When I mentioned to someone that said they had a lot of cookbooks that I have over 50 vegan cookbooks, not including zines and miscellaneous books (like Vegan For Life), they were like, “Whooooooooooooa!” And I was like, “I know!” So they asked me for recommendations, and I had to fess up: I actually don’t use them a whole lot. But here is a post about how to lovingly nurture your cookbook addiction without going totally overboard.
***Also, I reference a bunch of books and authors, and i’m not linking any of them because that would take so long, you can look them up via the googles or on amazon. If I only link to some of them, that’s not fair and I am oh so lazy.***
I like to read cookbooks, but I also like to eat what the hell ever, whenever. If I try to make a commitment to making a certain recipe on a non-holiday, chances are that I will buy the stuff and then I will not feel well or it’s too hot to cook or I forgot to buy one thing or I got distracted by the tv. But I really enjoy reading them, like novels. I also like supporting the many friends i’ve made online since being vegan, it seems like half of the people I know have written a cookbook or two.
Back in the days of yore when vegan cookbooks were scarce, I bought just whatever book. Now it seems like there are multiple vegan books coming out every month, and I just can’t keep up! I don’t even try. Every few months, I buy a handful of books. I am rarely so falling over myself to get a book that I can’t wait a bit to have it in my hands. So I start by looking at a list of all of the books that have come out since my last round of purchases. Then I pick out the ones i’ve heard good things about and check the amazon reviews.
A side note on amazon reviews: you should always check out the negative reviews for a book, and I mean actually read them. A lot of the one and two star reviews on amazon for vegan cookbooks will often say: this book uses white flour/rice, sugar, oil, nuts, fat, gluten, soy, etc. and therefore is not healthy/I am allergic to one of those things. Vegan does NOT mean a diet devoid of those things, it simply means no animal products. So if the only bad thing anyone can say about a book is that it has stuff in it that they won’t eat, that is a good sign. I’m not allergic to any foods and I don’t go for that anti-oil/fat hooey, but unless a book claims to be super-healthy or not have a lot of soy/gluten/fat, I don’t think that having those things warrants a one star review. I hate olives, vegan authors seem to love them and I resist the urge to tell them their books suck because they have olive based recipes in them.
Also, you’ll see a surprising number of people who say ‘I flipped through this book and nothing looked good’. Thanks for the help? I really should just save this stuff for the Amazon Vegan Cookbook Review Drinking Game i’m working on.
Another factor for me is definitely author loyalty, but it’s not absolute. For instance, I didn’t own Isa and Terry’s cookie book for more than a year after it was released. I was broke for quite a while when it came out so I didn’t buy any books, and when I did buy books and put them on my scale of most wanted, cookies weren’t at the top. I also don’t own a few books by other people I otherwise like for various reasons, like maybe the subject of that book isn’t something that has me falling over, or I just want another book more. Point being, if I have bought one of your books before and liked it, I will probably buy it over someone who I don’t have any experience with.
On the flip side, I bought Chloe Coscarelli’s book because everyone has been raving about it, and I knew it was filled with gorgeous photos and unique recipes. I’ve never seen her episode of Cupcake Wars and all I know about her is she’s incredibly perky and shiny, but the word of mouth was enough. I also recently bought The Sexy Vegan because I heard the writing was funny. I like humor and people who aren’t afraid to say ‘shit’. I know that most people want their books to sell well so it’s not a good idea to put cusswords in a cookbook, but still. Since I like to really read through my books, tone is important to me.
And then there are pictures. I like pictures, but I know pictures make a book cost more. Some people complain when books don’t have a photo for every recipe, I really only need a handful of pages in the center to be satisfied. I like having a visual jumping off point for recipes I want to try. Of course, these days there are about a zillion pictures on blogs from every cookbook, so if the book you really want has no pictures, just google it, yo.
The last thing I really consider is, does it fill a hole in my collection? A few general purpose cookbooks are great, but specific ones are better. Like if I want a cake recipe, I can just open up a Hannah Kaminsky book instead of digging through the dessert section of almost every other book I have. If I want low-fat, I can open up Appetite for Reduction or Blissful Bites.
Believe it or not, i’ve only bought five new books this year. Like I said, i’m being more picky. Well…then today I realized that it had been a few months since my last purchase, so I bought four more. I can quit whenever I want! Here’s what I ordered:
Wild About Greens (Nava Atlas): I have heard good things about Nava’s books, but I have none so I decided to get one, and her newest one stood out since it’s all about greens and quite frankly, there are few ways that I like greens that aren’t spinach. So i’m excited to have a whole book of recipes to experiment with and learn from. Also, Susan from Fat Free Vegan took the pictures so I know it’s nice looking.
Let Them Eat Vegan! (Dreena Burton): I have wished for years that Dreena was my mom, even if she’s not nearly old enough to be. This is her first book in dang near five years, so i’m excited to see how she’s evolved with all of the strides that have been made in vegan cooking since her last book came out.
Vegan World Feast (Bryanna Clark Grogan): This one isn’t new, but i’ve heard lots of good things about it and I only have one of Bryanna’s books, so I thought it was time to get another one. I make her seitan tofurkey and pumpkin pie recipes religiously for holidays.
Vegan a la Mode (Hannah Kaminsky): 1. Ice cream. 2. I know it will be beautiful. 3. ICE. CREAM.
Instead of giving my opinion of every freaking book I own, I will break it down into a few categories:
The prettiest books: Hannah Kaminsky takes amazing photos all the time. Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman always have a really cool design aesthetic that I enjoy. Isa Moskowitz has the best taste in background/fabric choices. And even though it’s out of print, Yellow Rose Recipes has illustrations by Amanda Chronister that make it a collectors item.
Seasonal eating: I don’t know how many other books do this, but Blissful Bites (Christy Morgan) and Color Me Vegan (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) are both sectioned off by season, and Color Me Vegan is about each color of the food rainbow, so it’s also by color. The Inspired Vegan Bryant Terry) is also divided into seasons, and then separate menus complete with a recommended soundtrack. Also, if you want a catch-all holiday book, Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations (Alicia Simpson) has recipes for over a dozen different holidays/occasions, divided as such.
Zines: Zines used to be the best way to fill your grubby paws with vegan recipes, they’re not as popular now but there are some you can still get. Papa Tofu (Kittee Berns) is still being printed, and you can get compilations like Barefoot and in the Kitchen (Ashley Rowe) (full of her super cute drawings), Please Don’t Feed the Bears, Hot Damn, Hell Yeah/The Dirty South, and i’m not sure if Soy Not Oi was ever a zine, but it’s also old school DIY awesomeness. Leigh (formerly of Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, pour one out) recently put out a zine dedicated to her mom’s recipes, called Down Yonder.
Regional Cuisine: I learn a lot by reading/cooking from books that focus on certain parts of the world/country, especially since I was raised on a steady diet of Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip. Vegan Soul Food (Bryant Terry, Southern), Viva Vegan (Terry Hope Romero, Latin), Caribbean Vegan (Taymer Mason) are good starts. There are many regional cookbooks that I have heard lots of nice things about, but I don’t own.
Best themed books: Vegan Diner (Julie Hasson) warms the heart of this girl who truly misses eating at truck stops. Vegan Brunch (Isa Moskowitz) is great because who doesn’t want to eat breakfast pretty much all the time? Hearty Vegan Meals (Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman) is THE book for the really decadent, amazing, will charm the pickiest vegetable hater you know, recipes.
Healthy/simple/whole foods: Blissful Bites (Christy Morgan) for those of you trying to figure out how to cook without oil, Appetite For Reduction (Isa Moskowitz) for, as always, inventive recipes, and Dreena Burton, the original vegan mom blogger, always uses a ton of different flours and alternative sweeteners in her books. Vegan on the Cheap (Robin Robertson) is pretty healthy because it’s about making super cheap recipes, so there isn’t a lot of room for processed food.
Desserts: My Sweet Vegan and Vegan Desserts (Hannah Kaminsky) are sure to impress. The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur for all of the cookies (and a picture of every one), and out of the dessert trilogy (Isa and Terry), the pie book is my favorite because I think vegan pies of the non-fruit variety are still a mystery to a lot of people.
All purpose: My absolute favorite books that do not fit in other categories are Vegan With A Vengeance, Veganomicon (both Isa Moskowitz), and Yellow Rose Recipes (Joanna Vaught). I know I mentioned that YRR is out of print, but lucky you! You can get Joanna’s compilation of the book and her zines, Yellow Rose Greatest Hits) straight from the lady herself at joannavaught.com (I didn’t actually link it, it doesn’t count).
My top five, desert island, have used repeatedly and would die without books are: Yellow Rose Recipes, Veganomicon, Vegan Pie In The Sky, Hearty Vegan Meals, and my utterly destroyed copy of the first vegan cookbook I ever got, the one that made me so excited about being vegan:
And then when no one was looking i’d also jam Vegan Brunch and Vegan Diner in the raft to the desert island. Then a handful more. Who can only live with five cookbooks?