Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: Skinny Bitch in Love

By Miriam Plotinsky

I’m a big believer in healthy eating. About two years ago, I stopped buying so-called “white foods,” the stuff made of refined sugars and flours, and I’ve fully adapted to spelt and brown rice. One year ago, I cut a majority of processed foods out of my diet and began to take pleasure in whole foods, and I sometimes actually prefer a perfectly ripe white nectarine to a piece of chocolate (crazy talk, I know). All in all, eating cleaner has been a good experience, but it’s one that I would never try to push on anyone else because I’m not a nutritionist and, well, it’s none of my business what other people eat. Some healthy eaters, however, are more forceful about educating the public about the details of their food consumption.

Over the past few years, vegan devotee Kim Barnouin has been spreading the gospel of her eating practices in her Skinny Bitch series through both informational books and cookbooks. Her first foray into fiction, Skinny Bitch in Love, is a fun if overly preachy look into the life of vegan chef Clementine (a.k.a. Clem) Cooper, a fictionalized version of Barnouin herself.

While working as a chef at a prestigious vegan restaurant, Clem gets sabotaged one night when a spiteful coworker puts butter into a ravioli dish and a restaurant critic cries foul. Down but not out, Clem picks herself up again by giving vegan cooking classes, being a personal chef, and selling her baked goods to local cafés to rebuild her reputation as the best vegan chef in town. Clem’s ultimate goal is to open her own restaurant, but when dashing (and meat-eating) celebrity restaurateur Zach Jeffries decides to open his new eatery complete with dead animal’s head over the sign in Clem’s ideal restaurant spot, sparks start to fly.

A lot of the book is Barnouin selling the vegan lifestyle, as evidenced by Clem’s constant instruction for clients to “cut the crap” from their diets. Her best friend, Sara, even goes on Clem’s diet and the pounds start melting off in yet another push for veganism. While the story is cute and I enjoyed reading about Clem’s cooking exploits, her character’s judgmental voice gets old pretty quickly. We’re supposed to assume that because Clem falls for a carnivore she has a more tolerant view of all eating philosophies, but her insistence on seeing things her way belies her budding romantic relationship with Zach and makes the reader wonder if Zach and Clem will make it past the book's pages.  Furthermore, veganism is no doubt healthy and perhaps everyone should try it just so they can understand what it’s all about, but it’s hard to be open to a new dietary plan when the person endorsing it is calling herself a “skinny bitch.” The implication is that not only are all thin women bitches (a cultural misconception with which I take issue), but also that larger women are at fault for not eating in this very restrictive way. That tone, which is pervasive throughout the entire book, is a definite turnoff.

That said, the book is still an enjoyable read. When Barnouin writes about vegan food, her passion is palpable. But if you really want to learn more about veganism, either watching the documentary Vegucated or reading Barnouin’s original Skinny Bitch, which doesn’t hide behind the mask of fiction, might be a better bet.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Reading Frenzy said...

Thanks for the review I also try to eat a "healthier" diet whatever that really means but I have to admit to every once in a while going to DQ and enjoying a burger fries and sundae

Connie said...

I laughed out loud at Zach putting up a dead animal’s head. I appreciate your honesty in the review but still look forward to reading the book myself.

Thanks for sharing.