Reviews: Chowin' Down Vegan Style

Thursday 19 May 2011
This piece was originally published on

Just like any good chef, a vegan chef needs to be equipped with the right tools: fresh plant-based ingredients, a sharp knife, and — of course — a few good books. Over the course of‘s vegan challenge, the book lounge will provide a sampling of some recently published books available for vegans and aspiring vegans.

Ripe from Around Here: A Vegan Guide to Local and Sustainable Eating
by jae steele
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010; $24.95)
As soon as I pulled Toronto nutritionist jae steele’s second guide to vegan eating, Ripe from Around Here, from the shelf of my local library, I was hooked. The inviting cover shows the beaming author at a farmer’s market, clutching a bunch of fresh, local carrots in her hand on a sunny day, immediately transmitting me from the rainy mid-April weather I had just escaped. Dedicated to “organic family farmers-hardworking and heroic growers of green things,” Ripe from Around Here brings together the vegan and local food movements. Thought-provoking text encourages readers to take pleasure in the textures, smells and preparation of food, reminding us that food is meant to nourish and bring joy, fuelling our bodies by providing nutrients. The book also encourages more talk within the vegan community on important topics such as working conditions for farm labourers, capitalism and health. jae steele’s healthy, plant-based recipes use minimal non-local luxuries such as olive oil.
Among the recipes I’ve bookmarked to try are homemade nut milk, spring sesame noodles and baked Mexican bell peppers. As though this wasn’t enough, steele also provides readers with detailed instructions for container gardening in small spaces, canning, vermicomposting and making environmentally friendly homemade cleaners. Ripe from Around Here is the perfect book to introduce aspiring vegans to hassle-free recipes and educated reasons for choosing veganism. It is an especially good read for those from jae steele’s bioregion, which luckily for me, is Southwestern Ontario. Her charts show readers when their favourite foods are in season, and her detailed list of resources will undoubtedly encourage readers to visit local farmer’s markets and participate in community-supported agriculture.

The Vegan Scoop
by Wheeler Del Torro
(Fair Winds Press, 2009; $21.95)

Even the biggest proponent of a vegan lifestyle might find giving up a favourite food difficult. For many new vegans, this difficult habit to break is cream in their coffee. For others, like me, it’s cheese. And for those with a sweet tooth, ice cream might be the deal breaker when deciding whether to plunge into veganism. Luckily for dessert lovers looking for an ethical, dairy-free alternative, there’s The Vegan Scoop: 150 Recipes for Dairy-Free Ice Cream That Tastes Better Than the “Real” Thing by Wheeler Del Torro.

Del Torro, who opened the first vegan ice cream parlor in Boston, introduces his readers to the possibility of ice cream made from soy milk; fruits and vegetables; legumes, nut and seeds; and spices, herbs and flowers. Among his tempting creations are many that likely can’t be found at most ice cream shoppes, including Sweet Potato Basil, Sweet Curry Coconut, Orange Dragon Fruit, Seaweed and Jalapeno. Del Torro’s Almond Cookie ice cream on top of his vegan fudge brownies sounds especially delicious!

The only downside to reading The Vegan Scoop is that, unfortunately, an ice cream maker isn’t in my budget, meaning my only glimpse of Del Torro’s unique recipes have been on the colourful pages of his book.

The Natural Vegan Kitchen
by Christine Waltermyer
(Book Publishing Company, 2011; $23.95)

“When I first stopped eating meat, I was the epitome of a junk food vegetarian,” writes Christine Waltermyer in her upcoming book, The Natural Vegan Kitchen. Luckily for her health, she switched from high-fat cookies to a combination of healthy vegetables, whole grains and legumes, learning to cook simple and delicious vegan meals.

“I was going to transform the world, armed with carrots, kale, and barley,” Waltermyer writes. In a way, this is just what she is attempting to do in her new book, encouraging readers to savour their meals and enjoy a natural and ethical lifestyle, both inside and outside of the kitchen.

“For a health-promoting lifestyle to last a lifetime, the food has to taste so good we think it must be bad for us,” she says. Waltermyer proves that vegan cooking is anything but boring through recipes for everything from tofu sushi to sloppy joes.

The Natural Vegan Kitchen is full of tips for the newly vegan chef, including a glossary that simplifies the terms I usually dread pronouncing at my local health food store. It also provides new chefs with crucial information, such as how to cook dry beans and which ingredient combinations make the perfect salad dressing. These may seem like small hurdles, but for an apprehensive cook, these tips might just help to make or break a meal.


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