Category Archives: Book Review

If you read my earlier post, you know I am baking my way through the American Cake cookbook. If I can make a good vegan version, I’ll post it on the blog. If I fail, well, I will still talk about the history and how badly I failed. XD But I have good news- this cake was successful!

First lets talk about the history of this cake. Before getting the American Cake book I never knew how American molasses is. Sure it is used in European recipes, but it is used more often in the American colonies since it was so cheap. White sugar was reserved for the upper classes and special occasions. So most Americans bought molasses to sweeten their baked goods.

But there is another aspect of Americaness to molasses. Many Quaker residences boycotted sugar. The sugar industry relied on slave labor, and conditions were considerably worse than slaves in the thirteen colonies. Most slaves were literally worked to death (while in the United States we cruelly let our slaves live long enough to have children and enslave them.) This sugar boycott makes me think about how vegans boycott animal products, and sometimes products that have unethical standards, like chocolate and palm oil. I love learning about historical activism!

In that spirit I TRIED to make the cake palm oil free, but the a lot of the flavor depended on butter. So if you want to be like the colonial quakers, you can try out some palm oil free margarine (which in the states mean Miyoko’s Cultured Butter.) If anyone tries using their own homemade vegan butter, please tell me how the recipe turned out!

Now as usually I can never just make a recipe. No, I had to make this recipes “healthier.” How? Simply using blackstrap molasses instead of regular molasses. You may have heard that blackstrap molasses is much more pungent and it has more vitamins in it. In fact, there is a good amount of calcium in blackstrap. How does this happen? Pretty much molasses is the by product of refined sugar after being boiled a second time. Blackstrap molasses is the result from the third boiling. That means less sugar, and more nutritional goodies.

Although I wouldn’t say this is the most healthy snack, it definitely is helping you out nutritionally. One slice (an eighth of a cake) has almost half of calcium in your daily requirements and almost all of the copper you need! If you want to make it even MORE healthful you could use part whole wheat flour or sub with whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour. I used all purpose unbleached flour.

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I love cake! It was always my favorite dessert as a kid- next to ice cream (for obvious reasons?). I never quite could relate to friends who thought cake was lame. I always had homemade cakes for my birthday. My favorite part was the actual cake part, not the frosting. Having a good frosting is especially important, and something I always remember is my friends having really gross cakes and frosting (probably because they would get cheap sheet cakes with Crisco frosting. Yuck.). 

I also remember admiring The Cake Bible. Baking seemed fun and exciting. But as I got older, it seemed that the American baked goods scene was boring. It is dominated with desserts that are made to taste like other things (like french toast covered in crushed sugary cereals, PB&J flavored everything, birthday cake flavored cookies, etc) or cakes that look like other objects. Nothing compared to the creativity with edible ingredients found in The Cake Bible (hello meringue swans on a blueberry jam pond)

Then Jon and I started to watch The Great British Bake Off. I fell back in love. I loved learning about all the different cakes, pastries, and desserts. Even the savory dishes were fun, mostly when they didn’t involve meat. It got me wondering, what about America? Do we have distinctive desserts?

I heard about American Cake from the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. I knew I needed that book. It combined so many things I loved, history and cakes. I also knew these cakes wouldn’t be vegan, so I would have to alter the recipes.

I originally was going to make this into a project for Vegan MOFO, but decided to post as I go along in the book. I won’t be making every single cake in the book. Some I am honestly not sure how to make vegan, or rather not sure how similar it would end up being to the original. For example there is an early colonial cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese. Do I bother trying to recreate that? Also there are three or four different pound cakes. Should I even bother? And don’t even get me started with angel food cake.

So follow me in my journey. I will either post about my adventures trying to make the cakes, and if possible, I will share my recipe. I naturally started with the first cake recipe, and one of my favorite types of cake- Gingerbread Cake. Hopefully, I will post it soon.

Recipes:

Applesauce Cake
Blackstrap Spiced Cake
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
Cowboy Cake
Election Cake
The Wacky Cake


summer-2016

What I am Currently Reading

The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology – This was a birthday gift from my Mother, yup, leave it to her to buy me a medical textbook (she is a neonatal nurse practitioner). I have already learned a lot of new things, and put some of my AP Biology terminology to use.

Rosemary’s Baby – I love the movie and thought now would be the time to read the book. Good news, my husband isn’t best friends with our older neighbors, so I think I am safe about not having a devil baby. 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Still working on this. Read up one month 7, and will start advancing to the delivery chapter to know what to expect. Yikes things are coming up soon.

What I’ve Read

Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50%

I know this book is very baby centric. I was going to keep baby books separate from my reading lists, but I thought why not just plop it in here. It was like my own little Finnegan’s Wake– kind-of painful to read (so many strollers… so many baby seats… ugh and the mattresses!) I didn’t read it front to back, but read a major chunk of the book. It is pretty obvious what it is about- pretty much a published version of Consumer Reports. What I like about the book is that they give recommendations of what to look for in quality, which might not be so easy for new parents. Like what mattresses are the best? What should I be looking for in strollers? I certainly would of dismissed some of the recommendations they made before reading the book.

I also love that they help filter through the “must haves” and the “don’t needs.” While putting together the registry there were lots of recommended items to add such a baby walkers, DVDs, and too many different items of clothing. The book kind-of breaks down how many they suggest you buy which made me feel a little better to have a more realistic number. I didn’t want to come off as too greedy on my registry. 

Downside? You can research and research but sometimes it can be too hard to put all of the “best” in one registry. Many products are exclusives to some companies, which is partly why we registered at two different places. But it was nice to see some cheaper brands were recommended (hello Target!) It definitely helped discourage us from getting certain products. I was really jazzed about those smart phone monitors and the reviews were very “meh.” I am thinking the products will get better as they become more popular, but the reviews showed that they were inconsistent.

Overall I think this is a must have for any pregnant ladies. If a friend announces that their pregnant, this would be a great little congratulations gift, even if they aren’t “strapped for cash.” They do reviews for those super pricey items and will tell you the flaws and the perks, which companies have reliable products, and which crib companies get recalled the most.

A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1

I read good things about this series so I figured I would give it a try. Especially since I was checking it out from the library rather than actually buying it. I have some mixed feelings about it, but overall decided not to continue reading the series. It just didn’t really jive with me.

The story is about Amir Halgal, a 20 year old from a nomadic tribe who marries a 12 year old boy. The story takes place on the silk road, and talks about the cultural differences between Amir’s nomadic upbringing and her new husband’s, Karluk, farming family. The story centers around Amir’s blossoming relationship with Karluk and his family and teaches the reader about the lives in Central Asia.

Good Things: The art is amazing. A quick google search will show you tons of a pictures from the manga, and all the fine details. I also enjoyed the unusual setting. I do not know much about Central Asian tribes, but the story seems to be pretty accurate. The story isn’t just about Amir and Karluk, it is about the whole family. The idea of a 20-some year old woman marrying a young boy seems a little far fetched, but shows how poor Amir’s family probably was. 

Bad Things: I think overall I wasn’t so interested in the series since the story just wasn’t strong enough. The focus seemed to be on how different and exotic the lives are for the main characters rather than complicated family dynamics. Sure there are some small little stories for each chapter, but there just didn’t seem to be enough high stakes to draw the reader in. This is ultimately why I think I dropped the series. It is pretty long, and from what I can see from reviews, it evolves more to be able the family as a whole, but mostly focuses on the women. So I could see myself really liking the series over time, but I have too many other things I want to read first.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

I saw this book on GrrFeisty and thought it looked interesting. The book centers around an American (actually it sounds more like Jewish New Yorker) who moves to France to marry a British man. They have kids and find there is a big cultural divide between the children in France and the children in England and United States. I was really interested in reading this book because I have even noticed differences between children in urban environments and suburbia within the United States. I even noticed a difference between the children in on the East Coast compared to the kids I met when staying in Utah with my parents.

The book is well researched but is overall littered with opinions and generalizations. I don’t mean this as a negative, just something a reader should be aware of. Apparently many readers found the book as an attack on American childrearing, which I didn’t take that way. I think there were many instances that the author openly criticized the French on how they bring up children.

So what makes the French different from Americans? Well, it seems the overall theme is that it is the parents duty to make sure that they balance their personal needs with their children’s. You might be thinking “duh” but the ideas are slightly different how we think about this idea in the United States. It is important for parents to have time to theirselves, like sending kids off a week or two at a time to be on school trips or with Grandparents (something I did when I was little but husband never did.) There is also a big stress to teach kids how to act in society, including manners, living within common schedules, not being loud in public, etc. And above all, it seemed that most French parents viewed it their responsibility to “teach” rather than “discipline.”

Then there was my favorite chapter- teaching kids to be diverse eaters. This is something I think is super important. It is the main thing that irks me about American society. Children are so picky and their choice in food stinks. Heck, there are also so many adults who keep their picky habits as adults. Sorry if you are full grown adult you shouldn’t be picking around the beans in a dish that a friend cooked for you. The book does not imply this is an easy thing to teach kids. I know I was a picky eater when I was little, but my mom was persistent and I learned to eat pretty much everything. It is also something I take to heart as an adult.

I loved the book except for the body shame-y beginning. There was a lot of talk about how Americans view pregnancy as a time to binge on food. And it depends. Historically speaking doctors would actually discourage as much weight gain as possible. But slowly doctors figured out that women who gained more weight were more likely to have healthier babies. So now we have the recommendations of 25-30 lbs of weight gain. Now, some people view pregnancy as a way to indulge, but doctors seem to stress on eating well. It makes sense, but when my pregnancy app is flooding with daily articles about learning to skip dessert, increase my protein (but don’t forget those grains!), tips on how to gain weight, and even tips on how to slow weight gain it is overwhelming. I get what the author’s point is about keeping “thin.” In the United States parents put their bodies and lives second. I hear many stories of people who become very out of shape after having kids and only take up exercise again 10 years afterwards. We need to take care of ourselves. But in some parts Druckerman implies that France has great prenatal care, giving validity to all the French women who drink and try and stay thin while pregnant. The large infant deaths in United States (compared to France) probably has less to do with prenatal care and more with infant care. In fact France has GREAT care for children that is provided by the government for various income brackets. Man was I green with envy reading it.

I think this is a great book for anyone who might feel a little weird about American kid culture. I think trying to adopt some of the styles of French parenting styles can work in an American environment. I think the negative parts of French culture can be balanced with the good parts of American culture. Can you enjoy this book without having kids? Probably. Though I think you might have a deeper appreciation for it if you are expecting or planning to eventually have kids.

**Also note- I write American, but Druckerman does talk about English speaking countries, implying many child rearing techniques are found in England AND the USA, and possibly Australia and Canada.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America

After all the babies and marriage books, I read this- a true crime non-fiction book about a woman who chopped a man up into pieces. Nice balance right? I am not a huge true crime fan. I enjoy a good True Crime story, especially one that is creepy or full of corruption. But I don’t actively seek them out. I found out about this book after listening to the author on the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class.

The book takes place in Philadelphia 1887, a headless, limbless torso is found in a river. The police force has a hard time telling if the body is of a light colored black man or a dark toned white man. This leads to a lot media speculation over the race of the body, and puts the dead body on the police force’s priority list. The police identify the body and narrow their search down to two suspects- Hannah Mary Tabbs, a black woman, and George Wilson, a half white half black man. 

Author Kali Nicole Gross focuses the story on the facts and explaining the racial views of society. She paints a great picture of why story was so sensationalized during the time, most were from where the body was found and the race of the victim and culprits. She is thorough to talk about the politics of the police force, and why corruption in the government might of swayed the decision of the court. She does this without making the book seem dry, which is pretty hard. But most of all she avoids doing too much speculation, only giving her opinion about who actually committed the crime.

If you live or lived in Philadelphia you will be happy to read this book. I enjoyed reading how the different areas changed over time. There are maps in the book showing all the road and alley ways, most of which are now gone. There are labels showing all the different wards, which are never referred to in modern Philadelphia. As some point I think it would be fun to take a walk around the city hitting all the different important locations in the book.

I am trying to keep this review short since I don’t want to give away too much of the details. Going in with a pretty blank slate will really make the read much more interesting.


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It is no secret I really like Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Sometimes I feel like the vegan world is crammed with feel good Californians, so having some snarky New Yorkers with killer food makes me happy. Since Terry and Isa both started to write their own cookbooks, it has always been interesting to see how each person cooks. Romero seems to write about specific topics- whether it is a specific world cuisine, salads, or in this case- protein.

Photos

There isn’t a photo for every recipe, but then again, do we need that? Answer- probably not. I mean we don’t need to see what a smoothie bowl looks like more than once. But the photos that are in the book are beautiful and fun. Instead of JUST featuring the recipe, the photographer arranges the recipe as if it is just being arranged in the kitchen.

The photographer worked with Terry Hope Romero for her sister book Salad Samurai and for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Isa Does It. As I praised with Isa Does It, the photos look as if you walked into a working kitchen, but somehow with the perfect lighting and the perfect amount of mess. Although the photos are clearly staged, it does give the recipes a sense of approachability that encourages people to make them everyday.

Set-up

Romero takes a quick approach, giving you an introduction and some protein basics. This is probably a good thing since she uses protein powders in so many of the recipes. She talks about the basic different powders and why she chooses to use one in a certain recipe and not another. I am a little disappointed that she doesn’t include soy protein isolate, or at least explain why she doesn’t like it. It use to be THE protein for vegans.

She then touches base for other common ingredients she uses and talks about some cooking basics. Most people can skip this section but if you never cooked brown rice before? Well Romero has you covered so you don’t have to pause that podcast to google “how to cook brown rice.” Heck I even used her coconut bacon recipe in that section.

Recipe categories? I liked how she divided them up: Unstoppable Smoothie Bowls and Granola; Stealthy Protein Pancakes, Waffles, and Much Much More; The Protein Bakery Basket; Super Toast: Savory and Sweet; Protein-Packed Patties and Burgers; Better Than Ever Burger Bowls; Grain and Noodles Bowls; and finally Sweet Treats.

Writing

As with all Terry Hope Romero’s book, I am always impressed with her writing. It is always open and very relatable. She more or less mocks the pseudo-enlightened statements that are the so common ever since M.F.K. Fisher. She also has no visible typos or issues with the recipes- oh wait except for one. Her chickpea eggplant hemp veggieballs have no hemp in them. It bothers me endlessly. But truthfully, this is the least amount of issues I’ve seen in a cookbook where there is always one or two ingredients out of place or letters missing.

Overview

It seems there is a divide in the vegan world over this cookbook. A lot of vegans complain that it feeds into the “protein complex” that America has. Which is sad because Terry Hope Romero addresses this in the introduction. She, for the most part, wrote this book for weight lifting vegans. And I have to say, I think this is super helpful. I know Alexa would love this book since she is a big crossfitter, and is a flexitarian. She would like to avoid dairy and eggs, but when you are surrounded by a world that loves the paleo diet, it is hard to learn about vegan protein. This book would be perfect for her. Terry’s recipes recommends cheap protein powder, aka not to use Vega (though some recipes need that, like the smoothie bowls)

What I also love about this book is that there are lots of tips to save your recipes. Many people don’t live with their significant other, or eat the same thing as each other. So I hear lots of vegans say that they can’t make a full recipe because it will go to waste. Romero gives lots of notes on which recipes you can double and freeze. This has been nice for me since I am expecting so I am stocking my freezer up for sleep deprived post baby me. 

Right now, protein isn’t on my list of things to pay attention to. I’ve been getting what I need, and probably should be eating more whole grains (as a pregnant lady that is) But once I deliver I probably going to dive into this cookbook. I find that this has lots of recipes that are very warming, and don’t use as much fresh produce. So testing out these recipes while I have my CSA is a little bit of a struggle.

Otherwise I love this book. I will be using it a bunch in the future. If anyone is a vegan weight lifter, even with light weights, they will probably want to pick up this book. Terry Hope Romero uses protein powder, yes, but I think she varies the types making it friendly for lots of vegans. I am still a little sad she ignore soy protein, but hey, she likes to use tofu so that’s okay.

Wanna Skip the Protein Powder?

As mentioned above, some of the biggest critizism has been how much the recipes use protein powders. I have to point out a few things if people want to save some cash. One tip would be to skip the hemp protein powder and only get the rice and pea protein powders. I got NOW protein, which isn’t the best for smoothies, but works well with these recipes. You can get most of the rice and pea proteins for $6-10 per pound depending on the size you buy. I super recommend getting these for the baked goods and burgers as the protein powders help with binding (think of eggs and how their proteins work in traditional baked goods)

Wanna skip protein powders overall? Well, some of the recipes aren’t going to be high in protein, but you can do almost everything in the first chapter with the smoothies bowls. But there is almost always a non-protein powder recipe in each chapter. Quick way to find them is to look at the savory recipes over sweet. So you want to check out the end of Stealthy Protein Pancakes, Waffles, and Much Much More, and almost all recipes are protein powder free in Super Toast: Savory and Sweet and Grain and Noodles Bowls.

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One of the first concerns I had when going pregnant is how my veganism would fit into it. I’ve heard of many healthy pregnancies with vegan women, or various advice for families that are vegans. But when saying telling family that I was pregnant most asked if the whole vegan thing was healthy or not. So I did some research and tried to find some books to help. Answer? Pretty much I had nothing to worry about.

What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting
Written by Heidi Murkoff
This was a book I found at my local library book sale. For a buck, why the hell not? I clearly knew it wouldn’t be vegan but I figured I could apply the information towards a vegan diet. The book was longer than it really needed to be, and it seemed like there was a lot of repeat information. Don’t eat too much, but more importantly don’t eat too little. The author stresses the role of calcium, which is important but she recommends a dairy overload. I was a little pissed by all her dairy suggestions (aside from my personal opinion that dairy is more cruel than meat) is that she completely ignores the fact that most plant based milks contains just as much calcium as cows milk, many contain more. In her defense that wasn’t the case 10 years ago (which I specifically remember.)

What I found more confusing was her system of tracking nutrition. She stressed the following nutrients: calcium, protein, iron, betacarotene, vitamin d, vitamin b12, and vitamin-c. So to keep track she suggests tracking the servings of food for several different categories: 3 protein, 4 calcium, 3 vitamin c, 3-4 green leafy and yellow fruits/vegetables, 1-2 other vegetables, 6+ whole grains and legumes, iron rich foods (no specified servings), 4 fat/high fat foods. Confused already? I get what the author is doing, dividing fruits and veggies up by how nutritionally dense they are. Plus many of these servings will overlap, for example 1 cup cooked collard greens falls under green leafy veggies, vitamin c, and calcium. Many of the whole grains and legumes also count as half a protein serving. The book gives examples or serving sizes for qualifying foods but since the vegan foods tend to overlap it is kind-of hard to keep track of it all. I personally find it easier to just track the calories on Cronometer, but I know that isn’t always a possibility for people.

Then there are other tips, like how to eat healthy in unhealthy situations, which many vegans already know since they have to know how to eat in non-vegan situations. There is a chapter of foods to avoid, which again mostly doesn’t involve vegans since 90% of the off limit foods are cheese and meats of some sort. 

So what are the good parts of the book? Well it was very reassuring to see that healthy eating when pregnant is pretty much the same as eating healthy in general. Yes there are some larger requirements such as iron and calcium. The book also goes over information about eating after giving birth, giving really interesting information about breastfeeding. I was surprised to find out that you need more calories to breastfeed than when you are pregnant! 

This is a book I have no plans to keep. It is going to be donated right back to the library. It isn’t totally useless. The book does some reassuring that a vegan/vegetarian diet is obtainable, which is good. But I don’t like how it recommends 3 servings of protein when most of the whole grains are half a serving, so in theory getting 6 whole grain servings would fill the 3 protein serving requirements. Okay it doesn’t work out perfectly that way but I get a little annoyed when the author stresses that we get too much protein in our diet, then puts it down as a requirement in her book. Most people are probably not going to count the whole grains as half a serving and cut down on the meat.

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The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book
Written by Reed Mangels
Type in vegan and pregnancy in Amazon and this book pops up. I checked my library and they carried it, so naturally I checked it out. Sadly it was largely not helpful for me, a vegan who is pretty well educated in diet. The book largely focuses on diet breaking down most of the chapters by important vitamin, minerals, and macros that pregnant women should focus on, which are things most vegans learn about- protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. The only new information is pretty much zinc and iodine, which most vegans don’t think twice about.

Otherwise the author goes through the basics about pregnancy, but doesn’t go into the specifics of how it relates to pregnancy. In fact she doesn’t explain many things. There is a birth plan checklist in the back, and some questions are left unexplained. Do hospitals make you get enemas? What are they shaving?! I am still not really sure if these are optional “hippie-dippie” options or just something all hospitals do. I am going with optional since I haven’t read them ANYWHERE on ANY blog or book, and I’ve read people talking about pooping, puking, and peeing during childbirth/post birth. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That being said this book isn’t garbage. I think it is great for anyone who is looking to go vegan in the middle of pregnancy, or just started to make the transition before conceiving. It will be reassuring to parents that you read the book and your child won’t be iron deficient. As for a veteran vegan, there is no information about what types of treatments or drugs that aren’t vegan, which was what I was really hoping for.

There are some recipes in the back, which again is great for brand new vegans. The recipes are really simple and pretty tasty, but nothing amazing. I think I really liked her recipe for baked beans, but sadly involve a lot of baking (hello hot hot summer.) She also had an interesting recipe for cereal bars, which had a little more sugar than I would like, but that is a different complaint for a different day. Glad I didn’t have to buy this book and was able to just get it from the library.

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide
Written by Sayward Rebhal
This is my dream book. Google vegan and pregnancy, this is the second book to come up on Amazon. I read the reviews and hesitated to buy it, it didn’t seem to have lots of information. This was very wrong of me. Yes, the book is very short, and very small (physically, it easily fits in a purse.) Sayward is treating you like an adult who probably picked up a few other books about baby making. She touches nutrition very lightly, which I like personally since as my review of What to Expect says, your diet when pregnant is pretty much the same before hand. 

Sayward hits the main vegan questions- what drugs can I take to deal with some of the pregnancy side effects? Oh she is listing BRANDS! Thank god! No joke, I read her blurb about heartburn, and saw her comment on tums, left the house, bought a container. She touches the topics of what treatments are vegan, and gives tips that she and other vegan parents had done. She talks about pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and raising children. 

Downfalls? Well, the book isn’t very long, which is both nice and flawed. Yes, it made it an easy book to tell my husband to read through for any question family members might have. But I would recommend taking this book with another more clinical/thorough pregnancy book like What to Expect When Expecting. And since the book is so small it can easily get outdated. Those name brand vegan drugs could add non-vegan ingredients to them. And I know one bit of outdated information was on vitamin D. Since the book was written before the discovery of vitamin D3 that can be synthesized in a vegan form with lichen, Sayward says that all D3 isn’t vegan, and says the brand Garden of Life prenatal vitamins aren’t vegan. Since the book is so short, I doubt it will be updated with this new information.


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I have always been a big fan of Indian cuisine. I loved how it was very vegetable heavy and you had lots of different options for meals without meat. But as I went vegan I soon discovered how many of those vegetarian dishes were full of dairy. So I was happy when I found the food blog Vegan Richa. Not only did she have some authentic Indian dishes, all vegan, she also had some fun Western/fusion dishes. So when Richa Hingle said she was releasing a cookbook all about Indian food, I knew I had to get it.

Photos

I love the photos that are in this book. It is pretty important to me to have photos of food that are not traditionally made in your area *cough* Vegan Eats World *cough* The Asian Vegan Kitchen *cough* If you are buying this cookbook you probably know a little about Indian food, but not a lot. And Richa’s photos does help paint a picture of what to expect with textures, serving, etc. 

And I can’t stress enough how much this book needs lots of photos. The names of the recipes aren’t too appealing. Richa describes the dish for what it is, but let’s face it, how many different lentils can she use to keep your attention in the dal section? The photos gives a visual that stimulates the reader to pick it and make it. 

Set-up

Nothing too unique about how this book is set up. But here is something I really liked about it. Richa explains why she made the book in the very beginning. Many times I would find this a little pointless with a vegan cookbook as it comes off preachy after awhile. But I think it is important because her book is about a specific type of cooking- Indian food. Some people might pick this book up without seeing it is vegan, so the introduction can be inspiring to someone.

Otherwise it is the same ol’ same ol’ deal. There is a large section about all the different foods you will need, explaining all the Indian specific ingredients, then moving to vegan specific foods. She divides up the recipes in a way that makes it easy to plan a traditional Indian dinner. Then she has the index in the back, which is very easy to use if you are looking for specific ingredients (something I like a lot!)

Writing

Richa isn’t the best writer out there. But as a trade off she is short and to the point. She writes directions that are easy to follow. She also describes various indian staples in a quick no fuss manor. My only disappointment is that since she is so quick to describe things she glosses over the ingredients descriptions in the beginning a little too fast for my taste. But she makes up for it in the recipes, and gives a lot of details of different ways to make a recipe, where they are from, and how it may vary from region to region.

As for grammar, I think I only spotted one or two spelling errors. Nothing huge, and hopefully was fixed in the next pressing. The grammatically errors were minor and didn’t make the things confusing on what the ingredients or recipe needed. I think there was one case where a spice wasn’t listed in the steps. But Richa is so organized with the ingredients, ALWAYS listing them in order of use and grouping them by steps, that it was easy to figure out when to use the missing ingredient, which I think is much more important.

Overview

I can not stress how much I love this book. I got my copy for Christmas, and accidentally had two people get it for me. My Mother took the extra one and found out that she loved the book too. I can only hope that she gives lentils another try because I am falling in love with the potentials of dals. They are so cheap and are very versatile.

What I also love about this book is that there is a lot of ingredient overlap. Many cookbooks that focus on a specific cuisine or cooking style can sometimes fall into the trap of requiring ingredients that are only used in one or two different ingredients. I have many of these ingredients in my cupboard, granted I have a well stocked pantry. And if I don’t have it, I have found a few other recipes that use that lentil that I had to buy, or whatever spice I had to buy.

I love this book and I think it is one of my new favorites. I will probably use it as much as Isa Does It since it uses a wide variety of foods and they are simple to make. None of the dishes are particularly hard, and usually don’t take long to make. Some take a little longer to make, but usually has a lot of down time. I recommend this to anyone for weeknight dinners, and anyone who loves Indian food and wants to make some at home.

Recipes

This cookbook I tried my best to pick at least one recipe from each section of the book to show all the variety that is available. If there was a recipe available online legally, I left a link for people to try it out before buying the book.

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What I am Currently Reading

A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1 – I saw this on a list of top comics of 2016 and thought I would check it out from the library. Aside from that I have no idea what to expect from it.

The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology – This was a birthday gift from my Mother, yup, leave it to her to buy me a medical textbook (she is a neonatal nurse practitioner). I have already learned a lot of new things, and put some of my AP Biology terminology to use.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America – True crime guys! Actually I am not HUGE in true crime novels, but I do get intrigued by them. This is a book I heard from the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class and thought I HAD to read it.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – I picked up a copy from my library’s book sale, and at the time it was the most up-to-date copy. Now a new version came out. I am sure most of the information is the same with some new changes (maybe a section on Zika, and other technological updates)

What I’ve Read

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Author Barbara Ehrenreich tries to live on a minimum wage paycheck for an entire year. She tries to live in three different places Key West, Portland Maine, and Minneapolis with different types of jobs (waitressing, cleaning, and retail.) She has struggles in each place, but each job and location has their own set of unique problems. Because her book isn’t about people who are making their small paychecks work, it is in many ways flawed. Ehrenreich is very clear that she has a certain set of standards for her way of living like having her own place (as to not blow her cover) and to have her own car (because writing about traveling by bus would be boring.) I think this is reasonable as many middle class Americans wouldn’t consider these things a luxury (unless you live in a very densely populated area like a city.)

I thought the book was really insightful, and very convincing for people who don’t want to raise minimum wage. I think since Ehrenreich doesn’t take in consideration things like disability, family, etc she can make the argument that best case scenario, you can’t live off of minimum wage. She also talks about the fact that many of the businesses that she works for do take advantage of their workers or break laws that protect worker rights.

I don’t like how so many people criticize the book for not being progressive enough. I never like that argument because you can’t cover everything. As a white woman, it would of been inappropriate for Ehrenreich to talk about the extra struggles people of color face with low wages. On top of that, sometimes you need to pick and choose your battles. If Ehrenreich tried to talk about every single issue with the USA’s system she could easily overwhelm the reader.

The scary thing about this book is that it is written over 14 years ago, the current minimum wage wasn’t too far off from what Ehrenreich was receiving. In fact at the time the jobs she worked were usually more than minimum wage at the time. The price of housing and food has only gone up, so things can only be worse for most working class Americans. To me the answer is clear, though most people don’t like it. If a company can’t pay it’s workers more, than maybe we should be paying more for certain products? Probably people who are middle class or higher shouldn’t buy so much stuff? Or maybe that business shouldn’t stay open? The problem is that major corporations that can pay their workers more, it just means the people who work higher up are earning less.

The downside is that I read the older copy and there is updated version on the market. I am sure the newer version talks about points that I mentioned- the cost of living is only going up. I am sure things like Obamacare is also mentioned. I left an Amazon link to the newer edition because I am sure it can only enrich the reading experience.

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Princess Knight, Vol. 2
This is the second installment to the Princess Knight manga that I read A YEAR AGO! Where does the time go? For the previous book I talked about how I could see modern parrallels with the main character Prince Sapphire with people who identify as transgender. This most likely not the intention of the author, Osamu Tezuka. There is actually more written about how the character Prince Sapphire is the first “gender neutral” character in Japanese mangas. So what is the basic plot line? The Queen gives birth to a girl and the King, scared for his lineage, decides to raise his baby Sapphire as a boy and hide the sex of the baby from the kingdom. As a result, in heaven Sapphire gets both a boy and girl heart, and an angel is sent to Earth to remove her boy heart to become a proper girl. The story is complicated by the fact that Sapphire’s true sex is discovered and get’s overthrown, and Sapphire falls in love with Prince Charming. 

My criticism about the series was that there were some gender stereotyping. Sure there was the roles of which genders play, but there was the constant reminder that females are physically weaker than males. So how the did the second installment hold up? Well, in the second book Sapphire’s boy heart is completely removed but is still able to be strong. This I enjoyed. But since she has more or less made that transition as a girl, the story becomes more focused on getting Sapphire and the Prince together.

Well, there is an interesting storyline where an evil queen keeps trying to steal Sapphire’s girl heart for her daughter, who isn’t “feminine enough.” What I liked about the daughter character was that she mischievous and spunky, but never wanted Sapphire’s girl heart. In the end she helps the leading couple, and is shown in a positive light, giving approval that girls don’t need to be quite and reserved. Sadly, she dies because of a weird “connection” to her mother, which does conflict with my previous statement.

Overall I liked the series, though it is a little dated because of the changed roles of women over the years. And I think I mentioned before that it is a little weird reading as a westerner. Tezuka clearly is emulating western fairytales, but seems to jumble Grim’s fairytales, with Disney movies, with Greek/Roman mythology. If you can get past these items, this will be an enjoyable read.

The Vegetarian
The Vegetarian is a book that instantly grabbed my attention. I am a long time fan of South Korean storytelling, as it is usually steeped in metaphors. Then pile on a message about vegetarianism/veganism? Yes please! SADLY… it really has nothing to do with veganism, but everything to do with feminism. So not a total loss right?

The story was originally written as three different novellas, following the life of Yeong-hye once she becomes a vegetarian (or more specifically a vegan.) The first novella is written from the point of view of Yeong-hye’s husband, who is a boring man who has little ambitions. He just wants to work a normal salary job and get married to an average woman to blend in with the rest of society. But one day Yeong-hye decides to not eat meat, which in Korean society raises a lot of questions since food is so largely a group activity (which I’ve written about before on the blog.) To try and get Yeong-hye to stop her individuality he rats her out her family, resulting in a mental downward spiral for Yeong-hye.

The second novella follows Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law who apparently has grown a crush on her. He becomes obsessed over Yeong-hye’s body and obsesses over an art project based on Yeong-hye’s naked body. This chapter is a little odd, Yeong-hye gets a chance to understand herself. She is free from the societal obligations of being a wife, and takes a chance of artistically expressing herself through her brother-in-law’s project. But her brother-in-law doesn’t have her interests in mind. He is acting selfishly for his own gains, ignoring everyone around him, Yeong-hye, his wife, and his son. Because of his selfish disregard to everyone, Yeong-hye suffers. Everyone assumes that Yeong-hye is the crazy one for going against so many societal rules.

The last novella is when Yeong-hye is committed to a mental institution. The world has given up on her, she is simply too weird for everyone. Her sister In-hye still visits often, but probably because she sees the same struggles that Yeong-hye deals with in herself. In-hye has been betrayed by her husband, forcing her to be a single mother in Korea, a huge social outcast. Everyone in the immediate family ignores Yeong-hye, and In-hye openly criticizes her family, which results in her being kicked out of the family.

The book made me draw a lot of parallels with the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. What caused Yeong-hye to go crazy? The strict roles created for women? Or was she starting to loose her mind when she started to avoid meat? The whole story is VERY GRAPHIC and might not be for everyone. There is a lot sexual and physical abuse, particularly in the first novella.


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This recent batch of books have been library books. Which means one of the books was left out of the photos. Womp womp. Oh well. I really enjoyed these reads, though they are in many ways very different from each other. Two comics that are about coming of age, a comedy book about fake facts, and a novel about German imperialism and orthorexia.

What I am Currently Reading

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America – I have heard a lot of good things about this book but I finally picked it up from the library because it was the book of the month at Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack Book Club.

The Vegetarian – This is another book on the Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack Book Club but I would of picked it up regardless once I found out about it. Very dark, and I am only a third of the way in. I have no idea how this is going to escalade.

What I’ve Read

The Areas of My Expertise

I’ve been in love with John Hodgman’s podcast Judge John Hodgman. He apparently picked a passage from his own book for the obscure cultural reference, and I figured “hey, why not read it?” I expected to read something that is sprinkled with humor but contain tons of pretentious cultural references, and the book did not disappoint. Basically The Areas of My Expertise is written in the same style as a Farmer Almanac, many many random facts sprinkled throughout the book. But what John Hodgman does instead of writes a bunch of fake facts, and made up stories written in a dry tone. 

But I don’t think this a book for everybody. If you like reading the New Yorker, including their humor section, then you will probably like this book. Otherwise I think Hodgman comes off as too dry for people tell when he is being humorous or serious. It also helps if you know of Hodgman’s humor before picking up the book. I won’t lie that I imagined Hodgman delivering some of the lines in the book. Again this helped me read very “silly” jokes as if it was very serious, adding to the humor.

Overall what I love about Hodgman is that he is usually pretty good about being funny but not offending certain groups. He is well educated and is sensitive to many issues, in fact he has actually given some great advice in his New York Times column. I think the only thing that is offensive is the book is his chapter on hobos. One might think this is insensitive to the homeless, but I think he was more so poking fun at the romanticization of “hobos” during the Great Depression. In fact the hobo wikipedia page doesn’t seem too far off from what Hodgman wrote. 

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Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas

I originally picked this book when I read an article about a man who ate nothing but coconuts. I find historical food trends interesting, perhaps because it helps keep current food trends in check, or at least reminds us that nutrition hasn’t changed much over the years. If you also find that interesting this is the book for you.

The story follows Nuremberg, a German man who has found the secret to health. He believes coconuts are god’s perfect food since they grow so high up on trees (to be closer to heaven) and because they resemble the human head. But since they are so hard to find, he decides to move to the south pacific to own a coconut plantation, where he was spend his days in the nude and eating only coconuts. Along the way he passes the path of other fruitarians, and other historical health food figures.

Although the story does follow themes of orthorexia and dogmatic views of food, the story is also about colonialism. Nuremberg is only about to live his paradise life because Germany is occupying New Guinea. He is also a white man who although isn’t rich, has more money than the locals and therefore is able to buy a plantation. The themes of colonialism is further emphasized by Nuremberg’s interaction with the local people, with his sense of superiority.

I really liked this book, but I wish I spent more time sitting down to read it in one sitting. The writing deserves the attention of the reader. The text is dense and isn’t structured like most best selling novels. There is no dialogue to break the page, the story doesn’t follow traditional story telling, etc. I personally liked the book, but I plan to reread it at some point. There were too many nights where I would read 10 pages and put the book down, making the story too disjointed.

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Sunny, Vol. 1

Sunny is a story about kids in that are living in Japan’s foster system. Some of the kids are able to see their mothers, and others are uncertain if they will ever see their parents again. The comic shows various little snippits of their lives and how they cope with their lives, interact with each other, and have little faith from the adults in their lives.

The first chapter is all over the place, dabbling in various small moments in the kids lives. This is to introduce us to all the different characters, and get us use to the chaotic life in the foster home. But as the chapters move on, they focus mostly on one character, for example one was about the toddler Shosuke getting lost. Another is about Kenji trying to drop out of high school and getting permission from his drunk father, straddling between adulthood and childhood.

The illustatrions fit the story very well, and the author writes very coherently. The overall book is great but I would of liked to see stronger female leads. There are girls and females in the foster house, but they aren’t featured in their own story, and when they are featured it is to be the love interest. Outside of this fact, (which is pretty common in Japanese writing) the story is really great and one I would recommend reading.

SuperMutant Magic Academy

SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants, warlocks, and witches, training their paranormal and super natural powers. But the stories are less Twilight and more like vignettes of the mundane high schools we grew up in. The book started as some short comics published online over the course of 4 years. Each story is about one page, but there are few that span several, especially at the end.

I really loved this collection of comics and I wished that I was able to read it when I was in high school. It really captures the angst and social frustrations that occurs in high school. It even captures more contemporary frustrations like coming out to your friends, unrequited loves, and more. Though some of the jokes reminded me a little more college than high school, like the artist doing avant garde performance art. Some of the jokes are completely devoid of the super natural, while others focus only on that, such as the immortal boy.

What I really like about the book is the drawing style of Tamaki. Each panel is drawn simply with with black and white. There is a nice balance between sophisticated and cartoonish, making the humor shine, but the panels worth admiring.

I strongly recommend buying this book. I would even like to get a copy for myself to flip through from time to time. You can read it straight- front to back, but since this was written as a serial, most comics are readable all alone. There isn’t a strong storyline until the end where everyone is graduating. If you know someone in high school- buy this for them. If you ever been the “uncool” one in high school, I am sure you will appreciated the jokes in here as well.


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This collection of book is a little spooky related. We have a collection of short horror comics by Junji Ito, a suspense horror by Shirley Jackson, and a collection of comedic stories about cats, which uses a lot of horror tropes. Maybe I was feeling the super old school vibes of reading ghost stories during Christmas time? Perhaps not. I partly wrote up these book reviews in such a small grouping because I checked out We Have Always Lived in the Castle from my library. But it is nice to be able to write only 3 reviews instead of 8 all at once. 

What I am Currently Reading

Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas – I was reading an article about a vegetarian who lived only on coconuts. Surprise he died of malnutrition! The man inspired this story, and thought it would be an interesting read.

What I’ve Read

Fragments of Horror

I am a big fan of Junji Ito, he wrote my first graphic novel- Uzumaki. I managed to then search high and low for his english translations of Tomie (which a used copy of this book sells for $110 on amazon, anyone want to buy my copy?) Then he came out with Gyo, and I still loved his creativity with the horror genre. Then there was a dry spell. Not much was being translated and released in the United States, turns out Ito took a long break from writing horror comics. Fragments of Horror is his first collection of horror comics in eight years. Part of his time away from horror was filled in with his manga about the life of his pet cats (which I have a review below!)

Unlike his previous releases, there is no connecting thread with each story. Each story is it’s own individual story. Some are strong and others I could of done without. The book starts off with Futon, which is a story about a man who refuses to leave his futon due to the demons that he alone can see. The story is told from the point of view of his concerned wife. I thought this was a really strong story, short and to the point. It wasn’t anything insanely original, but the drawings are great.

The next story is a much longer one called The Wooden Spirit. A father and daughter prepare their house as they will start doing tours of the historical building. They get visited by a woman who seems to be very excited about the building. She stays with the family, but the daughter can’t quite figure out what is so weird about this woman. It ends up being a story about obsession and stranger danger.

Tomio – Red Turtleneck reminds me a lot of the Tomie series, a woman that mesmerizes men to their death. Tomio appears at his ex-girlfriends apartment asking for help, his head is about to fall off. His girlfriend is pretty distraught as she was dumped for a fortune teller they both went to. The story didn’t have too much going for it, and mostly was there for gore factors of a head coming off. Plus the “deadly hot” girl story has been done enough with the Tomie storyline.

I was much more impressed by Gentle Goodbye. Riko got married and lives with new parents. Her new home is very weird, she gets the cold shoulder from her in-laws, and she is convinced there is something creeping around the house. Turns out the family has a tradition of turning the recently dead family members into ghosts who fade away as everyone forgets them. The tradition is really weird, and Riko gets a lot backlash from her in-laws when she asks to turn her father into a spirit. It is a nice little ghost story.

Dissection-chan was a short story that I didn’t like right away, but it has grown on me. The story is about a girl who stalks a boy into adulthood, demanding he dissect her. There isn’t too much to this story, but it does create an eerie atmosphere that I can apprieciate. The story builds to the end, which I can imagine would be hard as the story doesn’t have an easy to solve plot. I am sure it wasn’t suppose to have any specific commentary, but as a vegan I saw a lot of parallels with live animal dissections.

Blackbird tells tells the story of Kume, a man who finds an injured hiker. The injured hiker is rushed to hospital, where he tells his story about how he had been hurt in the woods for an entire month to reporters. But how did he stay alive with so little food? The hiker confides in Kume about a mysterious visitor who fed him some unknown raw meat, but wouldn’t save him. The hiker was afraid he might still be visited by this women even though he was now saved. This is a really interesting story and reminds me of some of the traditional Japanese folklore. The women was a little distracting with her big puffy lips since she was suppose to be similar to a bird. 

My least favorite story from the whole book was Megami Nanakuse. The story is about Kaoru, a woman who is an avid fan of the novelist Megami Nanakuse. Kaoru sends a fan letter to Nanakuse, and hears back with a special invitation to learn how to write. When she arrives she finds out that her idol isn’t as amazing as she once thought. This story is more filled with humor, but more potty humor that felt a little awkward and misplaced. It felt more awkward that the story seems to use a cross dressing man as a punchline. The story made me think of Misery only in reverse, where the author is using their fans against their will as their muse.

The last story is Whispering Woman, which was a horror concept that was completely new to me. The story is of Mayumi who is plagued with constant indecision, should she sit? should she sit with crossed legs? On the bed? On the floor? So her father hires someone to walk with her all day telling her in detail what to do. The work is hard so they don’t last much longer than a month, until Mitsu shows up. She and Mayumi seem to form a bond that went beyond everyones expectations. Mayumi’s father is a little suspicious about the relationship, everything is seeming to work too well. I have to say the ending was very different, and surprising to me, making this a great way to end the collection.

Overall, I loved and cherished this collection of stories, but I am a fan of Junji Ito. If someone was brand new to the author, I don’t think this would be the best way to start out. Even the author Junji Ito admits that he was a little rusty with the genre after taking such a long break. It is funny reading reviews on Goodreads since there is a lot of divide on which stories were everyones favorites. It felt great to get some new material from one of my favorite artists.

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Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Another Christmas gift was Junji Ito’s comic Yon & Mu. As mentioned above, Junji Ito is a horror manga/comic artist. He decided to take a turn and write a comic that centers on some real life experiences. The story starts out with him and his wife moving into a newly built house, something that is fairly rare in Japan. His wife almost immediately asks if Junji is a cat person or a dog person, starting the the couple down the path of cat ownership. As someone who adopted a cat with my husband, I had lived with cats for a small amount of time, and he had not. So the stories made me think of when Jon first tried to win our cat Toulouse’s heart, and kind-of failed miserably at first. He tried so hard to get Toulouse to like him, but we all know cats like to have their own personal space. 

What makes the comic work is Ito’s wonderful drawing. He captures movement very well, making a joke come to life that would normally be hard to make work on paper, like his illustrations on how to play with cats. He also uses his horror background to create humor. He first draws the new cats as possessed intruders, and slowly transforms himself into an cat obsessed freak. And let’s face it, if you like cats, you probably know there is something a little weird about you. He also has other great stories that are more so cute and enduring to any pet owner, such as not wanting to disturb sleeping pets.

What is fun about this book for Ito fans is that it does give a look into his personal life. He talks about his relationship with cats, but I was happy to see that they translated Q&A that were posted with original publications. There are even questions about his life before being a manga artist, questions about the current comic, and more. At first I thought they were a joke, which there might of been some tongue in cheek found in some of the answers. But it becomes clear that they are truthful questions and answers. The book ends with a summary of why the comic comes to an end, which is pretty much because of relocation because of the earthquake.

I can safely recommend this book to any cat or comic book fan. Even if you aren’t big on comics, this is a great book since it is filled with lots of humor. It carves it’s own little unique spot in comics since Ito perfectly blends his horror and grotesque drawing styles with light hearted humor. The only downside is that if you are a new reader to Japanese comics, it might take some time getting use to reading everything “backwards.” Once you get use to it, it is really easy to enjoy.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I picked up this book because it was recommended by a blogger… who I can’t remember which it was. The person was saying they were in the mood to read something spooky, and this book helped fill the void. I was pretty excited when picking it up, since Shirley Jackson is known for her writing in the horror genre, her most well known piece being The Lottery. The story, just like The Lottery features real life horrors, there aren’t any ghosts, monsters, or zombies. 

The story takes place in a small town, where the last of the Blackwood family live together in their mansion. Merricat and Constance take care of their physically impaired Uncle on the last of the family’s money. Constance stays as a recluses in their home after the mysterious death of the family. One night the family was poisoned with arsenic in the sugar, Constance and Merricat didn’t eat any of the sugar, and their Uncle Julian managed to survive the arsenic, but it left him physically damanged. Constance was accused of murder, was found innocent. Merricat ventures out twice a week to get groceries, where she is harassed by the local villagers.

The major theme of the story is outsiderness. We find out that the Blackwood family treated the locals poorly. They didn’t want mix and mingle with people who were lower than them on the social ladder. They blocked their lawn from being used by other people and they moved far away from the village. Merricat and Constance keep in contact with only one person from the outside who is another rich socialite, who also keeps a clear distinction between the rich and the poor. Because of this, the locals in the town hate the family, along with resentment that Constance wasn’t committed for murder.

The story is told through they eyes of Merricat. Her isolation makes her extremely childlike, which is disturbing when paired with her sociopathic mindset. There is a small air of witchcraft in the book since the girls lives revolve around ritual, gardening, and sympathetic magic. There is nothing overtly pointing out that the Blackwood family might be witches, as the Merricat seems to not be aware of her specific actions. But she has a wide knowledge of poisonous and healing plants, performs small acts of magic such as nailing a book to a tree and burying coins, and in the beginning of the book she makes a very specific reference to warewolves. Merricat is the anti hero of the novel, we shouldn’t like her so much but we can’t help be feel sympathetic to her.

I really enjoyed the book, but it does start out a little slow. Once the story hits it’s climax it really comes to an end really quickly. This is a great spooky story to read, especially if you are getting a little bored with the typical supernatural story.


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When I first went vegan I did it mostly for health related reasons. In the middle of it all I started to get sucked into the raw lifestyle. I slowly branched away from it, but I am still always interested in eating more raw food. I decided to try and eat more raw lunches and decided to use some of the recipes from Ani’s Raw Food Asia cookbook. I love Ani’s simple and easy recipes, making it quick and easy to prep a lunch.

Photos

The pictures are pretty true to what the food looks like, which I really like. Nothing drives me more bonkers than seeing a photo that will never match my recipe. Ani’s food does look inspiring to make, but there aren’t that many photos of the food themselves. The photos in the book are actually more about the sights and people that are in Asia. There are photos of Ani preparing recipes, and posing at markets. I would say this is annoying in a cookbook, but honestly, I like it. I find it relaxing and I like flipping through the book to just look at the photos. And let’s be real, do I need a photo for all these salads? Answer- no.

Set-up

Unlike most modern cookbooks, Ani’s organization is a little all over the place. This might be a smart move. It isn’t often do that people sit down and read all of a cookbook. So Ani takes advantage of how people read a cookbook, by flipping through recipes, and gives information and facts throughout the recipes. Most of her tips are mostly about keeping up health, mentally, physically, and living an eco-friendly life. Before doing this review, I’ve read most of the note she has written, which I normally don’t do.

What does drive me nuts about this style is that certain recipes are scattered all over. I would of liked to have the sauces and pastes all grouped together rather than all over the place. If I just want to make that sauce, it is easier to find in a chapter devoted to sauces, rather than tucked away under the “rice” section. It isn’t a huge problem though. Otherwise, like any other cookbook there is an introduction, recipes divided up by types, suggested menus, then some more closing remarks about living a healthy life. 

Writing

Ani’s writing is always easy, but sometimes a little too dumbed down. It is a little frustrating to read some poorly worded information, that ends up being false. I might know what Ani is trying to say, but it the wording makes the information easily misinterpreted. For example she talks about buckwheat and writes “buckwheat is a seed, not a wheat, so it’s gluten-free.” Yes buckwheat is gluten-free, and yes, it isn’t related to wheat. But “not a wheat”? That is just horrible english, and makes the definition of grains even more confusing for most people.

On the flip side there is also some great information that is very much true. I have to agree with many of suggestions she makes for living a generally healthier life. So I wouldn’t say that everything is false, but when it comes for nutritional and food specifics know that she is simplifying the information a lot.

Overview

In general I like Ani’s super easy raw style of food. This book is probably better than her other books for starting out with a raw diet since most of the food doesn’t use a dehydrator. The dishes are pretty veggie heavy which is what I am looking for in a raw recipe. I do wish she offered up more recommendations for substitutes for recipes that use a dehydrator. She does recommend using the oven but it would of been nice is she suggested other substitutes like using a rice paper wrap instead of her dehydrated coconut wraps.

What I do like about the cookbook is that it isn’t very judgmental, particularly at the end chapter. Ani shares her experience with raw food over the years, and admits that she doesn’t eat raw all the time. Nor is she totally a vegan anymore, but is more so a pescatarian (or maybe a flexi-pesca-tarian? Basically fish is only a small fraction of her diet.) It takes a lot guts for a person to admit when their health isn’t 100% when their whole profession is built on it.

The authenticity of the recipes are a little up in the air. Ani doesn’t claim that these recipes are authentic, clearly since some of the originals involve cooking. Some of the Korean namul and kimchis are probably rather close to being authentic since she has Korean roots, and says in her book she visits family in South Korea. I think it bothers me when Ani tries to call a recipe after an specific dish, and it just isn’t even close. For example the samosas were delicious, but didn’t use potatoes, nor did it have a wrap around it. The only recipe that really made me annoyed was the “black rice pudding” which was a recipe for chia pudding. Neither are anything alike, and it really should of just been left out of the cookbook in my opinion.

Overall, I think I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to eat more raw foods. There are some light dishes that are quick to make. I don’t think there was a recipe I wouldn’t make again (except the ‘rice,’ but that isn’t exclusively something Ani has made up, just give me normal rice please.) Sure there are some modifications people might have to make if they don’t have a dehydrator, but if you have a blender and food processor, you will be able to make most of these recipes.

If you are interested in individual reviews of recipes just click to expand the review.

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