Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vegonomicon has Landed...Warn the neighbors

Oh, Isa Chandra Maskovitz, how I love you. This is not a “raise the red flag security guards” love, but just a sincere “I have a couple hundred more ways to feed my baby” respect. (If you need to meet the authors virtually, watch their cooking shows online.) Today I received the best birthday gift I can remember in memory from my friend A—. I received the Veganomicon, a cookbook not a counter-insurgency plan.

What I love about the book is its accessibility. I hadn’t really read the entries/essays in the book until now, because there is only so much mooching that you can do in a bookstore. The authors have a cheesy sense of humor (well faux-cheesy, I guess) that I not only appreciate but in fact practice. Beyond that, they are not preachy. And most importantly, they give you the sense that they aren’t sadists in their meat-less ways, but instead food-loving animal lovers.

These are ladies who seem to feel like the guides to the land of vegan culture. And, obviously taking this role seriously, they describe minutia that might be uninteresting to the long-time vegan, but essential to those of us just beginning this path. I have this sense that Isa or her co-author Terry Hope Romero (love you to) must have all their punk 7-inches alphabetized and then sorted by color, because the recipes are indexed and re-indexed. As I have owned the book for less than 10 hours, I have yet to have need of these aids, but hell, they might come in handy soon enough.

It also comes with menus and most importantly the goal of the book is “that you won’t even need to look at the recipe again after making it a few times.”(Moskowitz and Romero, xv) And it is this last part that I love the best. They are not only recipes but also ideas and guides to make your own recipes.

The other night we were watching Tom Colicchio on a Chef’s Story. He had become a chef through the apprentice system rather than through the CIA path. He started his self-planned education by going through Jacques Pepin’s book and perfected every technique in the book. He felt those techniques were his culinary institute. This seems to be good advice for the home cook. Perfection of technique and understanding of your ingredients is the best way to ensure a good meal—not a recipe.

So, what did we eat for dinner? I made couscous with kale and carrots (not from Isa, but inspired by her quinoa pilaf. Oh quinoa, why did I not buy you last weekend?), roasted eggplant with tahini dressing, and broiled tofu. The tofu was scrumptious. It was rich in flavor but soft. Next time, I might spray the top with a little olive oil, and then put it back under the broiler to make it a little crunchy. But, otherwise, great hit. This book has not put an end to the icebox experiments, but instead enlivened them.


Sarah said...

I think we will have to make Vegonomicon next on our list of cook books to buy. The menus sound most interesting to me, because I always find it a challenge to put different recipes together. We have her first book, Vegan with a Vengeance and have been enjoying it quite a bit. We had only flirted with veganism before getting the book with miserable results until we got the Vengence book. Even my son has been enjoying his veggies! Nice review!

maybelles mom said...

Thanks for the compliment. I thought I commented on your last two comments, and somehow they got lost in cyberspace. We are Earth Balance Margarine people. Though, I am still not vegan-experienced enough to stay with any brand. Also I went to the Green Rd Heinen's today and noticed a huge amount of Gluten-free products, so I might explore their vegan supplies. I might also try Zagara's. Local is what makes Cleveland Cleveland. I have actually tried the Vegan with Vegance recipes you posted and they are good. But, I haven't seen the book in life. Maybe, I will look for it. But, you should definitely get Veganomicon!