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The Accidental Vegan Paperback – March 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Eat low on the food chain in high style with this eclectic collection of simply sophisticated recipes from Devra Gartenstein. Please your palate and spare the planet in one fell swoop--or one swell soup!"
—Kerry Trueman, cofounder of Eating Liberally

“Just as you don’t have to be Italian to love pasta, you don’t need to be vegan to enjoy these recipes.”
—Taste for Life
 

About the Author

 
DEVRA GARTENSTEIN owns and runs the Patty Pan Grill, a vegetarian-vegan restaurant and take-out counter in Seattle, Washington. She is also a farmers' market vendor who can be found at local markets almost every day during the summer. Visit www.quirkygourmet.com


THE AUTHOR SCOOP

If you had to boil the message of The Accidental Vegan down to one sentence, what would it be?
You don't have to be a vegetarian to eat vegetarian food, just like you don't have to be Thai to eat Thai food, and you don't have to be Mexican to eat Mexican food.

When did you know you were a writer?
When I was in third grade one of my teachers said, "You should never start a sentence with "and," unless you're a writer." And right then and there, I decided that's what I wanted to be.

What's the farthest you've ever traveled?
I once traveled to a small town in Poland thinking it was the birthplace of my great grandfather, but when I got home and double checked, it turned out I'd gone to the wrong town.

Any memorable kitchen disasters?
I once spilled half a bucket of tahini. That's twenty pounds of tahini. There's no good way to clean up twenty pounds of tahini.

What book do you re-read every few years?
I re-read Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast, and then I watch the movie again, because it's every bit as good as the original story.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a book called Honest Food: A History of Eating Well. It's an account of the relationship between humans and food, from Paleolithic times until the present day.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Celestial Arts; 2nd Revised edition edition (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587613387
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587613388
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am the spawn of a marriage between a rabbi and an atheist, and grew up around heated discussions about what to eat. After a bit of graduate work in philosophy, I found that I was virtually unemployable and started a food business. As an entrepreneur, I've found the freedom to experiment with practical solutions to big questions, with varying degrees of financial success. I've published a couple of cookbooks and found that food is a fertile medium for learning worlds about history, culture and down to earth pleasures. My latest book, "Cavemen, Monks and Slow Food: A History of Eating Well", provides a long range perspective on our relationship with food, from our earliest origins to the modern sustainable food movement.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This cookbook is one of the best vegan cookbooks I have had the pleasure to use. I have been using it consistently for a couple of weeks now. It's not the hugest volume but it's substantial and there is plenty of variety. The author owns her own vegan catering business in Seattle.
The recipes span across ethnic cuisines, with plenty of Indian, Afghani, Asian, Italian, and Mexican style dishes. There are appetizers, sides, main dishes, salads, soups, sauces, an entire chapter on seitan, and a very short dessert section. The dessert section is the only section that is pretty sparse. There is a recipe for Baklava and for some rice puddings (which were VERY delicious!).
The author does use honey in some of her recipes, which I found surprising. However, if it is a concern for you (as it is for me), I think it easily substituted.
The recipes are usually quite simple. The directions are simple (in one or two cases, a step was left out). Most recipes don't use huge long lists of ingredients, but many recipes do incorporate plenty of vegetables, which I think is a plus. It is obvious the author wants you, the reader, to incorporate your own style into these dishes. Most of the ingredients are readily available, although some recipes require more exotic or ethnic ingredients, but nothing you can't find at an Asian or Indian market or at your local health food store or co-op. Ms. Gartenstein lets you know, within the recipe, where to find ingredients that may be unfamiliar.
There are some very outstanding dishes in this cookbook. My favorites are the Hot and Sour Soup (the stuff in the restaurant can't compare!!), Pasta with Olives and Artichokes (I could eat this every day!), and Stuffed Shells. The Date and Almond Rice Pudding was heavenly (one of the ingredients is Rose Water).
I think The Accidental Vegan will remain one of my all time favorites in a collection of over 60 vegan cookbooks. I highly recommend it!
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As I flipped through this cookbook, my mouth started watering. I wanted to make EVERY one of the recipes, which I think is unusual. Gartenstein includes a variety of ethnic cuisines that appealed to me.

It is not perfect, though. Other reviewers here have noticed the same problems I did, but I have a few to add as well.

1. The directions are deliberately vague. This didn't bother me as I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing already. But not helpful for someone new to cooking or veganism.

2. Some of the directions she does include I didn't like. She does what most cookbooks do as far as throwing the garlic and the onions in at the same time, which to my mind either undercooks the onions or burns the garlic. One recipe (Split-pea soup) she had me throw the onions and garlic into boiling water! I shrugged my shoulders and trusted her - we did not enjoy the taste of boiled onions.

An Indian woman once explained to me how to cook a curry paste, and I use the method when starting any pertinent recipe: Saute the onions in a little oil at medium-high ("really well, quite hot and for quite a while, until crisp but not black")(this gets rid of the bad part of the onion taste), then turn to low, add finely grated garlic and ginger, fresh curry powder (store in the freezer) and a little water. Cut tomatoes fine and cook to a paste. She said to pre-cook the veggies, but I don't usually do that, then add fresh coconut milk and cilantro. So that was her recipe and I adapt that cooking method to whatever I'm doing, you know, substitute other dried herbs/spices for the curry, put the fresh herbs in last, etc.

So except for that Split Pea Soup, I just ignored her directions and did my own thing.
Read more ›
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By A Customer on December 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
The recipes contained in this cookbook are mostly very basic blueprints. The author did this on purpose, and it does work rather well. I love this cookbook.
Pros:
* Many recipes are low-fat
* Excellent food made with simple recipes. Recipes to try include:
Acorn Squash with Herbs
Pulao
Red Lentil Dahl
Black Eyed Pea Dahl
Curried Peas and Potatoes
Cons:
* MAJOR PROBLEM: some of the recipes contain honey. Even though this is easily substituted, this is unacceptable for a vegan cookbook. For this reason, I would not give this book as a gift to anyone who was not vegan unless they understood that vegans do not consume honey. I wouldn't want them to make me a recipe with honey in it.
* Provides little in the way of information on recipes. This relly is _just_ a recipe book. No detail is given on the origin of recipes, other than in the title. This results in a slimmer book. She gets right to the point. If you're used to background information on recipes, tips, tricks, etc, then you will be disappointed.
* VERY simple instructions (can be a pro, if you know what you're doing)
All in all, it's a great cookbook and it deserves a place on your bookshelf.
PS: Here's a tip on some of her recipes, specifically the dals. Instead of boiling the spices with the other ingredients, sautee olive oil in a nonstick pan, add onion and garlic with the spices and cook for 5 minutes. Add at the end of the cooking instead of the beginning. This results in a much spicer, fuller flavor.
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