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.