Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vegan: A How-To Guide

Gosh, I wish Elizabeth Castoria's new book How To Be Vegan had been out when I went veg in 2004. Back then, there weren't many books focusing on all aspects of the vegan lifestyle. There were cookbooks, sure. And there were a few good zines that spelled things out (The now-defunct Cheap Vegan zine saved my life!).

But until a few months ago when Elizabeth's guide hit the stands, there wasn't really anything quite like this. You probably know her best as the former editorial director of VegNews (which as far as I can tell is out of print these days yet it retains on online presence). But once this book gets around, Elizabeth may be better known as the author who literally wrote the book on veganism.

How To Be Vegan is filled with tips and tricks for everything from cooking and traveling to decorating, house cleaning, and even dating. There's a chapter on the basics (vegans vs. vegetarians vs. pescatarian, etc., a history of veganism, and more), what to eat (nutrition basics, supplements, vegan staple foods), clean living (what not to wear, how to find vegan shoes, hygiene, green cleaning), and travel (what to eat in airports, a rundown of the top vegan restaurants, vegan foods in other countries). Much of this is illustrated through quizzes, adorable flow charts, and cute graphics. There's even a tongue-in-cheek flow chart to help you decide whether or not you should get a burrito at the airport.

But perhaps my favorite chapter is one on manners. It's titled "Don't Be a Jerk," and it covers the basics of vegan etiquette: how to answer the protein question, how to be a good vegan host, vegan dating, dealing with the holidays, etc. New vegans need advice on those topics just as much as they do what to eat. Nothing is worse than a new vegan who suddenly feels self-righteous and starts goin' all vegan police on everybody.

Of course Elizabeth also includes recipes! The final chapter contains 50 simple plant-based recipes to help new vegans (or old vegans!) get started in the kitchen. All the dishes fall into the comfort category, and there's nothing gourmet or difficult. Breakfast recipes include tofu scramble and banana-nut muffins, and lunches are salads (kale salad, quinoa & black bean salad) and sandwiches (curried tofu salad pitas, sloppy janes made with pinto beans and mushrooms).

There are quick snacks such as roasted chickpeas and cheesy kale chips and basic desserts like oatmeal cookies, fudgy brownies, and old-fashioned apple crisp.

I chose to try a recipe from the dinner chapter — Rice with Beans and Greens.

I probably don't need a recipe for a bean and grain bowl, but honestly, I'd never made one like this. It's a one-pot meal so the brown rice, beans of your choice (I went with cannellini), and greens of your choice (I picked local Swiss chard) are all cooked together. Then Elizabeth suggests add-ins that you can stir in at the end. I picked sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, basil, and parsley. This was so good, and it felt so wholesome going down.

If you know a new vegan or someone you wish would make the switch, this is the perfect book. I really think this would answer every question a newbie could have.

4 comments: said...

That looks like such a great resource! I love that there's a Don't Be a Jerk chapter!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, B.

--Jason Henry

amber said...

This sounds like something I need to reignite my spark. I've gotten so burnt out and just feel so blah about it all lately. I do love the one dish meals, use the One Dish Vegan cookbook a lot given it's just me in this house that eats vegan and these recipes are simple for a non-cook. :]

My Very Veggie Blog said...

I've been a vegan for 6 years (this August) and I find I always learn something new whenever a book like this is published. I'll absolutely check it out, thanks for sharing!