June 19, 2014
(+++) INTO THE NICHE
The New Greenmarket Cookbook: Recipes and Tips from Today’s Finest Chefs and the Stories Behind the Farms that Inspire Them. By Gabrielle Langholtz. Da Capo. $24.99.
The Pregnant Athlete: How to Stay in Your Best Shape Ever—Before, During, and After Pregnancy. By Brandi Dion & Steven Dion, Ed.D., with Joel Heller, M.D., and Perry McIntosh. DaCapo. $17.99.
These days, with fewer and fewer people reading traditional printed books, it can be argued that books of any kind are a niche product. Some, however, trumpet their “niche-ness” more directly than others. The New Greenmarket Cookbook is entirely focused on New York City, offering opinions and recipes from more than 90 chefs, authors and other food-involved people (e.g., Martha Stewart) who live in, work in or are focused on the Big Apple. Its underlying premise involves such elitist (although certainly well-intentioned) matters as “cultivating ecologically aware eaters” and “food access and justice” – easy concepts to support in the abstract and amid great wealth, but not ones within reach of the vast majority of everyday food consumers. And speaking of elitism, a sampling of the recipes includes “Dandelion Green Salad with Market Pancetta,” “Sugar Snap Pea and Whipped-Ricotta Tartines,” “No-Bake Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Nectarine Compote,” “Sautéed Fluke with Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Pickled Celery,” and “Smoked Green Wheat and Parsnips.” These are not recipes for people who shop at neighborhood supermarkets, and are not for tyros in the kitchen: esoterica abounds here. And that is exactly the point. The book fits within one of the food fads of the moment, the “locavore” movement, which urges people to eat only what is seasonally available in their immediate vicinity (in fact, the book’s recipes are arranged by season). There are good reasons to “eat local,” including more-healthful produce, a reduced carbon footprint (because locally grown foods do not have to be transported long distances), support of small farmers, etc. Ease of shopping, simplicity of preparation and low cost, though, are not on the “locavore” menu, and are entirely missing in The New Greenmarket Cookbook. But the book is emphatically not for everyone – it is for those “in the know,” those for whom convenience, time and cost of ingredients are largely irrelevant. The recipes will be quite appealing to people already predisposed to favor New York City’s brand of elegant eating. And the stories of the small farms from which the ingredients come have resonance beyond the recipes: they are short, often involving portraits of people whose passion is to grow plants and raise animals in better ways (although “better” has different definitions in differing circumstances). The New Greenmarket Cookbook is not for everyone and is indeed intended to set apart those it targets from the great mass of consumers. Its appeal is strong within its deliberately self-limited niche.
The target readership of The Pregnant Athlete is obvious from the book’s title, the word “athlete” being as crucial to understanding the audience as the word “pregnant.” This is not a book for people who exercise lightly or moderately for health: it is for intense, highly dedicated people for whom athletic endeavors include triathlons, marathons, performing dance, intense swimming, long-distance bicycling, etc. Starting “Before You Conceive” and continuing through a chapter called “After Delivery: Back on Track, Back to Fit,” The Pregnant Athlete is intended to help serious, highly devoted athletes maintain fitness routines – modified ones, that is – throughout pregnancy, so they can resume their fitness-focused lives as quickly as possible after childbirth. One of many quotations in the book actually sums things up pretty well: “My approach was to keep doing what I was doing for as long as I could do it.” The women who will read this book are ones who will gravitate to its multiple warm-up routine options, who will be comfortable doing five rounds of 10 push-ups and 10 squats while pregnant, who will find the dozen photos for the “stretch or foam roller routine,” including “downward facing dog” and “spider-man stretch,” comfortable and appealing. Each chapter starts with a “Your Body Now” list that says how readers should feel in terms of strength, agility, stamina and other characteristics from month to month. In “Nutrition” under Month 3, for example, this says, “Eat small meals to fuel your workout through any morning sickness.” In “Modifications” under Month 7, the list says, “Protect your pelvic ligaments from overstretching from bouncing (jogging) or impact (jumping).” Each chapter includes specific exercises, quotations from athletes with children, and advice that is intended to be perky but tends to come across as flat: “One thing you can do is keep a positive attitude.” There are also boxes that debunk old wives’ tales, such as “exercise can cause premature delivery or low birth weight” and “running will cause the membrane to break.” The specificity of the recommended exercises and the reassurance that intense athletes can continue doing most of what they consider of primary importance during pregnancy will make this book attractive to its intended readers. It is far too intense for the vast majority of pregnant women, but it is not written for them or their partners: it is for elite or would-be-elite athletes who want to be sure not to feel they are “slacking off” during pregnancy and in the months after giving birth.