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Introducing “Beating Arthritis: Alternative Cooking”

Note: The following excerpt is from the opening pages of Beating Arthritis: Alternative Cooking written by Baker Dan, published by Baker Dan, LLC, © 2013.   The excerpt includes the copyright page and the introduction.

Beating Arthritis: Alternative Cooking, first edition.

Copyright © 2013 Dan Shaham.  All rights reserved.

Photography copyright © 2013 Mira Blushtein.

Edited by Elinoar Rabin.

Graphic Design Baker Dan.

Published by Baker Dan, LLC., New York, NY.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.  Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to Baker Dan, LLC., P.O. Box 321996, New York, NY-10032, or by email addressed to

Disclaimer: The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.  The advice contained in this book may not be suitable for your particular condition.  As repeatedly stated in this book, you are advised to seek the help of professionals when addressing your particular needs.  Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for any kind of damages.

ISBN: 978-0-9894380-1-8 (pbk.)

Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Baker Dan.

Beating arthritis: alternative cooking / Baker Dan.

pages cm

ISBN: 978-0-9894380-1-8 (pbk.)

ISBN: 978-0-9894380-2-5 (e-book)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Inflammation—Diet therapy—Recipes.  2. Gluten-free diet—Recipes.  3. Sugar-free diet—Recipes.  4. Milk-free diet—Recipes.  5. Self-care, Health.     I. Title.

RB131 .B35 2013



Manufactured in the United States of America



            This book grapples with a basic question:  How do you handle food restrictions? Suppose you had been eating pretty much whatever you wanted, and then, because of a health issue, or because you simply wanted to feel better, many foods that you once enjoyed are no longer “allowed.”  My stance is: Don’t panic, you can still enjoy a varied and versatile diet even if you’re restricting certain foods.

Beating Arthritis shows you a method of how to prevent and reduce the inflammation of chronic disease and an attitude of never giving up.  It is not a magic cure, but instead a way of eating, one that will pay off if you persevere.  “Alternative Cooking” suggests an alternative approach to cooking and an alternative way of using ingredients.

In this book you will find answers for many of your questions. What if you cannot eat certain fruits and vegetables, even when you are a vegetarian or a vegan?  What if you need to eliminate wheat flour, added sugar or fats, or certain spices?  If you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, or fat-free, can you still make tasty, appealing and nutritious meals?  Of course you can.

Seventeen years ago, when I was in my early forties, I was diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatoid Arthritis (PRA).  My wife, Tal, and I were living on Central Park West in Manhattan in a well-lighted one-bedroom apartment.  I was busy working on my field research for my doctorate in education, observing and video-recording young children and their male teachers as they interacted during the day.  The previous year I had fulfilled my childhood dream by finishing my flight training and becoming a private pilot.  I was also busy playing my electric guitar, writing songs and putting together a demo CD.  Tal was working as an analyst in an investment company, and traveling the world visiting food companies, her specialty.  Our first son was had not yet been born, although we had already started planning for a child.

My first signs of Palindromic Rheumatoid Arthritis (PRA) were redness on the side of my right index finger at the middle joint.  At first I didn’t pay it any mind, although it was a bit red and warm, but then the joint began to swell, until eventually the finger had nearly doubled in size and was very painful.  I began a lengthy medical odyssey, going to a variety of Western, Chinese, and Alternative doctors, and I eventually changed my diet.  People often ask me to explain how I dealt with PRA through diet, and this book is a summary of what I have learned.      The book has been written from a patient’s point of view, not from a medical one.  Formally, I have two professions.  I became a pastry chef in Israel, graduating in 1989 from The Central Hotel Training School, named after Aryeh Avisar, located at the “Tadmor” Hotel, Herzliya, Israel.  I am also a professional educator, having earned a Ph.D. in Education from New York University in 2003, a Master of Science in Education (MSE) from Bank Street College of Education in 1991, and a BA in Education and English Literature from the Hebrew University in 1983.

The recipes in the book include detailed Nutrition Facts.  In the nutritional analysis I have used the term “portion” instead of “serving.”   The food industry uses the FDA term “serving” on food labels, and this term indicates a legal range of weights that is ascribed to each particular food.   The FDA publishes the guidelines for Serving Size under a “Food Labeling Guide” that appears on the FDA website.  The term “portion” makes more sense in the realm of home cooking, as it is an estimate, according to pragmatic experience, of the number of people who can enjoy a particular recipe.

In one section, Side Dishes, I did not include Nutrition Facts.  These are essentially one ingredient dishes and in this section my intent was to demonstrate how to prepare these dishes.  Nutrition Facts for single ingredients can be found in “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference” published by the United States Department of Agriculture: (

The recipes are all gluten-free, lactose-free, with no added sugar or fat, and all are Kosher.  While I have included vegetarian recipes, I have also included recipes for fish, poultry, and beef.

After my diagnosis, I was confronted with the unknown; it took me a long while to slough off the awkward sense that I was alone in this enterprise of retooling what I ate and how I prepared my meals.  Writing this book has been a cathartic experience for me: I have had to cope with a whole new set of unexpected demands, and the book has helped me to peel off the layers of the long journey.  My message to the reader is simple: Write, share.  Please do not feel alone in your struggle, because you are not the first or the last to be confronted with profound changes in your health.  Please send your comments and questions to, or visit my website at


The Essence of Alternative Cooking

Alternative cooking (and alternative baking) is in essence a process of elimination: Fewer ingredients rather than more.  Simplicity instead of complexity: eat fewer calories, eliminate processed food, and make your own food with your own hands.  There is no cure for arthritis in its numerous forms, but for some, preventative measures, such as controlling one’s diet, works.  The medical world is divided on this point, and I have found two major camps: one camp says that diet has no effect on arthritis, and the other says it does make a difference.  For example, Drs. Harry Spiera, Leslie D. Kerr, and Ts’ai-fan Yu belong to the former camp, while Dr. Grant Cooper belongs to the latter (see Bibliography at the end of the book).

I believe that the book is applicable to people suffering from other illnesses beside PRA, for example diabetes, or celiac disease.  I have put Arthritis in the title because of my personal history, but the method I am describing in this book of changing one’s eating habits can apply to coping with the dietary restrictions of other illnesses as well.

The idea behind alternative cooking is simple: cut the suspect list.  For example, if you are dealing with arthritis in one of its many forms, you want to identify the causes that are under your control, and avoid or at least reduce or inflammation.  Inflammation is often treated with medication and the problem with anti-inflammatory medications is that they often have side effects; some of them are well-known and accepted, and some are particular to the individual who takes the anti-inflammatories.  I took various anti-inflammatory medications over the years that included steroids and non-steroids anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).  Altogether, I experienced the following side effects: Insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, aggression, stomachache, muscle-loss, weight-loss, memory-loss and creativity-loss.

The brain fog and confusion that one may experience from anti-inflammatory medications can make it especially difficult to undertake a new regimen or effect sustained change. There is no question that habits are difficult to break, but beginning an alternative cooking regimen can lower or free you from reliance on medication and allow you to rely instead on simplicity and rolling up your sleeves.

If you check out my recipes for fish, chicken and beef, you’ll see that they’re the essence of simplicity.  If we focus primarily on taste for a moment, then in fact these ingredients come ready made.  The grass that the cow grazed on provides flavor and ensures that the meat will be tasty.  The same goes for chicken and fish—their habitats provide all they need.  Adding spices to beef is like adding sugar to tea or coffee: who needs it?  The sugar masks the wonderful natural taste inherent in the coffee or tea.

I mainly use stock to enhance the taste of fish, beef and chicken.  Before I prepare the dish I make sure that I have enough fish stock, beef stock or chicken stock on hand.  In the recipes you will find few additional ingredients to complement the taste, but the core is simple: the beef, chicken or fish by themselves.  And sometimes you don’t even need stock.  The fat that is already in the meat will give it a wonderful taste.

The major goal in alternative cooking is quite basic:  Food is primary, gratification is secondary.  If an ingredient causes you inflammation, it is out of the picture:  Plain, simple, and effective.  The choice is stark: A full belly and a clear mind or a bursting belt and brain fog.       At the heart of alternative cooking are the essentials of good nutrition: keep them balanced and they will provide the foundation.  In the next section I detail the simple available tools that give us the basic nutritional information we need.



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