Brand New Veggie! (What do you recommend??)

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Brand New Veggie! (What do you recommend??)

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Oct 11, 2006, 10:56pm

So...over the years I've had many vegetarian friends, and have always appreciated and respected their viewpoints. And being a pretty "progressive" type of person, I started doing my own research on the issue. And being a snob, I never thought I'd become one.

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?

Edited: Oct 13, 2006, 8:00am

I don't have particular "beliefs" about vegetarianism, I just don't eat dead animals :-)

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 :-)

Edited: Oct 13, 2006, 10:56am

My favourites are the How It All Vegan books (How It All Vegan, The Garden of Vegan, and La Dolce Vegan). They're a good mix of ethnic and non-ethnic recipes, and they have lots of helpful non-recipe info (like how to make cleaning products and toiletries, a million different uses for baking soda, animal ingredient lists, etc. etc.) The Moosewood books are also really good, although not all of them are strictly vegetarian. (Some have fish recipes in them.) Their recipes can be time-consuming, but Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home has fast and easy stuff. If you like to use a slowcooker, 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes is good, and 125 Best Vegan Recipes is also pretty good (and has the BEST recipe for vegan brownies I've ever made.)
I agree with AnnaOok, though. "Ethnic" cookbooks can be great.

Apr 26, 2007, 1:34pm

I really like The Vegetarian Family Cookbook for a variety of food that is tasty but also seems more familiar to someone who spent a lot of time as a meat-eater. Don't get me wrong, I love ethnic foods and particularly spicy foods, but it is nice to have the option to make foods that are similar to what I grew up eating (only healthier), for purposes of nostalgia or to take to potlucks.

I just ordered Vegan With a Vengeance, which looks totally awesome as well.

Feb 4, 2008, 9:02am

Don't make the mistake of getting tied down to only veggie cookbooks. Almost all of the recipes you used to use can be adapted these days simply by using Quorn or other substitutes in place of meat. All you need to do is familiarise yourself with what are non-veggie products (eg gelatine, Worcester sauce) that you probably used to use without thinking about it, then experiment to suit your own taste. Most people we have round for meals don't even know that we don't eat meat unless they are daft enough to ask what kind of 'meat' they are eating. (Not that we keep it a secret, you understand, just that we don't make a big deal of it either.) My mum keeps saying she wouldn't know what to feed us on these days. I keep replying 'Just the same as you used to feed us on. If there's something there we don't eat, we'll leave it, or, if you really want to make an effort, chuck in Quorn instead of meat (You'll also find it much easier and quicker to cook and probably feel healthier yourself for trying it!)'

Feb 4, 2008, 10:28am

Great advice so far. I agree that traditional cookbooks are very good for the basics. That said, I would also recommend Laurel's kitchen as a classic that would probably be good on everyone's shelf. There was also a thread further down from a couple of months ago that lists quite a few of people's favorite cookbooks.

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.

Feb 4, 2008, 12:33pm

I bought Veganomicon recently, and that is more like a basic cookbook, and a really good resource. I have been doing a lot of cookbook buying lately, even though I haven't been cooking as much. I need to get on that.

May 25, 2008, 7:48pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: May 25, 2008, 10:33pm

> 8
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.

May 25, 2008, 9:31pm

Thank you MMcM, I will try all your suggestions.

May 27, 2008, 11:59am

I think you should try the Veganomicon it has tons of soy products and lots of info.

May 27, 2008, 2:23pm

The Vegetarian Cooking for Dummies book has an exercpt which you can read online, Using Soy Foods in Vegetarian Cooking. There are also a number of Web sites with soy cooking tips, such as this one and also this one. Plus, there are a number of online recipe collections, here, for example.

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!

May 27, 2008, 8:04pm

Wow, you guys are really coming through for me with some great suggestions, thank you so much to all.

Jan 25, 2009, 4:29pm

My first vegetarian cookbook was a "reference book" Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for everyone. This book is really great and provides information about buying, storing, and preparing vegetables, lentils, beans, grains, and dairy. Her basic recipes for stock, rice, vinaigrette, sauces, etc. are what I turn to when I need inspiration. Another standard reference book to try is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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