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Veganomicon: Your Guide To A Glorious Global Cuisine

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Q. What do tree huggers, animal lovers, nutrition experts, and Michael Pollan have in common?

A. They all want YOU to eat more plants and fewer animals.

This may be a tall order in our "where's the beef" culture, but with meat consumption fingered as a major factor in climate change, more and more carnivores have been cowed into cutting back on factory farmed flesh.

OK, so you're not ready to become a Seitan worshipper, but you'd like to try to steer clear of steer-based cuisine. Looking for some inspiration on how to minimize the meat in your meals? You can't do better than Veganomicon, a witty compendium which brashly -- and accurately -- declares itself to be "the Ultimate Vegan Cookbook."

How good is this book? My meat-loving better half picked up my just-bought copy last night and was still drooling over the recipes a half hour later.

Veganomicon's been on my must-read list ever since I heard its authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, on NPR's Weekend Edition a month ago. But being a blogger on a budget, I don't dash out to buy every book that whets my appetite. And being a dumbass, I don't think to just call the publisher and say, hey, will you send me a copy of this awesome-sounding book so I can blog about how awesome it is? (The publisher of this particular book is, like, six blocks away from me; I probably could have just walked over there and asked for a copy.)

But no, my strategy is to add tantalizing titles to my wish list at the Strand, which enables us impoverished book junkies to feed our habit by discounting new books. So when the Strand called to say that my copy of Veganomicon had arrived, I popped over to pick it up and brought it to the cashier. "Do you need a bag?" she asked.

"Nah, that's OK, I've got one," I said, pulling out my obligatory cloth bag. And it's a good thing I had remembered to bring it, too, because I ran into No Impact Man on my way home, pedaling down Fifth Avenue in his trademark three-wheeled No Impact Mobile loaded up with locavore staples from the Greenmarket. How embarrassing would that have been, if he'd spotted me with a plastic bag carrying a book on how to eat more sustainably?

We chatted a bit about saving kitchen scraps and the world (though not in that order), and then I went home to inspect my new acquisitions.

Since Matt snatched Veganomicon out of my hands before I could sink my teeth into it, I haven't yet read it cover to cover. But skimming through its pages, I was captivated by the authors' lively, engaging tone and the thoughtfully written sections addressing the challenges that are unique to vegan cooking and baking.

What really shines through and makes Veganomicon so appealing, though, is Moskowitz and Romero's obvious passion for making tasty dishes, from non-carnivorous variations on classic comfort foods to more exotic entrees seasoned by all kinds of ethnic flavors. Number one on my can't-wait-to-make list is the acorn squash, pear, and adzuki soup with sautéed shitakes, followed by the tangerine baked tofu. Matt's first choice is the banana-chocolate chip bread pudding; I'll be first in line to try it.

This book makes mincemeat of the myth that vegan cuisine is all about sacrifice; it's not. What really good vegan cooking does is celebrate the amazingly diverse, delicious range of vegetables, fruits and grains that we meat eaters too often overlook. Moskowitz and Romero have perfected a brand of vegan cooking that "draws influences from every part of the world to create an entirely new way to eat." And it's exactly the way we need to start eating, now, if we want to save this wonderful ol' world.

Originally posted on TakePart.com.

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