Twenty years ago -- perhaps even 10 -- veganism was a radical choice. Increasingly, however, with a world becoming ever more damaged by mankind’s need for more, people are looking for alternative ways of living. Food, obviously, is a big part of that and certainly the food production practices that became common in the west during the 20th century are having an impact here in the 21st… and it’s usually not pretty.
I don’t need to go on. If you are considering veganism or have already made that leap, you’ve already examined the reasons why. And closely. What remains may well be just how to make it work in your life. A vegan start-up guide is called for. Enter Linda Long, the author of Great Chefs Cook Vegan and herself a long time vegetarian.
If you’re going to take a single book into your new vegan lifestyle, Virgin Vegan (Gibbs Smith) would not be a bad way to go. Long starts things off with concisely shared basics: a few thoughts on the ethics of it all. A few more on what veganism actually is. Then on to the basics of the vegan pantry. Then what to do when you’re in a restaurant or traveling.
The largest of these pre-sections is given to the nutrition of the whole thing, which is terrific because, even if you don’t have a lot of questions about your new vegan lifestyle, everyone else in your life probably will. Where do you get your protein? What about vitamins and minerals? All of these things -- and more -- are covered very well.
Then on to the highlight of the hour: all of the wonderful food (with color pictures!) that you can look forward to eating. Truthfully, in that regard, Virgin Vegan is not the most exciting vegan cookbook we’ve seen. That said, not only are there many really solid recipes here, more importantly there are some really fab basics. I loved the Broccoli and “Cheese” Sauce (not cheese at all, of course. But in this case a very good substitute, both visually and for flavor). Salisbury Steak and Gravy is a fun vegan rendition of a classic meat-based dish. Creamy potato salads, coleslaw, and cream-style soups all seem intended to make the transition easier.
For new vegans just starting on what can be a challenging journey, Virgin Vegan is a terrific first step.