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The Vegan Cook’s Bible: A Problem of Nomenclature

I got a copy of The Vegan Cook’s Bible for my birthday, and it left me perplexed.

TVCB was written by Pat Crocker, an herbalist who’s neither vegan nor vegetarian, to provide plant-based options for veg*ns as well as people who want to eat less meat. Rather than use analogs, Crocker chose to “embrace the divineness of the ingredients I had to work with,” which means the stars of the recipes are vegetables and “whole” foods. From what I’ve tasted, Crocker has succeeded. I made the Roasted Garlic and Artichoke Spread, Maple-Glazed Cabbage Greens With Pecans, Sweet and Sour Tempeh and Eggplant Stir-Fry (I loathe eggplant, so I used zucchini and green beans instead), Chickpeas and Potatoes in Cashew Cream, Red Lentil and Buckwheat Waffles, and the Berry Chia Smoothie, all of which were delicious.

An informative directory of whole foods takes up the first third of the book; the entry for each vegetable, fruit, grain, etc., includes buying and storing information, culinary uses and a list of the recipes that call for that particular ingredient. There’s also a chart on what and how to substitute for white sugar, which is incredibly helpful if, like me, you’re trying to kick the stuff. (Among Crocker’s suggestions is honey, which isn’t vegan, but that’s easily replaced with agave.)

But while I enjoyed the dishes I tried, I take real issue with the book’s title. First off, there’s the honey mention; while some vegans do eat it, it has no place in an authoritative tome on vegan eating. There are no seitan recipes here (and oddly enough, seitan is listed as a whole food, despite the fact that it’s so highly processed). There are also a limited number of tofu and tempeh recipes. A bible is a complete work from which all else stems, and you can’t claim completeness from a vegan standpoint by eschewing seitan and using tempeh and tofu to such limited degree. There’s also no breakfast section, and the desserts didn’t go to the heights of decadence that they could have.

My biggest problem with the book, though, is the Healthy Body Systems section. It looks at everything from the immune to the musculoskeletal to the cardiovascular system, including the diseases that can afflict them and the best foods for combating or preventing those diseases. And in every single one, as well as in the overall guideline to Healthy Living, Crocker recommends fish. Not only that, fish is the #1 food in the Cardiovascular section. Mind you, there’s no fish in any of the recipes, but there’s no place for even a mention of fish in a vegan cookbook, much less a vegan “bible,” unless you’re talking about a substitute.

When I asked Crocker about this, she told me, “the fact that vegans don’t eat fish does not change the fact that fish is an excellent source of, for example, omega3 fatty acids.” But as we all know, flax and other nuts and seeds, as well as marine sources like algae, provide the same benefits without the health risks associated with eating fish and without causing environmental damage, not to mention the pesky little problem of pain and death for the fish themselves. At the very least, if Crocker felt so strongly about the issue, she could have listed the best “plant-based” foods for each system and left it at that. But there is absolutely no excuse for recommending fish, and doing it multiple times, in a book with the words “vegan” and “bible” in the title.

That said, the recipes I tried were delicious. So if you’re veg and want to incorporate more whole foods into your diet, I’d be happy to lend you my copy. But I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who’s thinking about going veg, because the fish tales will just confuse them.

14 Comments

  1. Comment by

    veganed

    on #

    What a crock(er)!! If you’re gonna try to cash in on the vegan cookbook craze at least pretend that you support the ideals of veganism. You blew it Pat Crocker! Boycott this crap, buy Vegan Planet or any of Isa’s books, and take comfort in knowing that your hard earned cash is not being spent on a Filet-O-Fish sandwich.

  2. Comment by

    elainevigneault

    on #

    I’m so tired of the omega 3 shit. You know, there were vegans before flax seeds got popular and you know what? They didn’t drop over dead for lack of “healthy fat.”

    We don’t need ANY extra fat in our diets at all and people are simply spreading myths when they say we do. Ugh.

  3. Comment by

    vegangel

    on #

    I don’t think I’ll be buying this book any time soon. There are so many fantastic books out there by us and for us. I don’t need some well-meaning non-vegan herbalist to step in and help me. After 21+ years of veganism, I still haven’t wasted away (far from it!).

  4. Comment by

    L2Lulu

    on #

    A cookbook by any other name… would have been more appropriate! I can’t agree more that a self-proclaimed “Vegan Bible” should NEVER promote consuming fish for any reason. If Crocker is so hell-bent on advocating fish why would she ever expound on it in a “Vegan Bible”? Also, I can’t imagine she’s gaining a proper following — those who want to eat fish aren’t likely to ever pick up a book with such a title and vegan’s who DO pick it up will likely, as did I, become offended by her recommendations! She doesn’t get it. This is certainly an example where the book cannot be judged by its cover!

    With that said, I agree with Roseann that there are great recipes in here. And I agree with other posters that there are many other TRUE VEGAN cookbooks to spend your money on. Give this a look-see, make a mental note of the sugar conversion chart, but do yourself a favor and buy Isa’s or Colleen’s or any other vegan’s culinary publications.

  5. Comment by

    veganvalkyrie

    on #

    Where the H*** do these people get their information from? Did she even bother to look up the word “Vegan” in the dictionary???
    FAIL!

    VV

  6. Comment by

    Ivy

    on #

    Un-freakin-believable! Honey and fish in a vegan tome??? Who the hell published it?

  7. Comment by

    Vegan Symphony

    on #

    I will definitely NOT buy this cookbook. I have been a vegan since 1988 and a vegetarian since 1983…and have haven’t withered away without fish, honey or omega3′s (I do use flax now…)
    It reminds me of Anna Thomas’s awful cookbook “Vegetarian Epicure” in which she devotes pages to cooking turkey on a spitfire for Thanksgiving and says that the turkey is so good that all vegetarians at her Thanksgiving table are always tempted to eat it. She also uses gelatin in her cookbooks.

    And then there is Deborah Madison (non-vegetarian) who promotes non-vegetarian foods in her supposedly vegetarian cookbooks.

    I was wondering…what other vegan (or vegetarian) cookbook writers are not vegetarian or which other cookbooks are tainted with dead animal carcass suggestions?

  8. Comment by

    sriram

    on #

    i think the true culprit is the american heartless assoc! i recently consulted with a cigna dietician and when i mentioned my running injuries and wondered if it might be related to my diet, she sent me this link:
    http://www.medicinenet.com/vegetarian_and_vegan_diet/page2.htm
    it goes on& on abt fish initially that i began to wonder if it was meant to scare ppl away from a vegan diet! someday, it’d be nice if supervegan came up with a search/database of vegan friendly docs and dieticians

  9. Comment by

    Beverly

    on #

    It is unbelievable how people do misleading things like what it is in this book. Thanks for letting people know the truth about the book. I’m absolutely never going to buy it.

  10. Comment by

    Patrick Kwan

    on #

    Artisan seitan (and seitan made at home) are not highly processed. A basic seitan is just wheat flour, broth, and salt. You mix wheat flour, salt, and broth, knead and wash it in water, then boil it in broth (like you would a bagel), and voila, you have seitan. So, it is considered a whole food.

  11. Comment by

    Roseann Marulli

    on #

    Thanks, Patrick. My understanding of a whole food has always been one that is minimally or not processed at all, and one that does not include salt or any other additives.

  12. Comment by

    Tracy Warner

    on #

    This is so stupid and greatly angers me. I think there’s a lot of meat eaters who don’t eat fish — people with allergies, or the mass number of people who just think it’s gross — and they manage? There’s obviously a number of sources for omega-3′s.

    Or better yet, take a flipping supplement.

    Oh, man. We should send letters to the publisher or something. That book should be take off the shelves or redone without fish. Vegans are harassed enough without getting harassed in their own cookbooks.

    I guess we could just not buy it. It’s the principle of the matter, though.

  13. Comment by

    Kitteh

    on #

    I just read about this over @ My Face is on Fire and thought I would check out your review.

    I don’t understand why an omni would write a vegan cookbook that goes on to suggest honey and fish, agh!

  14. Comment by

    dfsa

    on #

    There are so many books, i do not think i willl buy it.

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