Notes from the Farmers’ Market Chef

Barbara Cornell

I have been curious lately as to what constitutes a vegan diet.  Luckily I work in the perfect place for research!  Howard County Library System has a wide variety of very recent books on the subject –from the general to the very specific, such as the raw vegan diet, from grilled foods to desserts, and encompassing cuisine from around the world.

By Romuald Bokej from Stockholm, Sweden (Vegan) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Betty goes Vegan, by Dan and Annie Shannon features 500 classic recipes inspired by The Betty Crocker Cookbook but made over to suit a family’s vegan lifestyle.  This would seem a good choice for someone just beginning to transition to a vegan diet.  The dishes will be familiar and easy.

Kathy Freston’s Veganist appeals to the curious with an intriguing subtitle “Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World,” and she says she merely wants to “awaken” us with 10 “life-changing promises.”  She clearly understands that a radical conversion from a meat-based to a plant-based diet can be a scary idea for many of us, so she suggests “leaning in,” “checking out some new information.”  Freston uses many personal stories and interviews with experts—doctors and scientists—to make her point.  She doesn’t provide recipes but offers “three weeks of meals” and a shopping list of ingredients to have on hand.

Another gentle—but passionate—book is by actress Alicia Silverstone, The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet…again with the planet-saving!  She has a lot of people on her side.  Paul McCartney wrote the preface and Neil Barnard the foreword.  Alicia’s journey was at least initially motivated by her love of animals, but her resolve wavered frequently until she noticed how much her health had improved.  Silverstone’s writing is personal and engaging—and convincing.  You can read more on her website The Kind Life .

A recent blockbuster phenomenon is the Forks over Knives franchise which includes a film, two books (with at least two more to follow), the Engine 2 Diet, and the Farms to Forks immersion program.  Forks over Knives at first might seem to mean forks for vegetables over knives for cutting meat, but on their logo the knife is a scalpel, implying food as a cure over surgery and medicine.

The most extreme vegan diet is the restriction to only raw foods, processed as little as possible. Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets, by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina,  is a very detailed history and science lesson concerning the raw-food movement.  Raw Food for Real People: Living Vegan Food Made Simple by the Chef and Founder of Leaf Organics by Rod Rotondi seems more user-friendly.  The Raw Food Detox Diet: The 5-Step Plan for Vibrant Health and Maximum Weight Loss by Natalia Rose, is most specifically about weight loss.  Interestingly it includes many recipes that do involve cooking.

The cuisines of many Eastern cultures lend themselves easily to vegan eating.  Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla, and  Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions by Elizabeth Andoh are two wonderful examples, packed with beautifully illustrated recipes.  Some of the ingredients may require a trip to a specialty market, but we have those nearby!

 Vegans can grill!  John Schlimm’s 2012 Grilling Vegan Style gives us 125 fired-up recipes to turn every bite into a backyard BBQ.  I could get behind this!  Vegetables really take to the grill with panache, and one hardly misses the ribs.  How would you like some grilled watermelon salad?

“What about ice cream?” I hear you ask.  Well, I asked it.  A vegan diet is dairy-free but with Wheeler Del Torro’s recipes in The Vegan Scoop you won’t know the difference from “real” ice cream.   Del Torro’s back story is interesting, his style engaging, and his flavor ideas are wildly imaginative.

Lara Ferroni offers Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats without All the Junk. Her goal was to recreate childhood favorites like Goldfish crackers and Ding Dongs “reimagined with more nutritional ingredients.”  Now these desserts are generally full of sugar and are not low in calories, but there are no mystery ingredients or artificial colors & flavors.  The recipes freely use butter, milk, and eggs, but each is followed by recipe variations that make it alternately gluten-free or vegan.

My research into veganism also turned up a contrary treatise called The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability by Lierre Keith. Her message is for moral vegetarians, political vegetarians, and nutritional vegetarians—that they all have been misled.

Certainly you should read all you can to understand the issues involved here.  Your local library is a great place to start!

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch.

Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.