It’s National Nutrition Month. Welcome. I am excited to have a long post here about The Vegetarian Flavor Bible to get the month off an amazing start.
As a long-time vegetarian/vegan eater, when I hear of another fairly new author arrival to my world touting the benefits of eating plant-based, it often ticks me off – just a bit. Oh no, I think, another convert who has become an “instant expert” after a couple of years. Yawn.
That’s what I initially thought when I first saw Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg at Kendall Jackson winery in Fulton, California back in November 2014. They had just released The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, a new, and improved, follow up to the original The Flavor Bible, which was amazing. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is a true work of art, science and encyclopedic knowledge of flavor, that anyone, meat eater or not, cam use.
So, why the new book? Karen and Andrew had an epiphany that was unfortunately inspired by a “big birthday”, the death of parents and their looming mortality. Karen decided to go vegetarian and Andrew, the cook, came along. In this transition, they learned all about plant-based eating and felt compelled to write this book.
Karen even enrolled in the e-Cornell plant-based nutrition course to up her game. She took this seriously. For the book, they interviewed a host of plant-based experts and chefs about a wide array of topics.
This large 4-pound book will be given to one lucky reader in the U.S. who comments below about why you think that this book would be useful for you . The winner will be chosen by random drawing which will happen on March 15th at 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. (Please be sure to enter your email so that I can contact you to tell you that you won.)
In January of this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen and Andrew in my hometown of Santa Rosa, California. They graciously spent an hour with me, prior to our attending an amazing Vegan Wine Dinner at Whole Foods Coddingtown, which a friend gave me as a gift. Win-win-win.
The book is full color, with a color-coded system for identifying the healthiest ingredients: most nutritious bright green, then lighter green, yellow, orange and red according to nutrient density.
Andrew took the photographs, of which there are many. There are however no true recipes (it’s not that kind of book) but lots of inspiration and creative combinations.
The beginning of the book has information on plant-based eating starting with the most complete history timeline that I have ever encountered. The second part is about Maximizing Flavor: Creating a New Compassionate Cuisine. There’s a discussion of the senses, including mental and spiritual aspects, cravings and which ingredients you might substitute for animal products, plus a host of menus from a variety of restaurants.
Finally, the third part, is the heart of the book (Vegetarian Flavor Matchmaking: The Lists): the A to Z listing of hundreds of individual ingredients and the herbs and spices that best enhance their flavors, starting with Acai (ah-sah-EE) and ending with Zucchini flowers. The listings include descriptions of pronunciation, seasonality, sometimes nutrition, flavor, techniques, tips, substitutes and botanical relatives and more. If you want to know about a particular plant-based food, you will learn it here (although some entries are more complete than others). I was impressed to find Kohlrabit and Kombu sharing a page.
Here are a few questions that I asked:
What is your favorite spice? Karen states that it’s smoked paprika (pimenton). (I agree.)
How has this book changed what you do? Karen says, “I ate a lot of red dot foods, now I eat a lot less. It’s helped me modify my eating.”
About Andrew and his eating, Karen says, “Andrew never ate a vegetable until he was 21. We didn’t tell anyone about it.” Now it seems that Andrew, as the primary shopper, knows a whole lot about buying fresh produce.
What is interesting that people ought to know about? Karen answers, “Dried herbs and spices are underrated. I love them. And porcini powder can change dishes considerably.”
Pet peeve with vegetables? “Why aren’t they cooked perfectly? Often they are undercooked or overcooked.” (I say that it’s just another reason to cook at home more often.)
Karen summed things up so well: “We’re in this for ourselves so that we can be healthier.”
If Page and Dornenburg sell enough copies of this book, they could put me out of business. What would I be able to teach people? (A joke? I am not sure.) I suspect, though, that some people might not want to delve so deeply but if you want to find out about plant-based ingredients, this hefty tome is THE reference book that you need.
I recommend this book so that your food can be tastier and that you can learn how to do it yourself at home. This is true food for thought.
Please leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing to win this amazing book.
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book to review, and another for one lucky reader, but all of the thoughts and opinions expressed are completely my own.