Best Cookbooks for the Alt-meat Crowd

A vegan convert pickes the cookbooks that won over her stomach

It has been several months since I embarked on my vegan voyage. The food cravings, alienation, soy-related mishaps, tireless searching for the perfect vegan cheese and unavoidable cheating have begun to abate. In fact, if my veganism were a boyfriend, I think we’d be talking about moving in together right about now. It’s working that well.

For this project, I read dozens of books, blogs and articles on the subject of veganism. Some good, some bad, some written by people who would do rightly to look into another vocation. I’ve spent a fortune on cookbooks whose recipes yielded such dry-heave-inspiring mounds of slop. On the other hand, I’ve had recipes written by strangers on the backs of cocktail napkins that I would lovingly prepare for the Go-Go’s, if they ever decided to stage a reunion in my backyard. Yes, they were that good.

I’ve discovered that not all vegan cookbooks are penned with the same focus: Some are meant for omnivorous foodies looking to broaden their culinary skill; a few are aimed at young people needing the quick and dirty on vegan health and cookery, and still others offer a panoramic range of knowledge on vegan lifestyle, cuisine and health.

As every few months sees the “Vegan/Vegetarian” shelf space widen at your local bookstore, here are my top vegan cookbook picks.

For the newbie to veganism:

How it All Vegan (Arsenal Pulp) by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

It’s been more than 10 years since this book, one of the first widely available vegan cookbooks, hit the market. A dozen printings and two volumes later, it has become required reading for veggies. Written in a fun, brazen style with no-fuss recipes, this book is perfect for young people looking for a gentle introduction to vegan food and lifestyle. Also includes an appendix listing animal ingredients and nutritional requirements. The authors have totally bangin' tattoos, to boot.

For the panicky parent or the exacting vegan:

Becoming Vegan  (Book Publishing Co.) by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina

An exhaustive resource written by registered dietitians, this book covers every aspect of vegan health from infancy to adulthood. All the information is cited by scholarly studies, yet written in an accessible, frank manner. Perfect for the fretful parent overseeing their teen’s foray into veganism, or the type-A health freak looking to know the exact protein composition of broccoli.

For the fancy-schmancy omnivorous foodie delving into vegan chic:

Great Chefs Cook Vegan (Gibbs-Smith) by Linda Long

Long uses the cred of award-winning chefs like Cat Cora and Charlie Trotter to turn out one beautifully composed cookbook. Each chef prepares a three- or four-course meal, with items like sweet pea ravioli and beet salad with pistachio vinaigrette. Indulgent, glossy food porn at its finest.

For the weathered vegan or vegetarian needing to look beyond stir-fries and veggie burgers:

The Veganomicon (Marlow & Co.) by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

I have yet to prepare anything from this cookbook that wasn’t worth making again. Many of the recipes fall outside of the slap-it-in-the-pan skill set and require a fair amount of preparation. Regardless, anyone looking to build his or her gastronomical elbow room would do well to pick up this volume.

For the herbivore with the sugar DTs:

The Joy of Vegan Baking (Fair Winds Press) by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but the past few years have seen several vegan bakers getting their brain on and sorting it out for the rest of us ninnies. I’m no dessert freak, but every gal needs her blueberry cream “cheese” blintzes now and then. Ms. P-G turns this book out with gusto; an essential volume in any veggie’s kitchen.

Lindsay Hutton writes the Gone Vegan blog for Green Living.