Why, if it isn’t an unimaginative exploitation of Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons! Say, how are you, my old friend? Vegan now, I see. And with an updated cover! What happened to all your milk and cheese? Just substituted soy, you say? Didn’t bother to change the recipes much or add too many, did you?
You know in college when you bought the fifth edition of Hamlet and then some blowhard added a new preface so you were required to purchase the sixth? Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons is kind of like that.
Not that I’m not completely grateful to have many of the recipes in this book. Nava Atlas—whose cheeky artwork gets a domestic girl giggling—offers some satisfying seasonal soups. But I think I’ve seen these before, perhaps four years ago, when I acquired the first edition. And though there’s certainly some value in getting another categorically vegan cookbook out there, this one doesn’t warrant the costs of printing and distribution when a perfectly good vegetarian edition is already available to those who know when to substitute rice milk for diary milk, and, more important, when not to.
One wonders whether Atlas is sensitive to that difference. See, for example, the most failing recipe in the book, the Macaroni and Cheese Soup. As we’ve all lamented, vegan cheeses generally fall into three categories: expensive, tolerable, and vomitty. (Cheezy-sauce, Isa and Terry-style, is a completely different phenomenon, but that’s not what this recipe calls for.) Atlas’s recipe suggests 1 ½ cups firmly packed cheddar-style non-dairy cheese. I used a category 2 vegan cheese, Follow Your Heart. Maybe this was my mistake. Whatever—this soup had a pungently nauseous flavor and a slimy, chunky texture. Worst of all, it wasted two whole cups of tiny shell pasta.
Abortive cheese substitutions aside, Vegan Soups contains plenty of reliable vegan recipes borrowed from its predecessor; nearly every soup that skips the non-dairy milk and cheese could be a staple year-round. The Buddha’s Delight Stew, a colorful Chinese cuisine-inspired mix of veggies and seitan, has kept me warm many a cold, dreary night. And you can’t go wrong with the Classic Gazpacho for hot, lazy afternoons.
If you already own a copy of Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, leave the doppelganger on the shelf. Otherwise, save trees and snag the eBook.