This month we review two radically unlike books. One is a picture book that will bring smiles to readers of all ages. The other is an impressive collection of vegan recipes.
Click here for a review of 1000 Vegan Recipes.
Granny Gomez & Jigsaw
By Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Disney Hyperion Books, 2010
Unlike so many grandmothers, Granny is not in the big city surrounded by family. She resides in a large house in the country. Her potted plants are an important feature in her house that has room for her drum set and her mountain climbing equipment. Her passion is jigsaw puzzles.
Granny's young friend William decides to gift her with a young pig that arrives on her doorstep in a basket covered by a blanket. When Granny protests, William tells her, "All right, but I will have to take it back to Farmer Brown. He raises pigs for bacon."
Granny responds, "No one is eating THIS PIG!"
The pig soon becomes an important part of Granny's life sharing cooking shows, watermelon, and jigsaw puzzles. Whenever a piece of the jigsaw puzzle falls off the table, the pig moves it over to Granny's feet. This inspires her to name her companion Jigsaw.
But little pigs don't stay little very long, and soon Granny realizes that he can't remain in the house because of his huge size and the damage he is causing.
Granny's solution is to build a barn to house Jigsaw. With William's help she constructs the barn and even furnishes it with a kitchen, shelves for puzzles and a television set for Jigsaw to watch cooking shows. The dilemma comes when Jigsaw moves to the barn, and both Granny and Jigsaw are overcome by loneliness.
Granny Gomez & Jigsaw is the perfect collaboration. Deborah Underwood's sensitive story will appeal to young children while Scott Magoon's childlike illustrations only serve to amplify the appealing text. Underwood's inspiration for the story came after she spent time at Farm Sanctuary with a pig named Babe. She credits Babe with teaching her that "pigs form very close friendships."
The book, targeted to children from ages 3 to 6, is not a vegetarian book per se because it could be enjoyed by all children who relish an amusing story. It does deliver a subtle message expressing that those animals we normally consider as food can also be pets to whom we often develop strong attachments. Because there are so few books for young children that convey this type of message, vegetarian families should be eager to read this book aloud with their children and perhaps encourage a discussion about the bond between humans and animals.
1,000 Vegan Recipes
by Robin Robertson
John Wiley & Sons, 2009
Well-seasoned cookbook author Robin Robertson proves she is the energizer bunny of the cookbook arena. Many people would be daunted at the thought of writing a cookbook containing 1,000 recipes, but Robin, a former chef and cooking instructor, has seemingly perfected the art as she presents 1,000 Vegan Recipes, her twentieth cookbook. Presently, she is a prolific food writer and food blogger.
Robin says, "This book is a testimonial to all the rich and versatile ways to eat vegan," as she believes the vegan approach to eating is very likely to be the way people will eat in the future. While many are perplexed at what a vegan eats, this 20-year vegan feels this 1,000-recipe volume clearly offers a tangible response.
Many home cooks habitually prepare the same dozen dishes and may welcome this inspiring recipe collection to add to their repertoire the many "new twists, tweaks, and nuances" the author demonstrates.
The Introduction offers an overview of the plant-based diet, the whys and benefits, and concisely addresses some of the questions of those new to the vegan lifestyle. Vegan foods that take the place of meat and dairy are a primary concern to newbies and are explained in clear and simple terms. Included in this section are descriptions of some basic ingredients like beans and grains and a host of tips on how to use, store, prepare, and select foods. One valuable tip is to add salt while a dish is cooking rather than at the table because the body absorbs more of the uncooked salt.
Abundance of choice is the mantra that will occur to anyone perusing this volume. Each section, whether it's the Appetizers and Snacks, Pasta and Noodles, Main Dishes, or Desserts is packed with a banquet of recipes bound to please even picky eaters or those attempting to cook for the first time. Some of the recipes contain as few as three ingredients, a welcoming invitation to busy people with little time for fussy food preps.
One tasty three-ingredient snack is the Roasted Chickpeas that begins with a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas tossed in olive oil, salted, and simply roasted. For hummus lovers there are four varieties including Smoky Chipotle-Pinto Hummus that pops with nuance and a touch of chipotle fire. Among the heartier appetizers is Lemongrass Tofu and Snow Pea Spring Rolls made with minced lemongrass and flavored with soy sauce and mirin. The many choices for uniquely conceived spreads, stuffed, wrapped, and rolled starters, and ethnic delicacies offer such diversity it would be impossible to feel deprivation or boredom.
The section with 101 salad recipes and 15 salad dressings features an abundance of choices for those primarily composed of leafy greens like Watercress, Fennel, and Avocado Salad with Dried Cherries and Macadamias, while chopped salads are plentiful. Also included are potato salads and slaws, bean, grain, and pasta salads, and fruit salads. Many of the salads are international favorites, like the Sesame Cucumber Salad that originated in Japan, or one of Italy's favorites the Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad.
Among the many sandwiches is a vegan version of the Reuben Sandwich that has become a vegan deli standard. Robin's Tempeh Reuben is filled with tempeh and sauerkraut, seasoned with vegan mayo and sweet pickle, and heaped onto pumpernickel bread. The standard BLT morphs into Avocado and Tempeh Bacon Wraps, Scottish Pasties become Lentil Walnut Pasties, and Hamburgers evolve into Black Bean Burgers.
Soup choices include everything from vegetable broths to hearty soups and those that are delightfully creamy. Summer choices focus on thirteen cold soup recipes that include four different gazpacho innovations. Pasta and Noodles recipes reflect the many cuisines of the world, as do many of the main dishes. The Main Dishes section is peppered with hearty fare, some with legumes or grains as the base, while others feature tofu, tempeh, or seitan. Robin's Chili and her Shepherd's Pie are vegan comfort foods that have become American standards, though she presents dishes that reflect the flavors of India, Italy, France, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Filling out the menu are recipes for Muffins, Breads, or Side Dishes that offer inviting creations like Fired-up Jalapeno Cornbread, Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins, and Bourbon Baked Squash. Admittedly, though, the highlight of many cookbooks tends to be the sweet finish. This dessert compendium contains no less than 138 mouthwatering temptations that cover the gamut from cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, pies, tarts, crisps, and cobblers to puddings, parfaits, fruit specialties, ice creams, sorbets, and granitas. Icings, sauces, frostings, and toppings are given their own section the author labels Dessert Sauces and Frostings.
Concluding the book is an extensive listing of Fast Recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, designed for those who prefer to spend less time in the kitchen. To aid with meal planning, Robin has included a few pages of menus, listing the recipe titles along with their page numbers for quick reference. Also included are Resources, Recommended Reading, and an Appendix containing helpful charts for weights and measurement equivalents, metric temperature equivalents, and pan sizes with their volume in U.S. and metric measurements.
With 1,000 Vegan Recipes on the home bookshelf, everyone can dine in vegan style and still enjoy familiar foods with flavors, sauces, and seasonings that make dining so pleasurable. In this mammoth work of more than 600 pages Robin Robertson has created a comprehensive encyclopedic reference collection of American comfort foods and international recipes that cover all aspects of vegan cooking. She has designed the recipes to emphasize fresh whole foods and to appeal to cooks of all skill levels. Anyone wanting to leave those cholesterol-laden foods behind may want to start by opening this valuable resource.