As a new vegan I would have been overjoyed to come across this beautifully-presented book, which is published by Gentle World, Inc., a non-profit educational organization. The recipes themselves are sufficient to rank Incredibly Delicious amongst the "must-haves" for the budding vegan gourmet. Yet this is more than a cookbook: it also contains articles and in-depth information of value to both established vegans and those just starting out. Not only does it suggest many delicious recipes, but it also offers a wealth of background reading about vegan nutrition and other aspects of a cruelty-free lifestyle.
The first thing that impressed me about Incredibly Delicious was the colorful, eye-catching cover, which sets the scene by showing a table laid with tempting vegan fare against a background of trees and meadows. No ugly factory farms; no penned-in animals: a feeling of joy that in order to eat well we do not need to rely on the exploitation of other sentient beings. Inside, the clear, easy-to-follow recipes are enhanced by the inclusion of simple line drawings, and well-chosen quotations from personalities as diverse as Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare offer food for thought as the reader peruses the book.
Incredibly Delicious is in itself a handy reference volume for anybody who is seeking to follow a cruelty-free lifestyle, and it begins with a useful Glossary of Ingredients, covering such information as why cold-pressed oils are better than refined oils, which nutritional yeast to buy, and why maple syrup may not be vegan. The information about vegan sources of minerals and vitamins will be welcomed by all who are concerned about a balanced diet, and provides ample material for vegans defending their choices against those who would urge: "Drink your milk up: it's the best source of calcium." This is followed by a useful list of alternatives to using milk, eggs and refined sugar when adapting conventional recipes for the vegan table.
Cooking Guide for Whole Grains and Cooking Guide for Beans demonstrate how easy it can be to make the transition to vegetable staples. Easy-to-follow instructions give cooking times and methods for most kinds of bean and grain, and demolish the myth that vegan cooking has to be time-consuming. With a little forethought, preparation of pulses and grains can be quick and easy, and canned beans can be consigned to the back of the store cupboard for use in emergencies.
The recipes, which constitute the largest section of the book, range from simple dishes to banqueting fare, and are grouped under headings such as Scrumptious Salads and Soups, Appetizers and Side Dishes, Bread and Breakfast, and Entrées, making it easy to find plenty of delicious inspiration for different occasions. A section about vegan baking offers fresh ideas for the seasoned vegan cook as well as solace for the new vegan who fears that eschewing animal products is going to mean saying goodbye to cake. Far from it! With a little ingenuity and a bowlful of easy-to-find ingredients, a spread can be produced to satisfy the fussiest of palates. How about Coconut Ginger Soup, Tofu Caraway Cabbage or Bean Salsa in Radicchio Leaves? Or Fluffy Carob Cake, or Outrageous Cookies?
For the reader who is entertaining non-vegans, or who, whilst wishing to avoid eating animal products, still craves their tastes and textures, there are some cleverly-devised substitute dishes such as Tempeh Teriyaki, Potato Omelette, Gourmet Lasagna, and Roast Beef NOT! These make use of seitan (wheat-meat), soy products, nutritional yeast, or commercial vegan "cheese".
The raw eater is not neglected, either: a mouthwatering array of Rawsome Recipes offers such delights as Pink P‰té, Creamy Curry Sprouted Lentil Salad, Blueberry Cream Pie, and Papaya Pleasure Smoothie, and includes instructions for sprouting seeds and growing wheatgrass as well as hints for the veganic gardener.
My only reservation is that many of the recipes seem to be rather salty for some tastes, and there is perhaps a little too much dependence upon such products as Bragg Liquid Aminos and commercially-produced bouillon seasoning; however, the ingredients can easily be adjusted to suit the individual, and this in no way detracts from the inherent attraction and usefulness of this book.
Many vegans are concerned that they might be supporting non-vegan or pro-abuse companies when they shop. What is refreshingly new about Incredibly Delicious is the way in which it puts the vegan recipes into their wider context and takes a pro-active stance on the ethics of veganism, to which a sizeable portion of the book is devoted.
As more and more people come to realise that being vegan is about far more than food, the availability of information for those who wish to avoid purchasing goods that contain animal products becomes increasingly important. Incredibly Delicious includes a section about non-vegan products and ingredients as well as some sobering facts about non-vegan businesses, such as zoos, rodeos, and marine parks, followed by a page of quotations about vivisection: evidence that these shameful practises have been a source of abhorrence to many people for far too long, and an indication that their demise is long overdue.
In conjunction with this, the twelve pages about Vegan Alternatives provide a welcome complement. Here are to be found, not only many vegan alternatives to animal-derived products for the table, but more animal-friendly ways of dealing with some of the other challenges of everyday living, such as finding cruelty-free cleaning products, soaps and cosmetics. There is even a section on vegan artists' brushes, as well as a list of sources of non-leather footwear. One shortcoming of this section is that most of the suggestions point to US sources; however, as increasing numbers of manufacturers have online outlets, it is becoming easier for readers elsewhere in the world to have access to these alternatives.
Dogs and Cats Can Be Vegan is arguably the most controversial section in the book. With the feeding of a companion animal the last link with the slaughterhouse for many vegans, here are some suggestions for breaking that connection.
Not to be forgotten in the preparation of natural foods is the kitchen itself, and Recommended Kitchen Appliances compares common brands of juicer, blender, bread-making machine, and other kitchen hardware. A list of recommended reading includes books about animal rights and the transition to veganism as well as other sources of vegan recipes.
Finally, a comprehensive and well laid-out index enables the reader to locate recipes and other vegan information quickly and easily. A thoughtful touch is the inclusion of a special symbol to indicate raw recipes.
Incredibly Delicious contains something for everyone, and will make a worthwhile and useful addition to any vegan home.
Incredibly Delicious is published at $22.50 by Gentle World, Inc., P.O. Box 238, Kapa'au HI 96755. For more information, visit the Gentle World web site.
The U.K. distributor of Incredibly Delicious is Kogan Communications ,
Reviewed by Helen Banks
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