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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Reading

Each issue the VIP birds will endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment. In this issue we present a book that changes people's perception about raw food.

The Uncook Book

New Vegetarian Food for Life

By Juliano Brotman with Erika Lenkert

Regan Books,

An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 1999


Raw From cover to cover RAW, The Uncook Book is a graphic grabber with stunning color photography, beautiful layouts, and top-notch professional food styling. Every page whets the salivary glands with tempting photos of the unique raw, vegan, dishes Juliano has created. But don't take our word for it, pick up the book and start flipping pages just as we did.

You, too, will be instantly awakened by the beauty and vibrant colors each page presents. By chance we opened the book to page 145 and were dazzled by Purple Blueberry and Raspberry Burritos, a purple cabbage leaf that contains a filling of creamed nuts, marinated portobello, salsa, and curried guacamole with a colorful garnish of blueberries and raspberries, and chopped mango. Awesome! RAW, The Uncook Book presents raw foods in a brilliant new dimension. Raw food cookbooks of the past contained simple salads, blender soups, a few fruit beverages, and instructions on how to sprout. Juliano's book, on the other hand, offers complex taste sensations that titillate the taste buds with every recipe. Each dish is a masterpiece of colors, flavors, and textures, while the garnishing is a literal celebration of design mastery.

How did Juliano, who is not even 30 years old, develop his unique brand of exceptional raw food cuisine? He didn't even start his life as a vegetarian. He grew up in Las Vegas, worked in his father's Italian restaurant, and paid little attention to food in general. As a 15 year old, he moved to Palm Springs where his hikes into the hills quickly bonded him with nature. He found trickling streams, a waterfall, majestic mountains, birds, fish and frogs, and his instant response was to become a vegetarian.

By the age of 19, he was totally vegan and into organic foods which he found far tastier. His path naturally led him to raw fruits and vegetables and to seek education about the nutritional benefits of sprouting seeds, grains and legumes. An innovative person, Juliano at 22 was creating raw food dishes with flair and enjoying the zest and energy he derived from them. "I was enjoying the most exquisite, unique, decadent food on the planet and my mentor was not some fancy cooking school, but the earth itself," he says.

At 24 he became the owner of RAW, a raw foods restaurant near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Success came quickly with recognition from USA Today, People magazine, theNew York Times, Vegetarian Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. His soups and salads are visual and flavor treats that go way beyond any soups and salads one has ever encountered before. The section on breads is an eye opener. With whole, sprouted grains, unexpected seasoning combinations, nuts, fruits and vegetables, he creates breads with exceptional flavor and textures that depart from the familiar.

Juliano's recipes for sandwiches carry familiar names, but that's where familiarity ends. He has a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) and a Tuna Sandwich that have none of those ingredients, yet the flavors have a familiar quality. His Marinated Caviar in the section "Snacks, Appetizers & Side Dishes" is anything but familiar, yet beckons one to taste this unlikely combination of berries of one's choice that are marinated in apple cider vinegar, Umeboshi plum paste, Nama Shoyu and lemon and oranges juices.

The author's pizza section blew us away with nine different take-offs on one of America's favorite foods. Recipes include Lebanese Pizza, Pesto Pizza, Avo Mango Pizza, and Samurai Pizza. With a skilled hand, he takes the familiar and turns it into the unique throughout the whole book.

It truly is difficult to imagine foods that taste this good. One has to try it to believe. And try it we did. We started with the NRG Soup, a blender creation including tomato, a whole cup of fresh mint, onions, red bell peppers, fresh sweet corn, garlic, ginger, apples, orange juice, a habanero chili and Nama Shoyu. Complex flavors? Yes, but not complicated to prepare. The taste was sensational! From there we moved to Thai Green Papaya Salad with a daunting ingredient list. The directions said simply, "Mix and munch!" It was easy! We were on a roll!

Moving on to the entrees and various accompaniments, we ran into a challenge. Raw food preparation Juliano style, requires a kitchen with an array of equipment that departs from the familiar. First, there is no stove needed in a raw food kitchen unless the temperature control can be set as low as 90 degrees. Most stoves have the lowest setting at 150 degrees. Juliano uses a dehydrator with an adjustable temperature control and never dehydrates foods above 120 degrees in order to preserve the living enzymes. We don't have a dehydrator.

Second, many of the recipes list fresh fruit or vegetable juices that most people just don't have on hand. We don't have a juicer.

Third, many of the recipes included recipes from several other pages in order to assemble one dish, making preparation rather lengthy. With a number of the recipes, one has to have presoaked nuts on hand or already sprouted grains or beans on hand to complete the dish. Advanced planning is a must.

Although we sing the praises of this book for its beauty, the quality of its recipes, and its health benefits, Juliano's RAW, The Uncook Book is not a book for the novice cook. Maneuvering in a raw foods kitchen is a departure from the cooking style most of us grew up with and practice today. Raw food preparation is a different orientation, and we concluded that one must enter into this genre slowly. It's a learning process, but well worth the effort.

Click here for past book reviews

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