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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Vegan Everyday

I'm not a vegan by any means -- you can have my chicken wing when you pry it from my cold, dead hand -- but in my household, we do try to incorporate vegetables and grains into our meals, and occasionally we eat what amount to vegan meals. I do enjoy it, now and then. If the day before I ate a 16-ounce steak, or a half rack of ribs for dinner, my body often tells me to go meatless the next day.
In other words, you don't have to be a full-time vegan to be interested in vegan recipes. So I was glad to accept a review copy of Vegan Everyday, written by Douglas McNish and published by Robert Rose.
At 576 pages, this is a hefty book. It starts with a brief but useful summary of  a "vegan gluten-free pantry." The recommended pantry includes no foods made with genetically modified organisms ("GMO").
There are 500 recipes here. organized into a dozen categories. So if you're looking for vegan recipes, this is about as comprehensive a volume as you're going to find.
Personally, I don't agree with, but am not surprised by, the book's recommendation that you avoid GMO foods. I think the GMO phobia is a left-wing version of the right-wing's denial of climate change; in other words, a stubborn refusal to accept what scientists tell us, which is that GMO foods, in general, are safe to eat. But I know that many vegans will never accept that, so I get it. (But if you want to read about an example of this, read this NY Times article.)
I'm a little more puzzled by the emphasis on avoiding gluten as part of a vegan diet. It's not animal based, and though I know some people can't tolerate it, most of us can. Humans have eaten wheat-based foods for thousands of years, mostly with no significant adverse effects. And there is substantial evidence that going gluten-free can have adverse effects, if you go about it willy-nilly.
Having said all that, I liked the book. Its not a treatise on veganism, but a cookbook, pure and simple. The book is broken down into chapters covering breakfast foods, soups, snacks, pasta, beans and grains, drinks, and more. Individual recipes average about a single page each, with some more complex recipes, like "tempeh croquettes with vegetables and rice," stretching to two full pages. Instructions are clear, and useful tips accompany each recipe. The recipe for peanut sesame soba noodles, for instance, includes information about what soba noodles are, and advice on how best to use and prepare fresh gingerroot and cilantro.
Naturally, I looked for pizza-related recipes. I found one for pizza with a crust made from chickpea flour (which I had never heard of), and another for pizza rolls using a gluten-free flour blend. 
The book is not fully illustrated, but there are two sections of full-page, full-color photographs. The index is well detailed.
I don't plan to go vegan anytime soon, and I don't think I'll ever be a fan of tofu or mushrooms. But if I can add some variety to my diet, in a healthful way, I'm all for it. Moroccan-style collard greens? Sweet potato, ginger and coconut soup? Sauteed vegetables with a three-chile blend? All sound good to me. So while, as a confirmed omnivore, I don't plan to try all, or maybe even most of the recipes in this book, there's enough here to keep me busy in the kitchen for some time. If you or anyone you know is a vegan, or considering veganism, this would be a useful volume to have around.

Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes, by Douglas McNish
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose (May 15, 2015)

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