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Book of Jook, The

by: Bob Flaws

Boulder CO: Blue Boppy Press 1995, $16.96, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-936-185-60-0

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 1997 Issue: 4(4) page(s): 13 and 16

Time-honored combinations of any number of grains, vegetables, meat, eggs, and/or Chinese herbs make porridge known as Jook or Congee. For most folk, they are breakfast foods. They can easily be made overnight in a crock pot, economical, popular among the elderly, nutritious, and delicious.

Chinese medicinal porridges in this volume are a healthy alternative to typical Western breakfast. They surely beat bacon and eggs on any health-rating chart. When you try them, you are bound to change your morning food practices, even some of those for lunch.

Bob Flaws is considered an authority on Chinese medicine. He is a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner (TCM), who in this volume, shares recipes collected from a number of Chinese language sources, all listed in the preface. Some have ingredients available only at a Chinese herbalist or a specialty store, but do not let than deter your efforts at tasting them even though this can prove a challenge if you do not have access to Chinarown source. Many of the recipes only use ingredients available at your large local supermarket.

The recipe for Deer Antler Gelatin Congee serves as an illustration of how the Jook recipes are presented. It starts by listing their functions--in this case--it "Supplements the kidneys and fills the essence," then offers indications: "Essence insufficiency, infertility," etc., and next gives ingredients: Colla Couru Cerir (Lu Jiao Jiao) 20 g., Seven Gyzae Sativae (i.e. Fresh Ginger, Sheng Jiang), 3 slices" etc. The method of preparation and administration follows advising "First cook the rice into porridge. Eat for 3-5 days, most suitably in winter."

Those without culinary concerns and those who enjoy experimentation will find this book an excellent overview of beliefs and practices of professional TCM practitioners as they attend patients under their care. In additon, it is a useful means of learning about TCM''s philosophy and complexity.

Readers and health providers who find diet central to the development and treatment of many diseases should explore these Medicinal Congees. I think you should, too. They should not be overlooked as you do your bit attempting to prevent disease. As books about Chinese medicinal therapy and TCM go, this one is simple and the recipes tasty. With winter approaching, they are a wonderful and warm way to start your day.

Recently, on a restricted diet, rice the only ingredient. Wouold that I could have indulged in Galangal and Rice Congee. It is touted for pain in the abdomen, and mine was crying out. When I recovered enough and had medical permission to make some, it warmed my very soul. So did the Orange Peel Congee suggested to "eliminate dampness and transform phlegm," neither of which I had. The Chinese Yam and Jujube Congee was terrific; and while I can not vouch for any impact on "strength for the four limbs," one indication for taking it, I do know that its satisfaction lasted until I had tiem for lunch some seven hours ater. Wood Ear Congee treats panting and other condiitions, also not problems of mine, as it offers a final advise, "eat it on a regular basis." Let me tell you, I will; I loved both the taste and texture.

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