Curating Your Vegan Cookbook Collection
Confession: I have a guilty pleasure. Well, several. But one of my latest has been pre-ordering new cookbooks on Amazon. There are simply too many beautiful, health-focused plant-based cookbooks out there not to indulge once in a while. This cookbook habit of mine has taught me a few things about creating the perfect vegan cookbook collection. I know I’m not the only foodie who reads recipes like novels, so I thought I would share what I’ve learned.
1. Before buying a cookbook, ask yourself, do I recognize/have access to most of the ingredients? There’s nothing worse than picking up a beautiful, vegan cookbook and realizing that most of the ingredients are obscure/too expensive. I am all for learning about new ingredients, even if I have to hunt them down in specialty stores, but I also try to consider the feasibility of the recipes. If a recipe calls for garlic, lemon, rice, cilantro, cabbage, peas, and rice, I think, Hey! I can swing this with one trip to the grocery store!
2. Own one cookbook that challenges you. Okay. This may contradict my above point regarding feasibility, but I do think it’s good to own at least one cookbook that puts your culinary skills to the test. For me, that book is Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis. It’s full of complex that often require some advance prep work–but the dishes are worth it!
3. Own one cookbook that teaches basic skills. Depending on your diet, your requirements for this category may vary. My preferences lean towards whole foods, some of them raw. Yum Universe by Heather Crosby does an excellent job explaining how to store food, how to soak food, how long to cook various grains and beans, and how to stock your kitchen with only the most useful equipment. Even though I read this after three years of cooking for myself, I still learned a lot that I’ve incorporated into my kitchen routine. Going Raw by Judita Wingall is a fabulous introduction to preparing raw foods. She even has cool tips for conveniently cutting veggies.
4. Own one cookbook whose pages you want to live in. I have several of these. Because food is such a sensory experience, I am 1,000x more likely to buy a cookbook with knockout photos. Looking at the photos alone, I’m inspired to get cooking and even create my own recipes. My current pick is Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward. Its pages are like one magical Instagram party. (Another neat thing about this book is that its sections are organized by type of food: like grains, fruits, etc.)
5. Own one cookbook with decadent desserts. There will always be occasions to wow guests (or just yourself) with an out-of-this-world vegan dessert. Since my baking skills are so-so, I tend to stick to no-bake recipes—even better if they’re raw. Provided you have the right ingredients, raw dessert recipes are pretty much fool-proof. My favorite raw vegan dessert un-cookbook is Rawsome Vegan Baking by Emily von Euw. I made her chocolate molten lava cakes for this past Valentine’s Day. My fiancé was smitten.
6. Own one detox cookbook. A detox cookbook can help you get back to the basics or inspire you to start fresh with recipes for clean meals and tips for juicing. I like to look for ones that view healthy eating as a lifestyle rather than a 10-day quick fix. Lauren Talbot’s Clear Skin Detox Diet is a good one for this. Talbot explains how nutrition plays a role in all aspects of physical beauty—and not just our weight. You may also enjoy Eat Pretty by Jolene Hart.
7. Own one seasonal cookbook. Seasonal cooking isn’t my strong suit, especially since I’ve lived in a few different place over the past few years, and I don’t always know what’s in season where. Nonetheless, I do value the practice of eating seasonally and locally, and My New Roots by Sarah Britton is the perfect book to inspire anyone to learn more about the practice. The recipes have an authentic farm-to-table feel. I especially like how Britton distinguishes five seasons, including early summer and late summer, a philosophy based on traditional Chinese medicine. If you’ve ever lived in a place with distinct seasons (I miss you, Oregon!), you can probably feel the difference between early and late summer and the kinds of food you’re craving during those seasons.
8. Own one cookbook that expands your palette. Don’t be afraid to try cookbooks based in foreign cuisine. At the moment, I don’t own a cookbook that’s centered solely around foods from a different culture, but I’m always eager to dive into a recipe for vegan Dahl or sushi. Fortunately, many vegan cookbooks draw from a variety of cooking traditions, so you’re likely to experience all sorts of flavors with the help of a single book.
What’s your favorite vegan cookbook? And see some of our vegan book reviews!
Photos: Mary Hood, Yum Universe, Amazon, Deliciously Ella, This Rawsome Vegan Life, My New Roots