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Favorite Vegetarian Cookbooks

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My Favorite Vegetarian Cookbooks

Like most vegetarians, I have a shelf filled with cookbooks. I love cookbooks! I used to snatch up many of them at the store, only to find out when I got home that there were not many recipes in them that I'd wanted to try. The cookbook would then sit there on my shelf for a couple of years barely touched and then I'd end up unloading it on eBay or something like that. I got a little tired of putting my money on cookbooks that didn't exactly thrill me when I got home.

The same can be said about ordering cookbooks online. Unless you are familiar with the author it can be a major disappointment when you get the book in the mail. Case in point - I jumped on the bandwagon to order How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman. I was so disappointed in that book that I sent it back to Amazon.com and requested a refund, to which they obliged. With this book I learned that vegetarian cookbooks need to be written by vegetarians. I left a review on the Amazon.com site, giving the book two out of five stars. Here's some of the reasons why I did not like this book:

  • The author discusses how some people who call themselves vegetarians and still eat various animals. He didn't make a point of defining what a vegetarian is - someone that does not eat any type of animal flesh. I didn't like the areas at all where he wrote his own thoughts, I think that's what got him in trouble with me. Like when he said calling tofu and things like that "meat alternatives" would be insulting. Insulting? And he said that pork could be called a seitan substitute.
  • Honestly it came through very strongly that this was a carnivore writing a vegetarian book. It's something I hadn't even thought about before purchasing, I wouldn't think it would matter. But it did! It was almost as if he was writing about vegetarian food, but still feeling the need to defend and discuss meat.
  • Even in the desert section he says that vegetarians usually eat the same deserts as carnivores because deserts don't usually contain animals. That shows his ignorance toward vegetarianism, because we know that often times people use things like marshmallows and gelatin in deserts, both of which are not vegetarian.
  • I was also disappointed with how many recipes there were that contain eggs and dairy. Loads of them! I would have liked to see a lot more vegan or vegan-friendly recipes (ones that can easily be altered to be vegan). In his opening he said that the world is going in at least a semi-vegetarian direction because we can't keep up with the production of meat at the current rate. How about that it's also healthier? How about that it is better for the environment? How about that it's better for the animals? Not a mention of any of that. And taking out the meat, but loading up the recipes with cheese and eggs doesn't take care of the insatiable need/desire for animal products. It doesn't address his comment on being able to keep up with the demand.

Why do books like this appeal to so many people? I say it's good marketing on behalf of the publisher. The publisher gets the word out to the masses and they buy simply because others buy. It's like a herd mentality and many people don't think for themselves, they just follow the herd and buy. Another cookbook that has done well because of this is the Skinny Bitch series. Rory Freedman uses sensationalism to sell books, degrades women, and puts out (from what I've been told) not-so-great recipes. I've personally never even looked at one of her books. She lost me as a purchaser with such an insulting title, which I find to be part of the dumbing down of America.

Anyway, a good way to find out if you like a vegetarian cookbook without actually forking over the money for it is to see which ones your local library has. I am always seeing what new ones my library has. You get a chance to look through it and see if you will actually get some use out of it. If you find one that has quite a few recipes you'd like to order, then pick up a copy. You don't always need to pay full retail though, check out places like eBay, Amazon.com and Half.com to save money on those books by buying used. Besides, buying used is better for the planet anyway.

My top favorite vegetarian cookbooks are (in no particular order):

  • My own family cookbook binder. I picked up a recipe binder several years ago, where I have written down favorite family recipes, added ones I've found in magazines, etc. I use it often and plan to someday turn it into a book through lulu.com that will just be given to my kids, so they have a book of our favorite recipes, complete with side notes about the dishes, our family meal experiences, pictures of our meals and gatherings, etc. (the book won't be for sale, it's just going to be for my kids). You can find recipe binders like this one: Peaches: Deluxe Recipe Keeper (Binder)
  • Compassionate Cook: Please don't Eat the Animals is a great vegan cookbook by PETA. This is an older book, but can be picked up very cheaply. I still use many recipes from this little cookbook, which I purchased probably around 13 years ago.
  • The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets is highly recommended if you plan to make any treats. This book has many yummy recipes that I've used for entertaining purposes. The lemon bars have consistently served as a favorite among all guests and I've made the cakes for birthdays on quite a few occasions.
  • Vegan Express has quite a few recipes that we like and I use this book often. My husband is especially fond of the tortilla casserole dish and we all really like the creamy pasta with asparagus and peas, among other favorites.
  • Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You Are is absolutely one of my favorite cookbooks. I use this book often and have so many favorite recipes, especially the southwest potpie with cornbread topping, regular potpie, sloppy lentils, and the macaroni and cheese. This is a book I highly recommend! Did I mention how great the sloppy lentils are? Pair it with some vegan coleslaw and a fruit salad and you have a great meal!
  • The PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick) Vegetarian Cookbook: 240 Healthy and Easy No-Prep Recipes for Busy Cooks is a good cookbook, although it is not all vegan. I do modify recipes to make them vegan and have found quite a few recipes I like, such as the mushroom stroganoff, and the rice and bean empanadas.

The great thing is that through all these cookbooks it shows just how diverse a vegetarian diet really is. People often ask me what I eat as a vegetarian, assuming I live on salads. Truth be told, I probably eat a far greater span of dishes than they do! I have many favorites and I also enjoy trying at least one new recipe each week (and thankfully, I have a husband who's very open to trying foods). Go forth and build a good cookbook collection and enjoy!