My cookbook buying spree
One of the good things about being a librarian is that you get to see all of the cookbooks as they come through to be shelved. I like to refer to my cookbooks for ideas when cooking, so I own a pile. My wife also has a pile, so we have a shelf of them in our kitchen. I tend to check out library cookbooks, then buy them if they are really useful looking. This month we added two more, and I’d have liked a third, but its out of print (and so, only available at a library near you! Well, once I bring it back…)
Now, don’t let the first two being vegan put you off: the thing is, that when I went vego, I found out there were so many more interesting ways to work with ingredients than I had back when I was basically using meat as the centre and veggies as the support acts. A good veggie cookbook will make you a better cook, even if you eat meat (and vice versa – only two of my other cookbooks are for vegetarians, the rest are omnivore.) particularly if the books use mock-meat, as these do.
Vegan a go-go by Sarah Kramer is a tiny little book. It’s 230 pages long, but only, like 13 centimetres high. It’s meant to be a survival handbook for vegans who are travelling and need something to eat beyond “The chips are vegan…” So, it’s full of quick, easy food. That being said, the author’s technique instruction is great. She really teaches how to cook each dish, which is remarkable given the tiny size of the book. I’m solid cook, but I found her work quite informative.
The other was Veganomicon. It’s written in a light and breezy style with jokes on each page, which is a plus, but it lacks colourful photographs on each page, which a lot of people want in a cookbook. It is a fantastic reference work on all kinds of non-meat food. It was good to see what sort of flavor combinations the American authors had come up with.
Learning vegetarian cooking isn’t really learning how to cook the same dishes without meat. If you use mock-meat like I do, then basically you can just do the same dishes if you like, but use the fake chicken and the mock mince and all that. For me, its been about learning new ways of putting flavours together, because vegetarian cooking is, by default, low fat, and low fat as harder than it looks.
My dad cooks mainly in an English sort of style – and that means a central carrier of flavor in the way I was taught to cook is animal fat. Most of the info for vegos in Australia seems to come out of an Indian sort of cookery (for which I suppose we can thank Kurma and the Hare Krishna movement). Again, fat plays a strong and central role in that style of cooking. I personally am interested in Japanese vegetarian food and it’s a lower fat style. Veganomicon is the first time I’ve really looked at Southern American and South American flavours, and I’m finding it really interesting to see how they work around and through the lack-of-fat problem in their cooking.
The third I’d like to have added, but which was unavailable in bookstores, is the The Ultimate rice cooker cookbook. My mother-in-law bought me one for my birthday, and seriously, it rocks. I don’t know why I didn’t buy one years ago. Thinking about my kitchen without it now is like thinking of it without a kettle or a toaster. Sure I can do rice on the stovetop…but you can do water for coffee on the stovetop too, and you can do toast under the grill. No-one does, because toasters and kettles are just perfect. Similarly, rice cookers. This cookbook is just great for learning the how-to of rice cookers. (Actually – I’ve just checked this on Amazon, and they reckon they can get me this book, in either paper or electronic. Perfidious bookseller! 8P )