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This is the fifth day of the rest of my life as a vegetarian. When I told my friend Nikki about my new culinary choice, she presented me with The Clueless Vegetarian. It's a great intro to the lifestyle, and I'm happy to have a guide for these early, beginning days.
But being the book lover I am, I ask you all: what are the best vegetarian cookbooks? And what books have influenced your own beliefs about vegetarianism?
As for what cookbooks are best, it depends on what kind of food you like best. I like Asian and Mediterranean food a lot, so I tend to go for cookbooks in those traditions -- both specifically vegetarian cookbooks, and "general" cookbooks that have a fair proportion of vegetarian dishes (for example, most Indian cookbook will have a good number of veggie dishes).
Whether by coincidence or not, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines are probably the richest in traditional vegetarian recipes (not that other traditions don't have vegetarian food, even vegetarian staples -- poor people have been eating vegetarian for a long time -- but these two have a greater variety of vegetarian main dishes than any other tradition I know).
"Non-ethnic" vegetarian cookbooks in English tend to be either (a) "granola-type" (especially older books), or (b) French cuisine-influenced "traditional" British, or (c) what I think of as "traditional American veggie cooking" (with an emphasis on bakes and casseroles). I use cookbooks of all these types, but they're not my favourite food types so I use them less.
I think the best way to look for vegetarian cookbooks is to decide what kind of food you want first, and then look for the veggie version :-)
I agree with AnnaOok, though. "Ethnic" cookbooks can be great.
I just ordered Vegan With a Vengeance, which looks totally awesome as well.
A non-vegetarian friend turned me on to Passionate vegetarian a couple of years ago. It's become on of my favorites.
As to what books influenced my beliefs about vegetarianism... the first one that really got me thinking was Upton Sinclair's The jungle. But also growning up in a farming area, treating our animals with kindness and then slaughtering them to eat also got me thinking as a kid... there had to be a better way.
Do you have cereal for breakfast? (Shredded Wheat is my choice.) If so, you can wet it with soy milk.
If you're more from the sausage part of the country, then try Tofurky or Boca ones.
Are there any good Chinese restaurants near you? I've had Mapo tofu (without pork!) every Friday night for decades. It's not hard to make, either. I would therefore recommend Asian vegetarian cookbooks rather than soy-focused cookbooks, which I've found disappointing, though maybe I've just missed the good ones.
ETA: Grilled tempeh is a good snack.
Bookwise, there are books such as New Soy Cookbook and The Whole Soy Cookbook. I don't have personal experience with either of those two, but I think they would be worth a look.
Some soy use is very easy -- for instance, using textured vegetable protein (TVP) in chili, instead of ground beef. Or adding a bit of soy flour to pancakes and baked goods. Or tossing some of the pre-marinated, ready-to-use tofu or tempeh cubes into a stir-fry. Hopefully some of the other online and book sources can give you other ideas and tips. :)
Best of luck!
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