Got a vegan in the family? Did your teenager "go crazy" and start wearing hemp shoes and throwing your chicken pot pie out the window? Are you a new vegan and you're feeling lost and adrift in a cold, meaty world? Are you a vegan and you want to spread the green word without bashing people on the head with your soapbox? Here are a few ideas for gifts for vegans, animal rights activists, people on the fence, and people who won't stop badgering you about what you eat and you would rather a book or a DVD answered their questions for you. This list is made up mostly of books, but if your vegan refuses to read, just buy them a good chef's knife. Watching my friends try to cut up carrots with a 2 inch paring knife is a deeply painful experience.
General Vegan Guides
The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, by Colleen Patrick Goudreau
If you, or anyone you know, is thinking about becoming vegan but you have some questions about how you would accomplish such a feat, this is the book for you. Vegan activist Colleen Patrick Goudreau (you've read my raves about her marvellous podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought) expertly lays out 30 days full of information about food, health, social situations, and practical matters such as how to stock a vegan kitchen, how to bake without eggs, and getting the right nutrients. A perfect book for anyone, man/woman, intellectual/practicalist/granola cruncher, who is interested in veganism.
The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone
If vegan activists were sitting around waiting for a poster girl to champion their cause, they couldn't have asked for better than sweet, enthusiastic, and beautiful Alicia Silverstone and her gentle, occasionally slightly silly, but inspiring introduction to veganism. Coming from a semi-macrobiotic point of view, Alicia lays bare the ethical, environmental, and health reasons for veganism. She offers practical advice on making the change, allowing room for both people who want to "flirt" with a vegan diet and people who want to jump right in and eat a wholefoods vegan diet. She also includes a fair amount of recipes, some of which contain fairly unfamiliar, and sometimes pricey ingredients, but many of which are very simple and surprisingly delicious. A good, very unintimidating book for women.
Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
While some people find the irreverant and frequently profane tone of this book a little off-putting, I have to admit that I think Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are kind of geniuses. When you pull the book off the shelf, it reads as just another diet book, but it is actually a thorough explanation of the horrors of the animal agriculture industry and a sensible guide to wholefoods eating. Rory Freedman has point blank admited that the snappy title was simply a marketing ploy, saying "I am well aware that in this day and age, in this society, people care more about their appearance than they do about almost anything else. It’s sad that that’s the case. I wrote the book so that women who only cared about how they look would learn about what they were contributing to in terms of animal torture, how they were poisoning their own bodies, and how being skinny is bullshit meaninglessness." I can't express to you how much I f***ing love that. Another good book for women, but there is also a counterpart, Skinny Bastard, which is aimed at men.
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer
Fiction writer Jonathan Safron Foer had a baby, and then decided that he had to feed that baby. This thought process led him to investigate the conditions of farm animals raised in the modern agricultural system. And THIS process led to him becoming vegan. Eating Animals is personal, creatively written, and pretty devasting. The book wanders through personal experience, story-telling, and overwhelming factual information. Safron Foer remains free of judgement of the reader's choices, fairly representing multiple perspectives on the subject of animal industry, and never pushing his point. A good volume for the philosophically inclined or those on the fence who can't handle more dogmatic, black and white reasoning.
Stuff I haven't read:
Professor Gary Francione's Books
Gary Francione is the father of the abolitionist approach in animal activism, meaning he is opposed to welfare reforms in the industry, and instead focuses his time on vegan outreach and education, in an attempt to abolish animal use in our society. I follow his podcast avidly, but haven't read any of his books yet. Rain Without Thunder is the standard.
Earthlings, directed by Shaun Monson
I haven't watched this documentary, and I have no intention of watching it in the future. But that doesn't mean I don't think YOU should. This documentary, narrated by vegan actor Joaquin Pheonix, is reputedly incredibly full-on, examining animal abuse in our society without skimping on the graphics. People walk out of the movie theatre and become vegan instantly.
The Great American Detox Diet, by Alex Jamieson
I really like this simple little guide to healthy eating, written by the wife of Supersize Me's Morgan Spurlock. Based on the diet she put Morgan on after his month of McGrease, Jamieson enthusiastically lays out 8 weeks of cutting out dietary nasties, including caffeine, sugar, animal, protein, trans fats, and simple carbs. The book also contains a final section of several recipes, and most of these that I've tried have been pretty yummy. This book is a good introduction for anyone who is just starting to show a burgeoning interest in a healthy diet.
The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell
Everyone needs to read this book. Now. Read this book and understand cancer growth better, just how very much our diet affects our chances of getting cancer, heart problems, and autoimmune diseases, and how collosally, infuriatingly corrupt the American Food Standards Agency is in deciding what information and regulations make it to the public. Respected Cornell medical researcher T Colin Campbell has spent his long career examing the relationship between the standard Western diet and disease and a wholefoods, plant-based diet and good health, and he chronicles many years of findings in this book. Some animal activists object to the book on the grounds that some of Campbell's earliest work involved experiments on animals. Of course I don't approve of these methods, but I think that to ignore such a compelling and important work is simply shortsighted. Like I said, this book is a good idea for everyone. EVERYONE.
Also see: Forks Over Knives, directed by Lee Fulkerson
This documentary is pretty much a summary and film version of The China Study, and talks about the work of Campbell, Dr. Carl Esseylstyn, and Dr. John Mcdougall. The movie also includes interviews with several people who were on death's door, and have used a plant-based diet to turn their lives around become healthy, active people at an older age. And some of them are just so...adorable! A great introduction to the ideas in The China Study.
Stuff I haven't read:
Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina
I feel a little silly admitting that I haven't actually read this book, but this is the quintessential guide to the nutritional considerations of turning vegan.
Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romano
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romano are the quirky, creative kitchen goddesses of Veganworld, and this all-purpose cookbook will stand on the shelves of all vegans for years to come. The book includes a comprehensive guide to stocking your kitchen and instructions for how to cook various vegetables, grains, and beans. The recipes are amazingly creative and delicious, with options such as potato and kale enchiladas, mole skillet pie, and jelly donut cupcakes. The only drawback to the book is that a lot of the recipes are very time consuming, and I would pay close attention of the time guidelines before you decide to make one of the dishes for a weeknight dinner. A good book for any vegan or vegetarian, or anyone who is truly interested in the endless possibilities of their kitchen.
The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The second entry on this list for a Colleen Patrick-Goudreau book, this cookbook focuses on holiday and entertaining meals for the vegan table. Ironically, most of the receipes in this book are less complicated and quicker than the recipes in Veganomicon. This book is peppered with bits of cooking tips, foodie knowledge, entertaining ideas, and advice for the social challenges of eating as a vegan. The recipes are nearly all winners, including macaroni and cashew cheese, carmelized tempeh shwarmas, and FRUIT SUSHI. Patrick-Goudreau uses mostly familar, easy to find ingredients, and thoroughly explains any unfamilar ingredients. An all around good book for those new to the diet, or those who love to entertain.
Moosewood Cooks at Home, by the Moosewood Collective
Some may find the inclusion of the Moosewood cookbooks on this list to be controversial: they aren't vegan, or even technically vegetarian, a small amount of the recipes include fish, but my formative culinary years were shaped by the Moosewood Collective, and this cookbook is such a great introduction to vegetarian cooking. Many of the dishes are vegan, and quite a few can be easily veganised (although a few are centred around eggs, dairy, and fish). The cookbook is fantastic for weekdays, full of simple, uncomplicated recipes with mostly familiar ingredients that you can find in any ol' grocery store. Some of the recipes I've already featured on this blog, but other favourites of mine include the African peanut and pineapple stew, bulger burgers, cajun skillet beans, and pan bagnet (a pressed, garlicky baguette sandwich). A great cookbook for those just starting out in the kitchen.
Moosewood Celebrates, by the Moosewood Collective
I love this cookbook! We're focussing on entertaining and celebrating again here, and reading this book will make you want to cook (and eat). Divided into season and then into different holidays, each seasonal introduction will get you excited about seasonal cooking, and each description of each holiday will make you want to entertain, travel, and learn more about world food. The various holidays include familiar Western ones, as well as, also Diwali, Chinese New Year, Tibetain-American Losar Dinner, Juneteenth, and Setsubun (Japanese Bean Day). I have many favourite recipes from this book, some of which are greens and cashew curry, Indian potato pancakes, potato latkes, Tibetan style seitan burritos, and vegetable pot pie (this one isn't vegan, but I'm determined to figure out how to veganize it). Again, a few (very few) recipes have fish in them, although several of those recipes include a vegetarian option. Vegan recipes are helpfully indexed in the back, and plenty of the LO veggie recipes are easily veganized. A great book for any cook, but especially those looking to expand their horizons.
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
We're back with Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, and this adorable little book is as cute as cupcakes themselves. This book includes many delicious and creative recipes, most of which use ingredients omnivore bakers will have on their shelves (agave nectar makes only the briefest appearance in this book*). The recipes are pretty much foolproof, but in case you are particularly foolish, there is an introductory section of helpful and clearly explained baking tips and troubleshooting. Try the banana split cupcakes (I love these and I don't even like banana), almond and apricot cupcakes, pumpkin and chocolate chip cupcakes with cinnamon icing, and the low fat vanilla cupcakes with berry topping. A great little gift for anyone...except a diabetic.
*note: I have nothing against agave nectar, but it seems odd to me that many vegans want baking books made entirely of recipes with agave, brown rice syrup, agar agar, and garbanzo bean flour, and then complain when veganism isn't mainstream enough.
Stuff I haven't read:
The Uncheese Cookbook, by Joanne Stepaniak
I don't have a copy of this, but I would like one! Stepaniak has gone through the exhaustive trouble of creating non-dairy recipes for many different kinds of cheese. My guess would be that the alternatives don't taste exactly like their dairy counterparts, but I thought I would include this book partially because cheese is the thing that omnivores cling to the most, and partly for the pure culinary innovation. And the cute title.
The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
One more Colleen Patrick-Goudreau book (that I don't have), from what I can tell this book is exactly what it says on the tin: a comprehensive go-to book for vegan baking. UK readers, in case you're confused by the title, the Joy of Cooking and the Joy of Baking are longstanding, beloved cookbooks that every avid North Americn cook has on his or her shelf, given to them by their grandmothers.
Christmas Eve Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes.
1 cup soy millk
1 tsp cider vinegar
11/4 cups flour
2 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup good quality dark chocolate chunks
1 cup dried cranberries
Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add the vinegar to the soy milk, whisk together with a fork and leave to curdle for a few minutes. Mix together the oil, sugar, soy milk mixture, and extracts. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, and stir until no large lumps remain. Fold in dark chocolate chunks and dried cranberries. Using an oiled ice cream scooper or 1/4 cup measure, fill each wrapper two thirds full. Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 20-22 minutes.
This makes way more than you will need for this recipe, but you can use this sauce to fill a tart, spread on toast, or top a variety of things, including your morning porridge.
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Place the cranberries in a pot on medium heat and stir until the cranberries begin to get juicy. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Because you are going to use this sauce in the frosting, I pureed it quickly with a hand held blender. At this point it should be quite gelatinous, and not at all runny.
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegan margarine
31/2 cups icing sugar
3-4 Tbs cranberry sauce
Beat the shortening and margarine together until fully combined and fluffy. Add the sugar, one cup at a time, and whisk until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the cranberry sauce, and whisk until fully combined. Taste the frosting. If it's not cranberry-y enough for you, add a little more sauce. If the frosting is to liquidy, add some more icing sugar. If it's too stiff, you can add either a little more cranberry sauce, or a little dash of soy milk.
Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, frost them to your own taste (the cranberry sauce makes this frosting not ideal for a pastry bag, use a knife instead). Top each cupcake with crumbled dark chocolate (if you don't have any left over, just chop up tiny little bits of chocolate with a knife.)