01 November 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page

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The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew DonenburgWhen Karen Page quietly decided to become a vegetarian, she started with this fact: Most of the leading causes of disease-related death can be controlled or prevented by what we eat. Despite being committed to the concept and being a leading food expert, Page didn't necessarily find it easy to work with new ingredients or to use familiar foods in new ways.

Thus she started compiling lists of good foods to buy and then lists of "go-with" flavors. These lists ultimately became the heart of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. Because she knew that simply not eating meat was no guarantee of a healthful diet, she set out to answer
three primary questions: what to eat (and in what quantities), how to make it healthful, and how to make it so delicious that its meatlessness is completely beside the point! (p. xi)
The introductory chapters of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible provides the answers to these questions, with up-to-date information and a non-fanatical approach. Whether you're a long-term vegetarian, an occasional dabbler, or somewhere in between, you'll find lots of useful information here. I especially loved the sections on maximizing flavor by paying attention to things like taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and visual appeal. What a way to help jump-start your kitchen creativity.

One thing that makes the beginning of the book fun to read are the many, many food- and health-related quotes that pepper the pages. Page gathered snippets from Ancient Greeks, modern medical researchers, literary authors, chefs, and musicians. I also like the sidebars, with their quick tips on a variety of subjects, such as nutrients and cravings.

The bulk of the book consists of a 450-page, A-to-Z list of food items, from acai to zucchini. These lists move beyond Page's personal experience and contain the collective wisdom of dozens of food and cooking experts. Some of these experts, like Gael Greene, are leading critics; others, like Molly Katzen, are well-respected vegetarian cookbook authors; but most of them are well known chefs and restauranteurs.

Rather than try to describe the vast array of information you'll find in these lists, I'll direct you to the scans, which you'll need to click to enlarge (pardon the shadows; I had a hard time getting clear scans). On the left is the key to the lists and the other two panels show sample pages.

So, you might ask, what does one do with these lists? Here are some ideas I came up with:
  • Putting together flavors for one-dish meals: Think soups, salads, and even smoothies.
  • Figuring out what do with that odd vegetable that came in the CSA box.
  • Discovering how to change up the flavors in everyday dishes, such as beans and omelets.
  • Learning about ingredient substitution: No epazole? Use Mexican oregano.
  • Creating menus: An apple or fig dessert might be good after that goat cheese tart. 
The Vegetarian Bible is a great resource to have in your kitchen, no matter your skill level or experience. If you want to wean yourself off recipes and/or want to make sure your diet is healthful and nutritious, read the beginning chapters. If you want to throw together dinner with confidence, check out the lists. I can't wait for next spring so I can make a garlic scape and mushroom ragout to serve over rice. Maybe I'll garnish it with some pine nuts.

Published by Little Brown, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780316244183
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 11/1/14, 7:53 AM  

I love her philosophy that our diets can control or prevent disease. I believe this and feel like many Americans don't really get it. I'm definitely not a vegetarian, but I do try to eat lots of veggies and make them a bigger portion than my chicken/seafood/pork/occasional steak.

I like the sound of the flavor combinations section as well...that helps me understand food so much better.

rhapsodyinbooks 11/1/14, 8:06 AM  

I love when cookbooks contain guides for substitutions. Always handy!

Karen 11/1/14, 8:21 AM  

I'll never be a vegetarian, but I do agree that we can take control of our health (and our planet's health) by managing our diets. As Michael Pollan wisely said, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." By food he means REAL food, and that, I think, is the key.

bermudaonion 11/1/14, 9:04 AM  

It's nice to know that even a cookbook author had some trouble working with new ingredients.

jama 11/1/14, 9:16 AM  

Oh, I definitely need to see this one. Been wanting to incorporate more vegetarian dishes in my diet for a long time and desperately need ideas and info.Thanks for the wonderful review. :)

Janel Gradowski 11/1/14, 10:30 AM  

I'm the kind of person that buys unusual veggies at the farmer's market, just because they're interesting, and then I have to figure out what to do with them after I bring them home. I'll have to check this book out!

JoAnn 11/1/14, 10:36 AM  

We're not vegetarians, but this still sounds like a valuable kitchen reference!

Katherine P 11/1/14, 11:18 AM  

This sounds interesting! I'm not a vegetarian and have no plans to become one but I'd love to mix in more vegetarian meals to our regular dinners. I love that she includes ideas for the unusual vegetables that show up in CSAs or Farmer's Markets and the ingredient substitution sounds really useful since it feels like I'm always out of something.. I'll have to look for this one!

Esme 11/1/14, 1:03 PM  

This is one book I always enjoy reading.

Trish 11/1/14, 5:07 PM  

We could definitely use this in my household! In the past year or so I've been finding myself more mindful of our side dishes and how to decrease some of our red meat consumption. I love the panels that you included and how she provides pairings.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 11/2/14, 5:22 AM  

If I'm honest it's unlikely this would ever be opened in our household, we prefer our vege's pretty plain.

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Melynda Brown 11/2/14, 7:05 PM  

This cake is great, I love those vintage recipes. Thanks for hosting.

Heather 11/3/14, 9:18 AM  

This sounds like a fantastic cookbook! I'm going to go add it to my Christmas wishlist right now!

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