Reviews: Veganize It!

Thursday 19 May 2011
This article was originally published on It is the second of a two-part series. Read the first part here!


The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions
by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
(Fair Winds Press, 2010, $20.99)

Most people have that old family recipe that they can’t live without, whether it’s Grandma’s favourite casserole or Dad’s famous chili. Unfortunately, for vegetarians and vegans, many of these recipes call for animal products such as cheese, meat and eggs. Luckily, The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions boasts that “pretty much any dish can be vegan using your own hands and your own set of cooking and basic skills.”

This book makes it easier for home cooks to embrace a vegan lifestyle, providing more than 200 dairy-free, egg-free and meat-free dishes, along with tips to give readers the confidence to create meatless versions of their favourite recipes. It provides many soy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free and nut-free recipes for readers with allergies.

The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions is also full of fun facts (Did you know that the human race is the only species on earth that consumes another mammal’s milk for sustenance? Or that bananas can be used to replace eggs in some recipes? I didn’t!). Full of colourful pictures and informative charts and diagrams, this book gives new vegans answers to many questions, such as what dairy replacement to use (Almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk) and encourages them to start from scratch, making their own animal-product replacements like vegan cheese!

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World
by Bob Torres and Jenna Torres
(PM Press, 2010; $16.95)

“We don’t care what Whole Foods says: there is no humane animal product, period,” write Bob Torres and Jenna Torres in the second version of their book Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World. This sometimes abrasive book takes the stance that even local, organic, free-range and so-called ethical farming practices don’t cut it in the fight for animal rights.

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World is likely best read by someone who shares the authors’ beliefs that eating any animal product, even occasionally, is directly contributing to the exploitation of animals. If readers can get past the sarcasm that plays a huge role in this book, it is full of interesting and useful information for “vegan freaks” attempting to navigate a non-vegan world, including what happens when your partner isn’t vegan, how to raise your children vegan, how to survive the grocery store when you’re vegan and how to deal with vegetarians and ex-vegans who don’t share your beliefs.

Mary of Mud Creek
by Caitlin Black

If you were like me, you read Charlotte’s Web over and over again as a child, delighting in Charlotte the spider’s inventive way of saving Wilbur to pig from ending up on the dinner table. Toronto artist and illustrator Caitlin Black undoubtedly read E.B White’s book as well, as her new graphic novel, Mary of Mud Creek, is a much darker take on the classic.

Interspersed with facts about the Canadian factory farming industry, this daring black and white book follows Mary, Black’s protagonist, who visits a beloved pig at a factory farm, where sows are kept continually pregnant until they ultimately face violent deaths as illustrated graphically in the novel. It is a far cry from the picturesque family farm where Fern visits Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.

Black’s story takes many twists and turns as Mary navigates the factory farming system, herself becoming a victim of it. Three pages of notes provide readers with links to more information about huge agribusiness and animal rights. Readers are likely to have a visceral reaction as Black illustrates many of the truths of the meat industry that many of us choose to ignore.

For more information and to see an excerpt of Mary of Mud Creek, visit the blog.
Generation V

Generation V: The Complete Guide to Going, Being, and Staying Vegan as a Teenager
by Claire Askew (PM Press, 2011; $16.95)

When teenager Claire Askew first decided veganism was the right choice for her, she experienced a lot of emotions, including feelings of isolation, alienation and loneliness. In her new book, Generation V: The Complete Guide to Going, Being, and Staying Vegan as a Teenager, she argues that being vegan as a teenager, especially when still living at home, is much different than being vegan as an adult. So, she decided to write a book about it!

“Generation V is for all the teenagers out there who wander around just-adding-water to boxes of vegan food, trying their hardest to defend their choices to their friends, and thinking they’re they only vegan teenager in the world,” writes Askew in the introduction of her fresh, well-written, sometimes-funny take on veganism.

Askew, who first began questioning her relationship with meat at the age of 14, shares her own story about going vegan with readers, offering advice learned from her own experiences, including suggestions about how to break the news to friends and family and how to react to their responses, such as “You’ve been brainwashed!” and “It’s just a phase!”

Askew’s well-researched book, which provides insights into factory farming, staying healthy when vegan and vegan activism is one of the best books about veganism I’ve read while barricading myself between stacks of resources about eating vegan and living vegan over the past few weeks. It is smart — full of convincing insights, arguments, and links to resources and organizations — but it’s also so much fun and different than anything else I’ve read on the subject, providing information about everything from vegan clothing and toiletries to which bands have vegan members. It is truly the perfect book to end this series.


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