Review by Marilyn Dean
Order Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings
Have I READ it? I have read it, studied it, pored over it, and carried it from room to room
for the last month. I can even find it in the dark. I have several vegan cookbooks. Vegan
Vittles is my go-to reference book, my Betty Crocker, my "Joy of Vegan Cooking."
Simply put, Jo Stepaniak is my gold standard of vegan cooking.
Disclaimers: I am new to vegan cooking. Although I followed an ovo-lacto diet for
several years in the 1980's, many of my nearly 40 years kitchen experience have been
spent cooking standard American (i.e., animal-based) fare. Since the 90's, when health
issues forced us to re-examine our diet, we've eaten mostly lean meats, fish, and at
least one vegetarian meal a week. Because I do most of the cooking and no longer
enjoyed meat (factory farming), I had begun cooking as little of it for myself and my
carnivore spouse as I thought I could get away with. Then he became aware of the
dietary recommendations of Neal Barnard, MD (Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine) and wanted to try them. About two months ago, we watched a video that
literally changed our lives. We were both on board with eliminating meat from our diet,
but very doubtful we could avoid eating other animal products. We wanted to try. That's
where Vegan Vittles comes in.
For those who are in the process of eliminating meat from the diet and would like
to eliminate dairy as well: Buy this book. Do NOT waste your time and effort
with "vegetarian" cookbooks. They will not help you eliminate dairy products; more
likely they will convince you that you cannot manage without them. I have more
vegetarian cookbooks than I can count. When I started scanning those books for vegan
recipes, I was in for quite the shock. I suddenly realized that most of the vegetarian
main dish recipes that I had been cooking were loaded with cheese. Not just a little
cheese, either--a lot. I went through one "meatless" cookbook and could not find a
single main-dish recipe that did not make use of either eggs or cheese. It was something
of an epiphany to realize that, for me at least, an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet was really
more animal- than plant-based. The trouble I have with the ovo-lacto approach is that
animal-based products are still at the center of the meal. I don't wish to offend ovo-lacto
vegetarians(after all, I was one once one myself), but I call it "all the benefits of meat
without actually eating it." And, many vegetarian cookbooks are written by people who
still believe animal products are necessary to good health. They include milk, eggs, and
cheese purposely, in order to ensure "adequate nutrition."
Why Vegan Vittles? I want vegan food that reliably tastes good and is nutritionally
balanced. I want recipes that are low in fat and make use of complex carbohydrates. I
want to see a nutritional analysis for each recipe. Vegan Vittles does all of this, but here
the sum is so much more than a total of the parts. I suspect that "sum" is be Jo Stepaniak
herself. For me, Vegan Vittles is more than a cookbook; it is an adventure.
Although most people probably cook with an immediate meal in mind, there are some
recipes that take more time. Here's what I do: I rise early on a Saturday morning, when
the house is quiet and I have the kitchen all to myself. I am giddy with anticipation. I
will have been thinking and planning for this session earlier in the week and so I have
everything I need on hand. One morning I was pressing tofu(for the very best vegan
bacon you could ever eat) at the same time I was simmering seitan on top of the stove.
Another day I made ground seitan in the oven. Last week-end, I revisited the ground
seitan and used the sausage recipe. Then when my husband got up, we had vegan biscuits
and gravy. One morning when I was feeling less adventurous, I tried the Muffins That
Taste Like Donuts. They are wonderful.
I haven't just enjoyed the recipes, though. I have also thrilled to the stories of
Andromeda, Lassen, Kari, and other Farm Sanctuary animals. I like being reminded of
the real reason I want to do this. What's Jo's secret ingredient? It's compassion. It puts the
joy back in cooking and makes it fun. This is the most joyful and inspiring cookbook I
have ever read. Thanks, Jo!
Have you read Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings? Please send comments
to Jo. Your comments may appear on this web site
in the future.
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