Nadine Fiedler is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is eating a vegan diet for two weeks and reviewing the book ‘Veganomicon,’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

The new vegan bible?

Dispatch from a temporary vegan on eating from ‘Veganomicon’

By
February 5, 2008

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a three-part review of the new book Veganomicon. Part two is available here; part three here.

An omnivore reviewing a vegan cookbook may seem like an odd choice, but I come to this assignment as an enthusiastic home cook and baker (and eater). I eat relatively well and understand the importance of diet; I know that eating lower on the food chain and local is better all around; and I’d like to expand my vegan repertoire for both our daily meals and for those times I cook for my vegan friends.

And I love cooking within restrictions, to see how delicious food can be with a limited set of ingredients. (My built-in limitation: I cook and eat very low-sodium foods, and I tweak all recipes to have deeper flavors without salt or soy-saucey condiments. More on that later.)

So here are the terms of the experiment: I will eat vegan for two weeks, cooking out of the new cookbook Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I’ll report now and again on the progress of the experiment, and on my experiences with the cookbook. Is it a good book (or a Good Book)? How will I feel in two weeks? Can I resist temptation?

First, I read Veganomicon cover to cover. I appreciate the variety of recipes, which must be great news to vegans who thought they didn’t have a lot of choices. As I read, I get excited; I think, “Hey, this might actually be fun.”

But when I hit the chapter called “Sammiches” — much too cute for me — I’m suddenly unsure about the whole project, not to mention the abundance of post-punk attitude in the book. I understand the need for the food to seem approachable, though.

So I ask my husband, Brad, if he thinks he can do this, too, and he’s up for it. Let the non-animal eating begin! (Tomorrow, that is, after a trip to the Country Cat for fried chicken with that killer flaky biscuit.)

Potatoes and yams on the boil.

Saturday: Excursions to New Seasons and Trader Joe's for supplies for the first few recipes. We need a lot of stuff: wheat gluten, flaxseeds, vegan margarine and shortening, soy yogurt, tempeh, seitan, nuts, chickpea flour, and on and on. Expensive.

Back home, I bake Pistachio-Rosewater Cookies for a party. It’s a little odd to be baking with oil and cornstarch, and no eggs or butter, but the cookies are good, with a crispy-but-chewy texture and a fetching taste of cardamom (ground fresh) and rosewater. Everyone loves them. One teenage girl really eats a lot of them.

Sunday: A big day for eating from Veganomicon! Out doing errands, I hear ads for meat on the radio. It sounds especially delicious in light of the fact that I intend to eat none for a fortnight. That’s the perversity of it all.

Back home, I bake Applesauce-Oat Bran Muffins (again with fresh cardamom). Straightforward recipe. Sturdy and good muffins.

Getting ready to cook Almost All-American Seitan Pot Pie, I look up seitan in the index, and it sends me to a page with no mention of seitan. I’d read in user reviews on Amazon that there are a lot of mistakes and typos in this book, and I’m beginning to see them. The pot pie recipe calls for “old water,” for instance.

Autumn Root Salad with Warm Maple-Fig Dressing is a mixed bag.

I make Autumn Root Salad with Warm Maple-Fig Dressing and find it fussy and a little odd. (Why not roast the potatoes and yams with the beets, instead of boiling them? The flavor would be richer.) The dressing is gloppy and sweet. I like the concept, though, of dressed greens served on top of root-vegetable slices and will use it later.

The pot pie recipe is more time-consuming than the authors let on. I use the whole-wheat option for the crust and wonder why they want you to roll it out right after it’s been mixed, instead of after it’s been chilled. I use fresh sage and thyme (building deeper flavor without salt), and 1/3 tempeh because I didn’t buy enough seitan. The results? Delicious. Brad loves it and has big seconds. We’ll have leftovers for a day or so.

That night I wake up at 2:30 a.m. feeling a bit odd in the belly. Too much soy in one day? Who knows.

Subscribe
Comments
There are 10 comments on this item
Add a comment
1. by Vegan_Noodle on Feb 5, 2008 at 11:09 AM PST

It is great to see an omnivore’s perspective on Veganomicon. But two things that I thought you were a bit harsh on... first of all it isn’t good to approach this as a week of “restrictions”. Eating vegan has opened up my eyes to a HUGE variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains that most omnivores have never heard of. Second, eating vegan is not expensive. Like everything else, you have to stock up initially on certain items (whole grains, etc) but after that, if you buy in-season produce and don’t rely heavily on processed foods, it’s relatively cheap.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your adventure with a great vegan cookbook! (I recommend the pumpkin ziti, roasted fennel and hazelnut salad, and the smlove pie. among others!)

2. by hknapp on Feb 5, 2008 at 1:01 PM PST

Great experiment. Thanks for letting this dedicated (but open-minded) omnivore live vicariously through you for two weeks!

3. by James Berry on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:10 AM PST

Hey Nadine: it’s really fun to follow your experience...I get to live as a vicarious vegan (oops, I see that hknapp already used the work “vicarious” ;)

4. by anonymous on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:29 PM PST

Hi! I agree with the first comment--my initial reaction to reading this is a- with that attitude the food will only be half as good and b- expensive at first, like everything... but yeah, you said what I thought too. I’ve been a vegan for a year, vegetarian for several before then (and now question my long-time hesitation with the final step, but anywho) and absolutely LOVE it. I haven’t felt healthier, more energetic and more in love with food as I am now. My mom got me the Veganomicon for christmas and it’s excellent. I’ve had ‘vegan with a vengence’ for a while and have made so many recipes from it that I’m glad to have some more from Isa! Really great ladies, I’m so pleased!!!! Good luck!!!!!

5. by arbeck on Feb 7, 2008 at 9:12 AM PST

Vegan_Noodle,

Just because someone is an omnivore doesn’t mean that they don’t pick from just as large a group of fruits, vegetables and grains. I have spent time as a vegetarian and cooking for vegans and there is no way to argue that it isn’t restrictive. Instead of the 5 available stocks (chicken, beef, vegetable, veal, shrimp) I have around, I can only use one for flavoring. I’m limited to the olive oil or vegetable oil as my only lipid; when I normally choose from duck fat, lard, butter, or olive oil. There are tons of tricks that I normally use to make things tastier that are off limits (no more teaspoon of demiglace in that sauce, no more cream or milk in soups, no more bacon!).

I’m not saying that you can’t make delicious food and still have it be vegan. It can be done, and I’ve had great vegan meals. It can’t be argued that it is not restrictive though. Being an omnivore doesn’t mean you can’t eat all the things that a vegan would. Being a vegan though does knock out a lot of variety.

6. by melissatsang on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:43 AM PST

Well...I don’t find eliminating eggs and dairy particularly uncomfortable. It makes things easier, in fact.

Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive, there are SO many recipes in Veganomicon that don’t require gluten. Or flour. Or flaxseed. For example, the chickpea quinoa pilaf is SO easy and yummy. The raspberry chocolate cookies use everyday ingredients. And are so rich and tempting.

Good job on going animal free!

7. by Theresa on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:21 PM PST

arbeck,

There are plenty of vegan stocks to choose from besides “just one.” Bean stocks, for instance: http://www.culinate.com/articles/features/bean_stock. Kombu dashi. Miso. Roasted vegetable stock has an entirely different, richer flavor than boiled vegetable stock. Mushroom stock. Carmelized onion stock. Did I mention garlic stock?

I know that meat eaters think you have to have meat to have choice and variety. But it’s not true. There are only a couple of kinds of animals we eat regularly; there are hundreds of vegetables and fruits.

8. by anonymous on Feb 9, 2008 at 5:26 PM PST

Enjoyed your article! I found it interesting that you picked a recipe that had faux meat as your first meal.

I could totally relate to the ‘feeling odd in the belly’ comment because seitan can do that to some people. I have been a vegetarian for two years, but when I first started I turned to faux meat and soon realized I really didn’t care for most faux meats (neither did my digestive system). So I stuck with just all veggie recipes. It has been a beautiful thing since.

9. by vegan chick on Mar 23, 2008 at 3:36 PM PDT

I think going vegan for 2 weeks isn’t enough time to really experience being vegan. It took me a good month to really make the transition from omnivore to vegan, and for my taste buds it took even longer. I’ve been vegan for over a year now and I have veganomicon, I use it almost daily. I can honestly say I’ve never eaten better even when I ate without restrictions. Most certainly if you’re used to regular yogurt for instance, then soy yogurt will taste weird, and if you go back and forth between the two soy tastes weird. However if all you eat is the soy yogurt then you get so used to the taste that you just might think it’s delicious.
And I doubt that we used to eat as big a variety before, any given mealtime we have at least 10 different veggies built into our meals, so in a way I feel it’s the opposite of restrictive. Anyway, I think to truly experience what it’s like to be vegan, you have to go past the 2 weeks. 3 month at a minimum. Oh and try the recipe on page 133, my kids cannot get enough of those patties. As for cost, I don’t buy prepackaged food, I buy big bags of dried beans and grains, and I shop around and I know which store has tofu for half the price, again you’d need to do it longer than just 2 weeks to really know what it’s like. I do however feel so much better now, that too took a while, 7-9 months of so...
At least your trying and you want to learn to cook for your vegan friends, which is so much more than my own family has ever been willing to do. So good for you.

10. by AC on Feb 22, 2010 at 10:03 AM PST

Arbeck, you might want to do a little more digging into Vegan cooking if you’ve come to think that you’re “limited to the olive oil or vegetable oil as my only lipid,” because there are many kinds of oils and fats from which to choose, including cashew butter, walnut oil, and grapeseed oil, etc.

More to the point, most omni’s eat only from the small selection that you mention and don’t consider the fuller palate that vegans more often choose to consider.

Regarding adding cream or milk to your soups--same point there are many milks that aren’t dairy-based.

Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer


Advertisement
Culinate 8

Kale in the raw

Eight versions of kale salad

Eight ways to spin everyone’s favorite salad.

Subscribe
Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer

Reviews

Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice