Vegan TexMex - yeehaw!
Review by Roxanna Bennett
Overall feeling: I stumbled upon this unique cookbook from independent publisher Microcosm while searching the interweb for vegan Mexican recipes. Part of my never ending quest to sneak vegan food into my omnivore boyfriend's mouth while he's not looking involves reworking most of his favourite foods into vegan versions. I was immediately attracted to the bright red cover with the hand drawn skeleton in a sombrero leering out from beneath the title. What I didn't realize when I bought the book is that it is actually two books in one, halfway through Hot Damn and Hell Yeah you flip it backward and upside down and voila, you have The Dirty South, a totally separate cookbook. I like the zine/handmade feel of both books although I am more partial to the skeleton illustrations and the type treatment throughout Hot Damn and Hell Yeah.
These books are pretty much the opposite of whole food nutritious cookbooks. As Splint says in his introduction "What it's about is food without obscure ingredients, that's Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce, Country Fried Tofu, Biscuits and Gravy are just some of the southern styled recipes that don't exactly scream holistic health. Both books are intent on creating veganized versions of traditional southern recipes that are heavy on spices, hang the health factor. As it says on the cover of The Dirty South, 'Eat More Grease'".
Best bits: I love Tex-Mex so I'm all fired up to try the many burrito and enchilada recipes. The Sweet Potato Pie recipe is ridiculously decadent and recipes for homey food like Hush Puppies and Johnny Cakes make me hanker for a sunny day in the south with a bottle of tequila on hand. Staples like Beans and Rice as well as several different chili recipes make it easy to entertain large crowds with relatively little effort. There are recipes in both books for Mushroom Gravy and for several different kinds of BBQ sauce; it's easy to imagine even the most hardcore meat-eater tucking into a tofu sloppy joe smothered in gravy.
Less-wonderful bits: You'd probably have a heart attack in short order if you lived on this kind of diet, especially when most recipes call for a slathering of gravy. Some of the recipes in The Dirty South don't even have measurements, you're meant to make it up as you go along which I don't like, what's the point of having a cookbook to guide you if it only asks you to improvise? That seems like cheating to me. There are a number of recipes in both books that seemed tacked on and have nothing to do with the Southern theme; there is a Vietnamese recipe in Hot Damn and Hell Yeah while in The Dirty South there are a number of Ethiopian recipes. I'm sure the food is delicious, but it feels like the authors are trying to fill up pages with out of place recipes.
Whole foods focus?: No way, Jose.
Eco-conscious?: Not so much.
Web presence?: yup