A previous version of this article appeared on JacalynBeales.com.
In a perfect world where unicorns were real–and not simply a euphemism for a guy with a killer smile who actually enjoys chatting with your parents–I’d be Amanda Chantal Bacon. My diet would consist of cosmically good-for-you green smoothies and juice cleanses I could actually stick to without scarfing down a plate of scallop potatoes three days in. I’d have perfect skin and hair, no visible laugh lines, and less water weight. I’d probably be in the kitchen making my own coconut kefir and cashew cheese as opposed to writing this right now.
But I’m me, and for the most part, that means failing juice detoxes miserably and spending too much money on local honey.
Many people have laughed or guffawed at, and all around mocked, Bacon for her seemingly unattainable, unrealistic, and at times completely bizarre approach to living a healthy lifestyle. Her brand, Moon Juice, first arrived on the healthy-living “scene” with its ever-popular dusts, also known as adaptogen blends, which are purported to be coveted by both celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Perhaps the two most popular, the brand’s Sex Dust and Beauty Dust use specific blends of adaptogens (powdered botanicals) with pretty self-explanatory goals.
Various outlets and digital platforms have dragged Bacon online and on social media thanks to a rather dramatic situation involving a stolen crystal and singer, Father John Misty. Then, there was the 2015 Elle article which outlined in detail what Bacon eats (at least, what she was eating in 2015, anyway) on a daily basis; people mercilessly poked fun at her for a daily health regimen that sounded like Gweneth Paltrow’s on steroids. It seemed as though everyone was obsessed with frying Bacon’s bacon over a healthy lifestyle and passion for crystals that people hadn’t really seen since Gwen Pal began evangelizing about detoxes that don’t actually do anything for you and Spencer Pratt bought a $75,000 crystal. You could say people were more interested in mocking Bacon than they were about their own health. But even with her seemingly impossible diet or natural cures to beauty woes, when looked at less critically and more with interest, one can easily discern that Bacon’s own routine isn’t more or less complicated than many of our own are.
And then came the cookbook.
The Moon Juice Cookbook: Cosmic Alchemy for a Thriving Body, Beauty, and Consciousness was released in October 2016 to the excitement and glee of many a Moon Juice fan…and the salivating mouths of Bacon’s many critics. Articles began cropping up, eagerly rifling their way through the cookbook with childlike, sneering abandon. Many laughed at Bacon’s use of words like “alchemy,” “cosmic,” and “radiance,” while others simply found most of the recipes to be a complete waste of time. And, to be fair, the cookbook does read like a spiritual guide to powdered mushrooms than one filled with 75 healthy, healing recipes virtually anyone could make–if just about “anyone” had an endless food budget. But unlike many of her critics and naysayers, The Moon Juice Cookbook actually offers more to the would-be health nut and adaptogen-duster than first meets the eye. It’s simply the approach that has people confused.
The Book Itself
The wonderful thing about Bacon’s cookbook is not that it’s religiously healthy and hippie, but that its simple recipes are approachable enough for anyone willing to spend $120 or so on a juicer and food dehydrator. Don’t have those? No worries; there are other recipes that don’t require you to dry out vegetables or juice pounds of jalapenos. The book doesn’t purport to make you a healthier, happier person just by eating the recipes alone, nor does it make any radical claims that you’ll lose weight and actually become Amanda Chantal Bacon, should you choose to make the Raita recipe that is, admittedly, beautifully simple and delicious.
If you’re a lover of good food photography–or weird, kaleidoscopic imagery in general–then you’ll certainly be in for a treat when you flip through the pages of the cookbook. Each photo is like an art piece in and of itself, with stunning arrays of colors, tones, hues, and some pretty rad layouts that had me questioning, upon first glance, whether the images were images of food at all, or simply just…art.
If, on the other hand, beautiful, hardcover cookbooks don’t impress you as much as their recipes should, you’ll be glad to know that each of the 75 recipes are quite concise and simple to follow, but only if you’re aware of what half the ingredients are (many of which the cookbook offers no explanation on). Regardless, a quick search on Google (which may turn into hours researching the benefits of chaga) will aid you in fully understanding which ingredients do what and, for that matter, what they actually are.
Far be it from a beginner’s guide to cooking with adaptogens, the Moon Juice Cookbook is, in reality, a more simple approach to cooking vegan, healthy dishes than most brightly-colored, happy-go-lucky health cookbooks are. There are no preachy, seemingly overdone shots of Bacon in the book that make you feel as though you have failed at life on every daunting level if you don’t become her after drinking one cup of your Golden Milk. The verbiage may be slightly obnoxious at times–and sickeningly spiritual/guru-esque at others–but it seems as though Bacon acts more as the 3rd-person omniscient in the cookbook, rather than the typical blond health nut dressed in her boyfriend’s white tee and faded blue jeans we so often see gracing basically every page of every new-age cookbook. We need fancy cookbooks that are still approachable while being beautifully photographed, enticing, and filled with simple-to-follow recipes. I believe Bacon has done a pretty good job in filling that gap.
Where it Falls Short
Though I have high praise for this cookbook, after showing the recipes to friends and family, many of whom had hitherto never heard of the term “adaptogen,” it would seem that my praise is well warranted…for those who actually know what the heck reishi and ashwagandha are.
Here’s the thing: most of the recipes in the Moon Juice Cookbook almost assume a prior knowledge or awareness about certain ingredients, even though some techniques and bits of advice are offered as sprinklings throughout the cookbook. Some ingredients aren’t explained at all, while others will have you guffawing in shock over their prices after a quick Google search. Reishi, for example, is a type of mushroom you can buy powdered and which is featured in a handful of recipes in Bacon’s cookbook, but that same powdered mushroom goes for $49.99 per 100g at my local Whole Foods. At the rate I’m drinking Golden Milk and other beverage recipes found in this cookbook, my food budget will be blown away on powdered fungi. The same can be said for many other ingredients you need for these recipes, including colloidal silver, maca, and the Moon Juice dusts themselves. Although, to be fair, I don’t own any of the dusts and have gotten by just fine without them when making these recipes.
There’s also the issue with the beautiful photography and recipes themselves. Some photos in the cookbook depict dishes that aren’t even in the cookbook, which I found, well…dumbfounding. What’s the point of including an image of zoodles with a yummy looking chia seed sauce if we as readers will never know how to make it? Some of the photography–such as the full-bleed image of a skull with a latte being poured over it–don’t inspire the desire to eat powdered plants but simply appear as artistic filler. And if you look close enough at the recipe themselves, you’ll notice most of them are for “dishes” that aren’t dishes at all; spreads, lattes, juices, or weird crackers that, trust me, you will need therapy just to make.
But we mustn’t forget that this cookbook isn’t a microwave-ready-meals book, nor does it even claim to provide you with full-fledged dinner recipes you can make for your next party. Rather, it provides recipes that are healthy, unique, interesting as hell and quite tasty (even if mushrooms make you gag).
And Why You Should Buy It
Most of the Moon Juice Cookbook consists of recipes that, to the “naked eye,” seem totally unrealistic. To make most of the beverage recipes–not to mention the vegan cheeses–I spent an hour in Whole Foods and walked out with three bags full of superfoods…and a $300.00 grocery bill. To say this cookbook is budget-friendly would be a massively misleading claim, and I won’t even try to goad you into buying it even though I myself have found the book to be advantageous. Some have taken issue with the fact that much of Bacon’s overall lifestyle, which her cookbook is absolutely an extension of, seems completely unattainable. And in some respects, the cookbook does make each recipe feel more like a luxury rather than an actual food or beverage you’re going to drink in a nod to better health.
The Moon Juice dusts, which many of the recipes call for, can go for $30-$40 per container, but given that the cookbook is an extension of Bacon and her cult brand, we have little reason to be shocked that the recipes call for those items. But at no time does Bacon outright tell you that you have to use the dusts to become a better, more beautiful you; the only time you may cringe at the language used to entice you to try the recipes is that used in an almost overtly sexual manner to describe things like milks and coffees. Unlike other healthy living cookbooks, many of which ask insane things of their readers and would-be recipe goers, this cookbook simply gives you recipes for making healthy “dishes” or drinks that don’t make you feel as though you’re a trashcan with absolutely no hope of living well if you don’t make them.
So, whether you’re looking for a beautiful coffee-table book or would simply like to try recipes which will have you incorporating more adaptogens into your everyday regimen, this cookbook is a must. If you can get past the sometimes convoluted, sexually-charged language and disregard the fact that much of the photography depicts things as art, and not necessarily the recipe you’re making, you’ll fall for this cookbook. You don’t even have to buy into the Moon Juice brand or become a cult user of their dusts; you simply have to be open minded. As Bacon reiterates at the beginning of the cookbook, she battled many illnesses and health issues by eating healthy and clean, and though people have mocked her for this, such news is no different from what many people do every day to change their lives. And when we live in a world where women have become famous for eating only bananas for every meal or subsisting on raw juices alone, Bacon’s regimen doesn’t seem so unrealistic or otherworldly.
She also has killer skin, which may just be enough for most of us green beauty-conscious gals to head out and buy this book, even if just for the skin-benefitting recipes.
In my own humble opinion, the cookbook doesn’t so much offer groundbreaking recipes–most are, after all, recipes for things you drink or nibble on, rather than eat as full or main dishes–than it does provide alternative ways to making foods and other ingestibles that you may otherwise choose the sugary/fatty/non-vegan alternative over. Unlike many of her critics, I don’t believe Bacon has made healthy living this bougie, unattainable goal; and it shouldn’t be, either. The cookbook simply says, “Here’s a collection of beautifully healthy recipes; make them if you will, or don’t. But don’t forget to drool over the stellar food photography while you’re at it.”
Have you tried any of The Moon Juice Cookbook recipes?
Also by Jacalyn: Get Wrinkles *And* Acne? Cleansing Grains Are Your New BFF
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Photo: Free People, Urban Outfitters, Food 52