Posted Mar 4, 2010
There’s no shortage of resources available about veganism. I’ve been overwhelmed this month by the ever-growing pile of cookbooks and how-to guides that have landed on my desk. Here are three that I found useful:
“Vegan in 30 Days,” by Sarah Taylor (Taylor Presentations, Inc., 104 pages, $9.95): When I switched over to a plant-based diet, I did it all at once, and it was a lot of changes all at once. That’s overwhelming for some people, and this quick-reading guide offers a more gradual approach, with 30 steps to becoming a full-on vegan. Each day’s chapter is only a couple of pages, and includes a simple homework assignment balancing some obvious steps (Day 4: Eliminate red meat; Day 20: Eliminate eggs), with some fun activities (trying new recipes, buying a veggie chopper, connecting with other vegans). She also offers tightly written capsules examining the different reason people consider veganism: compassion for animals, environmental concerns, health. The only nit: The book contains only 14 of the author’s favorite recipes, and only a couple of them are ambitious, but this isn’t cookbook. Think of it as a “starter kit,” and one that packs an astonishing amount of material in a little over 100 pages.
“The Engine 2 Diet,” by Rip Esselstyn (Hachette Book Group, 273 pages, $24.99): Concerns about health are a root of many vegan journeys, and this accessible eating plan explains how eating a plant-based diet can help melt away pounds and significantly lower cholesterol. The author is a former professional triathlete and a working firefighter in Austin, Texas, and he opens his book with a harrowing story of a dangerous apartment fire where members of his engine company were badly injured. It proves a catalyst for examining the fragile nature of life, and put his firefighter buddies on a cholesterol-reducing regimen. He devotes an entire chapter to busting a dozen myths about food, including concerns over protein and nutrients, and he has helpful guides for what to look for on nutritional labels, menu planning, and understanding what those cholesterol numbers mean. And he’s an athlete, so he’s got exercise suggestions, too. A couple of issues, though: he takes great pains to avoid the word “vegan,” caving into the politicization of the word; and while the 100 pages of recipes are great, with lots of variety, the portion sizes are designed for firefighters, not regular appetites. If a recipe says it serves 4, you can assume it will be enough food to feed 6 or even 8. That’s great if you love having a freezer full of leftovers, as I do. But for things like sweet potato fries, you may want to cut the recipes in half.
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Living,” by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartano (Alpha, 360 pages, $18.95): I hesitate to even recommend any of those “(Fill in the blank) For Dummies” or “Complete Idiot’s” books, because the titles sound condescending and dumbed-down, often bordering on the ridiculous, like the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Self-Testing Your IQ.” Insert your own joke here. OK, so I’ve bashed the premise. Here’s why you should give this particular guide a try: It’s one of the most-comprehensive examinations off the myriad of issues and questions that people face when they’re considering veganism, like protein, calcium, carbohydrates (guess what? They aren’t evil after all!), and ingredient substitutions. Plus it has useful info on taking veganism beyond the diet, with recommendations for soaps, shampoo, cosmetics and deodorant that aren’t made with animal products or tested on animals. One last reason: The authors are from Eugene, so let’s hear it for the home team.
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— Grant Butler
Date: Feb 25, 2010
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