pseudo-science...

As a big fan of the Howard Stern Show, I’ve always enjoyed the rapport and interactions that the cast have had with Robin Quivers.  She can be the voice of reason in some circumstances and a window into the latest experiments she’s doing with hobbies and her health lifestyle.   It was my enjoyment of her Vegucating Robin YouTube series and website that made me excited when I heard she was coming out with a book on the same topic.  I figured it would be a terrific book to add to the collection with some good recipes.  From that perspective, I think we have a winner. It also provides some great insight into her own personal health challenges and the evolution of her diet over time from a standard American diet that was literally killing her to her now vegan diet.

The problem I have with a lot of diet books is that they come from a position that the reader is unfamiliar.  If a person was never 300 pounds and trying to get to 180, it’s a lot harder for them to project empathy at the problem.  It’s certainly not impossible, but they haven’t walked a mile in a person’s shoes and it often shows.  Robin has walked those miles, countless of them, and has the battle scars to prove it (including a massive bladder cancer that she is now recovering from).   She addresses all of that in the book and provides a pretty compelling, “If I can do it, you can too!” narrative.  That narrative, along with some tips and tricks will work very well for people that want to take charge of their health, especially if they are intrigued by her cleansing and veganism protocol.  Unfortunately, it is with her description of the rationale for the protocols that I think the book falls short.

First, and most importantly, the vegan diet she is advocating is a healthy and balanced vegan diet. This isn’t the short sighted vegan diet of tofurkey, meatless hot dogs and almond milk ice cream.  No, this is one that is extremely heavy on the fresh, organic vegetables and minimally processed foods.  I therefore struggle to understand why she went through the trouble of presenting pseudo-scientific information to help her cause.  It is not true that animal products “rot” in your gut for days on end.  It is not true that organic vegetables have been proven to be higher in vitamins and minerals than conventional agriculture.  It is not true that our body needs to be forced to cleanse itself, or that the mechanisms they are using for the cleanses do any such thing.  If a belief in these things is what you need to get jump started in making positive steps in taking control of your health, then by all means please internalize them and move forward.  Eating a delicious whole foods diet like she lists should be enough however.

I haven’t tried any of the recipes in the book, but I do intend to give them a whirl.  From the descriptions and ingredients they sound pretty solid.  One brief spot check I did was read her risotto recipe.  The fact that she calls out a correct procedure for making risotto, the reason for the arborio short grain rice, and how you can swap that out for farro for arborio was a good indication that they didn’t skimp on quality for ease of use or ingredients.  Another brief spot check I did was on her basic vegetable stock recipe.  Again, a really solid list of potential ingredient combinations as well as which ones to avoid, like dark leafy vegetables, is a good indication of where things will go.  I’m personally looking forward to actually trying these.

Overall Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pluses: A really good list of recipes combined with a detailed and empathetic narrative which will connect the reader’s potential struggles with her own.

Minuses: A bit too much pseudo-science is presented as fact, which detracts from the overall message.

Summary: If you like Robin on the show, you will like this book.  If you’ve never heard of Robin but are looking for a good book to get started on a vegan journey, this combined with something like Engine 2 Diet will be a good place to start.