Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Alicia Silverstone has come a long way, baby. She set the Jane Austen disciples alight nearly fifteen years ago with her performance as Cher in "Clueless," a mid-nineties take on Austen’s “Emma,” and has just released her first cookbook, The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet (Rodale). 

I must give her snaps for what is a solid, laudable volume on vegan lifestyle and cookery. Sorry, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t insert anything from the "Clueless" lexicon, but there it is.  Silverstone’s had a tough time moving past this role in the eyes of the public, so it doesn’t really seem fair. However, as they say, the good roles pick you, not the other way around. 

The Kind Diet offers more than a listing of recipes and flattering shots of the author lounging in her kitchen looking fetchingly, I'm-just-like-everyone-else “down home.” It details Silverstone’s journey from vegetarianism to a disastrous foray into raw foodism, and settles into her present local, organic vegan diet. There’s some cutesy stuff I could have done without, for example, her blurb about “freaky” pathogens in meat, or the little tale about her husband and Woody Harrelson kayaking naked, but whatevs.  And come on, I really don’t need to see pictures of admittedly attractive men deemed as “eye candy” as a reason to go vegan. 

Okay. Maybe that last part’s a lie. But my basest compulsions are best left unencouraged. 

Silverstone gives a good first look for people wanting to “flirt” with veganism. She offers a solid, holistic, factual analysis of vegan nutrition, though a couple passages could do with a bit of fact checking.  Her thoughts on animal cruelty, environment and the vegan diet’s role in improving our stuff-our-face culture are rather darling, if earnest, as well. Though the carnivorous peanut gallery may point and laugh at the heartfelt sentiment, veganism is clearly a meaningful subject for Silverstone, and it shows.  Again, snaps. 

The recipes range from throw-together pastas and casseroles to more finicky desserts and appetizers. Two recipes caught my eye for their relative ease in preparation and all the ingredients were in my kitchen. I started with the Moroccan Couscous with Saffron, an easy and satisfying dish. I subbed quinoa for couscous for the extra protein bump, and the salty sweet of the roasted root vegetables blended impeccably with the warmly spiced quinoa. A warming, earthy main course for the autumnal season. 

Next, I decided to give the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups a go. Like Silverstone, I too was a Reese’s diehard – it’s been at least 10 months since I last stuffed a real Peanut Butter Cup in my face, and my soul leapt at the prospect of a reasonable vegan facsimile. Again, an easy recipe, and so delicious and rich it nearly made my eyes cross. As readers of this blog know, I’m not one for sweets, but these will be made regularly and often in my kitchen hence.  Silverstone will remain in my heart forever, if only for these little pieces of heaven. 

At the end of the day, many of us roll our collective eyes at yet another celebrity book. It would seem that any C-lister these days pumps out some new ghost written tome on either their struggle with a pesky glue-sniffing addiction or how they lost 200 pounds (and kept it off!). God knows, we don’t need another GOOP a la Gwyneth.  However, Silverstone has kept it classy, both in her career and in her personal life, and offered us a worthwhile, firmly footed offering to the vegan canon.