Sunday, August 29, 2010

When Vegan Goes Mainstream

A few months ago, January Magazine editor Linda L. Richards began a review of The Locavore Way (Storey Publishing) with these words: “So many people are talking about green issues these days, alternative lifestyles have gotten to be mainstream.” And while I’m still not entirely certain that’s true, some recently published cookbooks would seem to back up at least part of what she’s saying.

Case in point: Viva Vegan! (Da Capo Lifelong) by Terry Hope Romero, whose previous book, Veganomicon, was both hardcore vegan and a bestseller. And it’s not that Viva Vegan takes a gentler approach to veganism. Rather, it narrows the focus in a most surprising way: offering 200 recipes for authentic Latin food. All vegan. Unthinkable? Apparently, that’s what Romero’s friends thought when she began this journey:
When friends would ask me what new cookbook I was writing, my answer, “a vegan Latin cookbook,” was often met with looks of “comp?” How can that be? The meatiest cuisine on the planet (so say some) made meatless. Is she loca?
Apparently, she is not loca and she delivers. Pupusas Sauteed with Black Beans and Plantains. Sopes with Chorizo Spinach. Tamales made with red chile-seitan and my absolute favorite, a smooth, creamy and elegant Café con Leche Flan.

Mark Reinfeld (Vegan Fusion World Cuisine) and Jennifer Murray (The 30-Minute Vegan) deliver a book with a similar -- yet entirely different -- focus. Here Murray and Reinfeld fuse their talents to bring us The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (Da Capo Lifelong). Even non-vegans will enjoy these simple and well-described recipes for Madras Curry, Mu Shu Vegetables, Pad Thai, Wontons and more.

The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East is broken into regional chapters: the cuisines of India, Thailand, China and Japan are represented. As well, a very healthy sized chapter on fusion includes recipes that couldn't easily have been categorized anyplace else.

While not strictly speaking a vegan cookbook, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker (Robert Rose) by slow-cooker queen Judith Finlayson seems to me to be in the same spirit: an idea that was once -- and not that long ago -- esoteric, here brought into the mainstream ... in this case, via Crockpot. In addition, many of the recipes Finlayson has included here are either vegan, or could be with very few modifications. A terrific book for those who like the idea of dinner bubbling away while they’re at work, but who don’t want to ingest all the meat that many slow-cooker cookbooks feel the need to include. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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