70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
It's a celebration of food.,
This review is from: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (Hardcover)
As an experienced cook, but a new vegan (I had never even been a vegetarian before), this cookbook is just what I needed, and I'm so grateful that I found it!
True to its name, this is a behemoth of a cookbook that covers a huge amount of ground. It gives respectful attention to all types of meals, from mains to soups, salads to casseroles, sandwiches to cookies. My favourite is the "Mix & Match" section, which has many recipes for what would usually be called 'sides' - small dishes of vegetables, grains, tofu/tempeh/seitan or legumes - that you can combine however you like to form a solid and diverse meal. There's also a very useful 'basics' section where all sorts of things are explained, from knife techniques to how to cook most major grains and legumes.
The recipes have a diverse range of regional influences, from Mexican to Northern Slavic, from Southeast Asian to French. The authors don't timidly follow the traditions of all the cuisines they borrow from, but neither do they clumsily make one big homogenised mess of them. Instead, they confidently, but respectfully, borrow from all sorts of cuisines to make a diverse range of dishes that, even if they are unorthodox, still make sense.
I've heard complaints from vegans that many vegan cookbooks are too health-food'y, to the point of being boring or unappealing. Not this one. Don't get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of recipes in this book are most definitely very healthy: fresh vegetables, legumes, and various other wholefoods feature prominently and abundantly. But as you peruse the recipes, you get the distinct feeling that this is a book that, more than anything else, celebrates food. When I first decided to go vegan, I was apprehensive about how limited my diet would become - this book, however, has put my mind forever at ease in that regard.
A good tendency of this cookbook is that the dishes all seem to be very 'do-able'. Although the recipes rarely call for processed ingredients or lazy shortcuts that would compromise quality and flavour, neither are they overly laborious. So far, I haven't found a recipe that looked too hard to bother with, and most of them I could happily make on a weeknight.
I really like the way the recipes are presented. Each of them gives an estimate of the preparation time, has directions that are clear and concise but not clinical, and provides a short 'prologue' from the authors (a feature that's sorely lacking from many cookbooks). These prologues often give you a good idea of the character of the dish, what it goes well with, and some potential pitfalls to look out for while making it. And the girls write with such a pleasant style and great sense of humour that they're worth reading just for that.
Of course, no cookbook is perfect, and neither is this one. Firstly, for a non-American, the ye olde measuring system they use - with ounces, 1/4 inches, Fahrenheits and all the rest of it - is distracting. Secondly, and more importantly, the recipes - in my experience - have been a bit hit and miss. But when I say "miss", I don't mean that they didn't work, or that they were dreadful, but simply that they weren't as terrific as I'd hoped. However, I've never met a cookbook that didn't have some misses, and the Veganomicon hit-miss ratio has so far been pretty good. Furthermore, when the dishes have been good, they've often been fabulous.
Since the cookbook has its imperfections, I was going to give it 4 stars. But then I thought about what it is that I ultimately look for in a cookbook. I concluded that I want a cookbook that will make reliably good dishes, several of which will become lasting favourites, forever enriching my repertoire. If the cookbook is really good, then it will also excite me about food; it'll be a book I can depend on to inspire me when I'm feeling low on ideas and motivation to cook. The Veganomicon has not only been a reliable source of good dishes, but it is flooding my repertoire with new favourites, so far rivalling any cookbook before it in this department. I have also found its pages to be full of inspiration. Before I bought it, I was excited about becoming a vegan for ethical reasons. Now I'm also excited about it for culinary reasons. 5 stars.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 5, 2011 12:12:18 PM PDT
Thanks for the great review. I want to eat more vegan meals and I also have concerns about eating healthy and getting enough protein and this book seems to fit the bill. Thanks for the very thorough review.
Posted on Jan 26, 2013 8:48:23 PM PST
I agree, when the recipes turn out good, they taste fabulous! Those that don't, taste meh or bleh. I find the ratio to be half and half so far. I recommend seitan piccata!
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