Book Review: Viva Vegan!

Fresh-Focused Latin Fare

Available from: Amazon.com or Chapters.ca (Paperback $18.25)

Finally, Viva Vegan! (Da Capo Lifelong Books) has arrived. For the past couple of years, vegan tastemaker Terry Hope Romero (co-author of the essential cookbook, Veganomicon) has been teasing her followers with a blog testing the recipes that make up this formidable volume of veganized Latin cuisine.

Like all of Romero’s work, one of the highlights is not only the book’s ability to speak to readers who aren’t polished foodies, but those who are new to cooking vegan recipes with unfamiliar ingredients. Romero’s chatty prose could make even the most resolute carnivore comfy of the ins and outs of tempeh, tofu and seitan, and cake-eaters everywhere familiar with the foundations of Latin food and flavours.

Like Romero, I adore Latin food. Nary a week goes by without at least a throw-together burrito passing my lips. These days, my biggest beef (!) with most Latin cookbooks is that so many have left behind the tortilla these days, and moved into more sanguine prissy fare, opting for intricate platings and fussy methodologies. I get it – food, not unlike fashion, needs to move onward and upward. To wit, Romero captures the integrity of the cornerstones of everyday Latin food, and amps them up with a fresh-focused, practiced vegan palate.

Even so, this volume also sprints miles beyond the burrito, and touches on the top-drawer of Central and South American fare. So yes, you’ve got your corn-based favourites like arepas, tortillas and pupusas, not to mention several permutations of tamale. But where Romero really gets her gourmet on is with her posher Latin-inspired offerings, like Sweet Potato-Chipotle Bisque, Portobello Feijoada (a glorious black bean-based stew) and Shredded Seitan and Mushroom Empanadas with Raisins and Olives.

As with all of Romero’s cookbooks, several pages are set aside for indexes, the ins and outs of the ingredients, and helpful tips to prepare the recipes  (the former being essential with tamales, which take a bit of practice). From front to back, Romero’s Viva Vegan! is a vital addition to anyone with a love of bright, flavourful food, be it veggie, vegan or the unshrinking carnivore.

Green Living Grade: A

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Lindsay Hutton enjoys learning about the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet. Lindsay spent most of her (de)formative years at punk rock shows and organizing in various activist pursuits. She has worked as a union organizer, waitress, bookstore clerk, landscaper and most recently as a freelance writer.