Gone Vegan

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

It has been several months since I embarked on my vegan voyage. The food cravings, the alienation, the self-aggrandizing, the soy-related mishaps, my tireless search for the perfect vegan cheese, the unavoidable cheating. If my veganism were a boyfriend, I think we’d be talking about moving in together right about now. Each of us has a drawer in the other’s bedroom, so we might as well play house. For me, 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 that I wouldn’t feed to my worst enemy. On the other hand, I’ve had recipes written on the backs of cocktail napkins from strangers 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.

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 best absorbed by 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 (which, might I take this opportunity to remind you, still exists and misses you dearly), I’ve decided to offer some recommendations on vegan cookbooks. More specifically, what books would best suit your needs or the lucky individual you’ve decided to gift.

For the newbie to veganism:

How it All Vegan, by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer (Arsenal Pulp). It’s been more than ten years since this book, one of the first widely available vegan cookbooks, hit the market. A dozen printings and two volumes later, this book 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, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. An exhaustive resource written by registered dietitians, this books 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, by Linda Long (Gibbs-Smith). 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, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Marlow & Co.). 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 their gastronomical elbow room would do well to pick up this volume. 

For the herbivore with the sugar DTs:

The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (Fair Winds Press). 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 mother out with gusto; an essential volume in any veggie’s kitchen.