This month Vegetarians in Paradise presents a book that proves soul food can be vegan.
The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook
By Imar Hutchins and Dawn Marie Daniels
Epiphany Books, 2001
Vegan soul food cooking appears to be an oxymoron. Our first impulse was that it simply couldn't be done, but these experienced authors have created meat and dairy-free versions of "Southern cookin'" right down to the grits and the cornbread.
Another unique feature of their book is that they have combined raw food recipes along with those that are vegan, some even providing both raw and vegan versions of the same dish.
Imar Hutchins, founder of Delights of the Garden, a raw vegetarian restaurant in New York, has a knack for the raw cuisine and offers his unique Un-Pancakes as an example of his flair for inventive creations. Together he and Dawn Marie Daniels team up to offer a collection of recipes that connect their readers to the heart of traditional Southern soul food country.
Often with a touch of nostalgia, vegans leave behind their favorite comfort foods because up until now it seemed impossible to recreate them without meat, dairy, eggs, and refined grain products. Hutchins' and Daniels' cookbook fills the soul void with such dishes as Black Eyed Pea Croquettes, Cheezy Grits, and Cajun Dirty Rice. More of that Southern soul was included in delectable recipes for Barbecue Ribs, Po' Boy Chopped Barbecue, Hoppin' John, Pecan Pie, Potato Pone, and Sweet Potato Pie.
Many of the recipes and chapter headings are warmly prefaced with past memories of the authors' experiences. They describe family events with the old-time foods in the classic Southern tradition, giving the reader a tiny glimpse into family history.
These authors understand the need for the home cook and even the novice to have easy basics, recipes that are simple to follow with ingredients that are familiar pantry items in the vegan kitchen. Most recipes have only five to eight ingredients, while a few specialties sport a longer list.
For those who favor the raw foods, Hutchins has created a special index for ease in accessing those raw vittle recipes. Since raw is his specialty, he has included 50 recipes to delight his raw aficionados.
Home cooks can enjoy their kitchen adventures including hearty breakfast dishes, innovative smoothies, easy quick breads, raw and cooked soups, funky salads, luscious entrees with sides, sauces and dressings, and tempting desserts. This book is a down-home collection of recipes, each carrying a very visible symbol indicating whether it is raw or cooked, or could be prepared either way.
Though we offer praise to the authors for creating The Vegetarian Soul Food Cookbook and fully understand all the work that makes it come together, we must take them to task for two of the book's shortcomings.
First, the ingredients are not listed in order of their use in the recipes, putting the home cook in a constant search mode with eyes scanning up and down the list several times to find the ingredient for the next direction.
Second, we did spot two recipes that had one ingredient missing from the ingredient list. The recipe for Pancakes had no listing for water, though it appears in the directions. The Raw Lasagne recipe neglected to list Italian Seasonings, though it did mention 2 tablespoons Italian Seasonings in the directions.
Despite these relatively minor flaws, Hutchins and Daniels have teamed up to bring the vegan community a rare treat--the opportunity to enjoy the best of soul food with healthy ingredients and that most treasured quality, homemade flavor.