As vegetarian and vegan cuisine becomes more mainstream, chefs around the world are starting to take notice. Where vegetables were relegated to side dishes and salads before, they have been swept into the limelight. Just a few years ago, I didn’t know a single vegan. Now, I know several vegans and quite a few more vegetarians. As more people make begin their transitions away from the consumption of animal products, the question is continually asked: “What about the food?” Very few persons have the sheer force of will to continue adhering to an ethical ideal that affects what they eat if the food isn’t good. My personal journey towards veganism took quite a while because I simply didn’t know what to eat. I could follow a recipe, but I didn’t have any vegan cookbooks. Some people find the internet helpful, but I felt lost in the vortex of Pinterest. How was I to know which recipes were worth trying? Who was going to explain these new foods to me, like quinoa, farro, chia seeds, and silken tofu? How was I, a person who lived on boxed mac n’ cheese and chicken fingers, going to know which recipes to start with?
I wish I had Anna Jones’ cookbook, A Modern Way to Eat, when I started. It has over 200 unique recipes, and all the ones I’ve tried so far have been divine. I grew up hating lima beans, but the Lima Bean, Almond, and Rosemary Hummus has changed my mind entirely. The Lemony Lentil and Crispy Kale Soup is bursting with flavor, and the bright yellow color makes me smile. It’s also packed with turmeric, which has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties.
Jones’ book has given me the courage to step out of my cooking comfort zone of pasta, simple salad, and steamed/roasted veggies. Her recipes have complex layers of flavor without having long ingredient lists. Most ingredients can be found at your local grocer, and where hard to find items appear, Jones gives alternatives. I normally wouldn’t try a recipe like her Tomato and Coconut Cassoulet, but the picture was so inviting and the ingredient list so simple I couldn’t help myself. Now I’ll be eating this dish regularly! Other favorites include Laura’s Herbed Green Quinoa, Brown Rice Pilar with Toasted Nuts and Seeds, and Perfect Chili (I can’t say enough good things about the chili!).
To me, the most valuable thing about this cookbook is that in addition to the recipes, Jones gives the home cook the tools she needs to start creating her own family favorites. There are pages scattered throughout the book that tell you how to build a meal without using a recipe.
There’s endless variations of soup, salad, and other meals that can be created simply by following her process. Not only does this book give the home cook the ability to make restaurant quality meals by following its recipes, it allows a nervous new vegan to spread her culinary wings and try combinations of ingredients that seem “out there” but have a fantastic outcome.
Jones also includes instructions on how to cook vegetables, grains, and a myriad of other ingredients. For example, if you have a bunch of rainbow chard but don’t know what to do with it, simply turn to the “Vegetable Underdogs” page, and you’ll find a list of suggested pairings to make any weeknight dinner sparkle.
Overall, I was blown away by this book. The binding is sturdy – the cookbook is hardcover and the pages are matte. The photography is simply gorgeous (although not every recipe has a photo). I especially adore the personalized messages written by Anna Jones at the top of each and every recipe throughout the book. I was on the fence about trying a few of her creations, but the recipe headers convinced me to chance it every time. I’m so happy I did. Jones’ love for vegetarian food and expertise as a professional chef shine through on every page.
My main irritation with this book is that some of the recipes have the ingredient list on one page, a photo on the adjacent page, and the instructions on the page after. This means that I have to keep flipping the page over to check how much of something I need before going back to the directions. It’s a pet peeve of mine when cookbooks make me flip unnecessarily. Several of the pages of this cookbook now have finger stains from my frantic turning of the pages.
This book is also vegetarian, so some recipes call for cheese, and some for eggs. Many of these can be easily substituted or left out by the knowledgeable vegan. Some would not be so easily altered, but it is perhaps only about ten-fifteen percent of the total recipes, leaving the majority vegan already.
I think A Modern Way to Eat is well worth the price. It’s already safely tucked in my kitchen next to my most-used cookbooks.
I received a courtesy copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. Reviews and opinions expressed are my own, and I will never provide a good review if I don’t believe in, or like, the product/book.