Here are 10 vegan food books worth owning or giving as gifts, all of which were published this year - plus one that can't be counted as vegan but is still worth a look.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page with photos by Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown)
Easily one of the most remarkable food-oriented books to come out this year, it's restricted from the list below on something of a technicality: While overwhelmingly vegan-friendly, this A-Z guide, true to its title, is vegetarian rather than vegan. It's not just semantics - with entries on buttermilk, eggs, cheese (12 pages of entries, plus listings within other entries throughout the book) and the like, it's analogous to a vegetarian cookbook that happens to contain a healthy number of vegan recipes - yes, vegans can skip over the nonvegan bits, but we can do that in an omnivore cookbook too.
That said, any vegans who are interested in better understanding flavors and/or improving their own cooking should check this out: With the help of Dornenburg's sharp-eyed photos, Page walks us through each ingredient's strengths and affinities, making clear why some foods work together better than others and how different foods might be balanced or substituted in different cases with positive results. Additionally, notes from vegan chefs are included, both within the ingredients' entries and in a well-composed, exhaustive introductory section that contextualizes the data to come. Rich Landau and/or Vedge are mentioned several times in specific reference to bringing out vegan flavors. The book succeeds as both educational reference and fascinating recreational reading. All in all, a near-vegan winner that's hard to improve on - yet it still might be, as The Vegan Flavor Bible.
If you're on the hook to go to a "traditional" family Thanksgiving, go right ahead and make of it what you will. But many people, especially oddballs such as vegans, make their own families of like-minded kindred spirits on holidays like Thanksgiving. Here are some places and times you can find good Thanksgiving food that's not dependent on animal exploitation. For any costs, food specifications and other info that may not be listed here, be sure to check with the organizers sooner than later. Some have reservation cutoffs today or tomorrow.* Miss Rachel's Pantry - Vegan Feast
1732 W. Passyunk Ave.
Full meal available for Thanksgiving delivery/pickup on Tuesday, November 25 and Wednesday, November 26.
Maple-glazed seitan roast filled with apple-cranberry bread stuffing
(GF alternate: Maple and sage glazed tempeh-lentil roast with rice stuffing)
Brussels sprouts roasted with carrots, caramelized leeks, kale and parsnips
Yukon gold mashed potatoes
Truffled mushroom-rosemary gravy
Please have order in by Friday, November 21.
Info/orders: 215-798-0053 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Vegan Commissary - Thanksiving Dinner
1703 S 11th St.
Thurs. 11/20, 7:00 p.m.
VeganCommissary will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner - 3 courses, $35.00 (tax and service additional). Chefs Matt and Damian have come up with some great side dishes like Sweet Potato Pave with Cherries, Cornbread stuffing with Chestnuts and Apples and Roasted Garlic Mashed potatoes - along with traditional favorites Green Bean Casserole with Mushroom Gravy & fried onions and Mac and Cheese. The meal will be topped off with Meagan's Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and praline.
* VSSJ Annual Thanksgiving Potluck and Vegan Bake Sale
Sat. 11/22, 4:00 p.m.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
1308 Burlington-Mt Holly Rd (Rte 541)
Burlington, NJ 08016
Music by Robert Price, "Sitarbob", on electric sitar, with Lisa Melian on percussion.
Vegan bake sale benefits The Cow Sanctuary (http://thecowsanctuary.org), Bridgeton, NJ.
Raffle: Proceeds to sponsor turkeys at Farm Sanctuary in the spirit of a meatless Thanksgiving. Prizes include gift certificates donated by Bombay Local Pizza, Voorhees.
Info: email@example.com or 609-848-VEG1 (8341).
* Vegan Spirituality Group of Philadelphia: Annual Vegan Potluck Thanksgiving
Thurs. 11/27, 3:30 - 7:30pm
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting
20 East Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia (off Germantown Ave.)
Share an evening with like-minded folks and meet some new friends and bring some old ones. RSVPs are required. Please bring a description card of ingredients for those who have food allergies. We are looking for main meals, salads, soups, breads, beverages, desserts --- all vegan, of course. Feel free to share a song, poem, sentiment, or community news. There will definitely be music! Also: Silent auction and raffle. $5 donation requested. Info: 267-847-6553 or 215-834-4140
Philly Vegan Day was two weeks ago, but only now have I had a chance to collect the responses and reports I wanted and put them out in the form of an update.
To recap, World Vegan Day is November 1st every year. This year it was also named Philly Vegan Day by the City of Philadelphia, in a proclamation signed by Mayor Michael Nutter. The proclamation was officially read at a noon ceremony at Essene Market & Cafe, followed by persepctives on vegan living and eating by Freya Dinshah, President of the American Vegan Society; Christina Pirello of "Christina Cooks" and many other vegan-cooking initiatives; and Juliene Featherman of Juju organics, a cruelty-free salon. The event packed Essene's cafe and was very well received, bringing the concept of an animal-free lifestyle down to earth in different ways.
But a large part of the point of Philly Vegan Day is that it could be celebrated by everyone, wherever they happened to be (either physically or on the "path" toward veganism), so there were many other projects and events, a small sample of which I will recap here.
If you're a fan of TV food shows and Philly vegan cuisine, be sure to check out "Good Food America" over the next month, when two hometown joints will be profiled with their animal-free offerings in the spotlight.
Starring Danny Boome of "Recipe Rehab" and "Donut Showdown," the series, which premiered last month on the Z Living (formerly Veria Living) network, focuses on "the nation's best organic, sustainable and healthy restaurants" as Boome shares "regional gems, native ingredients and the homegrown talent that keeps locals coming back for more," according to promotional materials.
This Sunday, November 9 will feature Strangelove's (216 S. 11th St; 215-873-0404), about which Boome enthuses as "a great find, craft beers and alternative vegan delights [that] made for an awesome day. Their idea of offering healthily, diet-friendly food makes it an easy choice for anyone looking for a great place to hang out!"
World Vegan Day is November 1st, kicking off World Vegan Month. This year, in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the coining of the word "vegan," and in recognition of its place at the very origin point of American vegan advocacy, The City of Philadelphia is proclaiming November 1, 2014 as Philly Vegan Day, which will be noted with activities, celebrations and promotions of vegan eating and living.
Some organizations and businesses have very specific plans already in place, while others are still hammering out the finer points. Though most of those following are close to a specific plan, for any set to participate who have not submitted an exact quote with their details, we've simply said "Celebrating Philly Vegan Day (TBA)."
Individuals are also doing their own activities around the day. Whether you're vegan or non-vegan, everyone can do something to support Philly Vegan Day and have it listed here, as long as it's vegan-related and is happening on November 1st. Patronizing one of the fine establishments that is participating in the day counts as an activity, if you want that to be your thing. Send your Philly Vegan Day activity to VforVeg@phillynews.com, or just add it in the comments below. One particularly inspired event will be selected to win a copy of Plant Power by Nava Atlas.
"Oh, I'd love to be vegan, but I just don't have your willpower. It must be so hard!"
I've heard some variant of this all too often since I went vegan 14 years ago. Maybe some people are insincere and they don't care one way or another and the supposed difficulty is a convenient excuse. But for at least some of them, I know they're convinced there's something really hard about going, and staying, vegan.
But for anyone able to read this blog post, there really isn't. The only hard thing is everyone else not being vegan. And that's slowly, slowly changing.
There are many reasons people wind up as vegans. Health is a popular driver (though that one actually requires, you know, eating healthy), and increasingly as people learn about the toll animal agribusiness takes on the planet, that's also a factor for many. Then there are those of us for whom it's an ethical matter of justice vs. injustice to animals.
Related to the last but not quite the same is veganism as a spiritual practice, which some who have come to plant-based eating from one direction or another sometimes find themselves growing into. The 5th Annual Vegan Spirituality Retreat speaks to that aspect, and it will be held this Saturday, October 11th at Saunders Woods, 1020 Waverly Road, Gladwyne, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Here's what the groups mounting the event have to say:
In Defense of Animals and Vegan Spirituality present our 5th Annual Vegan Spirituality Retreat to explore Veganism as a spiritual practice. We welcome Peace to All Beings author Judy Carman as our featured speaker and Ecco Bella as our event sponsor. Enjoy group discussions, guided meditations, yoga classes with yogis Dawn Reid, Fania Maria Tzakalakos, and Ioanna Tsakalakos, a delicious vegan lunch prepared by The Nile Café, a naturalist guided walk, an animal blessing with musicians Jim Harris and Lonnie Davis, and kirtan with the Indigo Twins. Free childcare is provided. Friendly companion animals are welcome at the Retreat and Blessing Ceremony.
In case you're wondering about that Blessing Ceremony, here are some more details on that:
Animal Blessing: Honor your companion animals and animals around the world through drumming and dancing in nature. Bring companion animals, a photo, or your own animal spirit! Everyone is invited to drum and dance in the Ceremony, which offers opportunities to celebrate animal companions, honor those that have died, empathize with animals suffering around the world, and create a vision of harmony between humans and other animals. Please bring leashes or carriers for your animal companions. You’re welcome to bring a vegan/synthetic drum!
Long story short, you send in your choice for Best Vegan Cheesesteak, plus, if you like, a reason you think it's the best. The first vote each place gets constitutes its nomination, and I will record those and their reasons in full here in updates to this blog post. The 2nd, 3rd, etc. votes just add up for that place, and at midnight on March 11 the top three vote-getters move on to the finals. I will keep the tally up to date as much as possible, but at least every 12 hours.
There are various ways to vote, as the rules specify. You can email me your choice for favorite Vegan Cheesesteak, or you can tweet it with the hashtag #vegancheesesteak, or you can send in the coupon that runs with my V for Veg column, OR you can simply indicate your choice right here, via a comment on this post. It's worth voting, not just because of your sense of civic responsibility, but because one person chosen randomly will win a delicious vegan dinner for two at Sprig & Vine in New Hope.