Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By now, surely you've heard of V-con


The Book: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (DaCapo Press, 2007)

Review by Roxanna Bennett

Overall feeling: This hefty hardback tome is the mother of all-purpose cookbooks. Best-selling vegan chefs Moscowitz and Romano have already carved out a reputation for themselves with their cable access vegan cooking show Post Punk Kitchen and their previous publications Vegan With A Vengeance (just Isa) and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World (both of them). Veganomicon seems a departure from their earlier work; it's a very serious attempt to create the be-all-end-all definitive vegan cookbook. The tenet of the book is "recipes you wish you grew up with" and this informs the tone and recipes throughout the book. Meant to be accessible, comforting and non-threatening, Veganomicon is written with real urban at-home cooks in mind. The recipes are laid out with step by step instructions in a very clear manner and with a special attention paid to timing the various components of a meal. Each recipe is clearly labeled with icons indicating if the recipe is soy-free, gluten-free, low fat, under 45 minutes, supermarket friendly or all of the above. There are several chapters dedicated to kitchen equipment, stocking the pantry and basic preparation techniques which really adds to the notion that the authors are attempting here to create a veritable vegan bible. A menu suggestion plan at the end of the book takes all the work out of combining dishes in a tasty way. Moskowitz and Romero hold your hand throughout the entire process, gently encouraging the nervous cook and offering alternative ingredients or methods where applicable. I felt very much like I was being babysat by my cool older cousins as I read this book and prepared some of the recipes.

Best bits: The authors personalities burst out of the pages, there are friendly and funny intros for almost every recipe. All the basics are covered here, from snacks, breakfast, salad, soups, 'sammiches' like Snobby Joes and Tofu Po'Boy, onto more complicated meals like Eggplant Potato Moussake with Pine Nut Cream. The guesswork of creating the elusive complete protein is covered in the chapter Mix and Match where the recipes are laid out in categories of vegetable, grain and protein, the idea being to cook one of each however tickles your fancy and combine them all for a totally satisfying meal that hits all the nutrition bases. I'm a big fan of the one pot meal, so I was thrilled to find a chapter dedicated to just that with tantalizing recipes for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits (drool), Pumpkin Saag (slurp) and Sweet Squash in Mole Sauce (I could drink a bucket of mole sauce just on its own). There aren't any recipes that rely on fake meats or cheeses and there's a jam packed chapter for creating sauces and fillings to complement other recipes in the book.
You would have thought that the authors had exhausted their dessert repertoire with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World but they pleasantly surprise with a chapter for muffins and scones, another for cookies and bars, a miscellaneous dessert chapter with a kick-ass recipe for vegan ice cream.

Less-wonderful bits: The two-colour design of the book is a bit disappointing and the colour choices a bit off-putting. If this is meant to be an ultimate cookbook it would have been great if the bucks had been shelled out to create a four colour palette and allow for better photography. There is a section in the centre of the book for glossy photographs which cannot be doing the food any justice, the photos are unappealing and slightly garish. The low resolution photos that are tacked onto the end of some chapters or floated in the background behind the text detract from rather than enhance the design of the book.

Whole foods focus?: Somewhat.
Vegan-friendly?: 100 percent!
Eco-conscious?: In that it's vegan.
Web presence?: Yessiree

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"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
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