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Articles Tagged “health”
Feb 9, 2016 Random Notes

Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after narrowly avoiding an accident? Salivated at the sight, or thought, of a sour lemon? If so, then you’ve experienced how dramatically the workings of your mind can affect your body. 

Jo Marchant
Jo Marchant, author of CURE: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body.

 

Discover why placebos, hypnosis, meditation, and prayer can help keep you healthy in Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body.

Enter the CURE SWEEPSTAKES to win a free copy of the book! The sweepstakes runs until Friday, February 12th, so don’t miss your chance! 

Oct 26, 2015 Editor’s Desk

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.

 

At the heart of every good cookbook is a compelling story. When I got the proposal for this cookbook, I was utterly moved by Ann Ogden Gaffney’s story of turning her own experience with cancer into a mission that has helped so many others.

Ann had a glamorous career in fashion when she was diagnosed with cancer the first time in 2001. She says she was lucky that time—she had surgery to remove her kidney, and then she was quickly back traveling the world. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer several years later her, it was a much different story. She couldn’t travel and she was bald. She took a hiatus from work to give herself the time to get through treatment. It turned out to be a decision that would change her life.

As a passionate home cook, Ann found that she could cope with her symptoms by listening to what her body needed and craved. As she became immersed in the world of hospitals, she realized that she could use her skills to help other patients cope in the same way, teaching them and their loved ones how to make good food that would bring comfort and nourishment as they dealt with illness. Ann started offering advice, then recipes, and then began organizing free classes.

When her own treatment was over, she discovered she had no interest in going back to client meetings to discuss the new trends in colors or skirt lengths that season. Her heart was still back in the cancer suite.

In 2007, she founded Cook for Your Life which has gone from a one-woman show to a leading nonprofit that serves patients all over the tri-state area and all over the country through their popular interactive website.

When I talked to Ann for the first time about this cookbook, I was struck by her spirit and fabulous sense of humor. And I heard her determination to create a cookbook that really addressed the unique challenges that cancer patients face head on. She told me that there was no other cancer cookbook out there that approached cooking the way that she wanted to. Some doctors give advice on nutrition (many don’t). But no one tells you how to implement that advice and how to cook as your cravings, taste buds, and energy levels change dramatically during treatment. What people need are simple recipes with short ingredient lists that deliver and that really satisfy.

Ann’s strong vision for the book also included its design. She felt strongly that it should look rich and beautiful, not clinical. And I agreed wholeheartedly. After all, just because someone is sick, it doesn’t mean that they lose their sense of pleasure. And as Ann understands, a sense of pleasure is vital to feeling human, something so important when dealing with disease.

We were lucky to have Ann’s husband Joe Gaffney, a renowned photographer, on board to shoot the food photos and the results are stunning. And the recipes are terrific. I cook out of the book quite a bit for my own family—Ann developed the recipes with cancer patients in mind, but it’s the kind of simple, good, soulful food that everyone loves.

I’m proud to be working with Ann to bring her story and message to so many who need it. It’s a cookbook that is as much about the healing power of food as it is about keeping a sense of self while going through the frightening and overwhelming process of treating disease. I think it will be a classic for many, many years to come.

Read more about the book here.

Aug 3, 2015 Editor’s Desk

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.

When the proposal for Stir came in, it was subtitled “How My Brain Exploded and I Got Cooking.” What I found in those pages just about made my own brain explode. Here was a memoir by a first-time writer who had survived a traumatic brain injury, a Harvard Ph.D candidate who lost sight in one eye, her sense of smell, and a chunk of her skull so large that she had to wear a hockey helmet to protect her brain, impressive enough, but what made the proposal a standout was not her injury, but the way she wrote about how food and the simple everyday acts of cooking, baking, stirring, sautéing, and sharing it, helped her to heal. As she writes in the book, getting well meant finding her everyday, and she found hers in the kitchen. This stunning book didn’t fit neatly into any category in the bookstore, but everyone at Penguin Random House who read it loved it, and we knew we had to publish Stir.

Every author takes an approach to writing that makes sense to them. Some outline, others write set pieces to be stitched together later. Some write almost in a fugue state, getting the book down on paper from beginning to end, barely stopping to put in commas. Jessica was not that kind of writer. She was careful, precise. Every word worked at the sentence level. The challenge with Stir was broader—we didn’t want the book to be pigeon-holed as a recovery memoir, but we also knew that her illness was the natural beginning of her story. During editorial talks, we spent much of our time discussing how to weave various strands together. First, of course, there was the aneurysm. Then, there was the food—the facts of cooking it and eating it and recovering because of it. Beyond those two main threads, there was a love story between Jessica and her unflappable husband, Eli, including their attempts to start a family (spoiler: they do! as anyone who follows her wonderful blog, sweetamandine.com knows from the pictures of her two adorable daughters she posts there); an ode to the constellation of women in her life—her mother, stepmother, grandmothers, her Aunt Fran, and close friends—whose influence she feels strongly in the kitchen; and, finally, the story of how she came to a new understanding of the link between food and identity.

As we’d talk, Jessica would occasionally ask me, “How do you think I should…?” We’d mull it over and then she would go off and come up with a perfect solution. When I said as much, more often than not, she’d respond that she had simply looked at a memoir she admired to see how that writer succeeded in doing whatever it was Jessica herself was trying to do. She was applying the skills she’d honed as an academic to the process of writing a memoir. She read and dissected every memoir she could get her hands on —Wild, The Liar’s Club, Eat, Pray, Love, and My Stroke of Insight, and dozens of others– to pick them apart and learn how they performed different feats of narrative and storytelling. She marked her copy of Wild with a “Pivot!” in the margins next to the places Cheryl Strayed switched from one subject to another without losing the reader, and then figured out a way to make the technique her own in Stir. It was as if she was reading to defend her dissertation and her dissertation was how to tell the story of her life. Again and again, I could see her incorporating the lessons she’d gleaned from the writers she loved into her own book.

One day, she sent me a document I’m not sure I was meant to see. It was an eleven page spreadsheet with columns delineating plot, characters, conflict, what we learn (general), what we learn (food), and “to do.” It showed an awareness of how the book was working—or not—from a structural perspective, which helped to keep everything in balance. Another time, she sent me a file that had all of the material dealing with Eli in one document so she could make sure the story hung together, which it did. This all sounds terribly clinical, but the book that came out of it is anything but, despite a good part of it taking place in and out of hospitals after brain surgery.

What I love about Jessica’s writing, especially her writing about food, is how unfussy it is—the opposite of academic writing with its particular conventions, and different, too, from a certain type of food writing, the kind with sumptuous descriptions of dishes that sound like menu items at a restaurant where almost no one can afford to eat. Jessica, however, writes every bit as much for the person who swoons over grass-fed butter as she does for someone who savors a Ritz cracker melting on her tongue. She writes exquisitely but without pomp about how the way we prepare food and who we eat it with connects us to our past, our future, and our true selves.

The moments where she connects to food shine brightly on the page. She writes about the smell of cucumber when her olfactory nerves kick in again, the mushrooms chopped for a favorite pasta dish when she first returns to the kitchen, and an almond cake resting on a counter that acts as a Proust’s madeleine of sorts as it lets her know, as she writes, that food had something to teach her, and that it felt good to listen. I am glad that she did.

Read more about Stir here.

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