Emma Alter


For some reason, people are really intimidated by the concept of a vegan diet, but in fact, many of the dishes that I make regularly are vegan. If you make a lot of Mediterranean dishes, chances are you are already making vegan meals without realizing it, with it's emphasis on fresh vegetables and olive oil, rather than meat and butter.

I've been trying recipes from Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry with great interest. He describes the book as "Alice Waters meets Melvin van Peebles," which is pretty funny when you think about it. The book is a bit of a pastiche, taking traditional dishes from Africa, the Caribbean, African American and Native American cuisines. Mr. Terry has taken these dishes and updated them, removing meat and animal fats and using fresh, local and seasonal produce. Like so many people creating and writing about food now, Mr. Terry is anxious to produce healthy food that gives us sense of community, and of well-being.

To that end, he has peppered the book with stories about his family and childhood, which I found quite endearing. He also added movie recommendations, art pieces he likes, and song choices with each recipe. My daughter enjoyed flipping through the book to see what music she knew, as well as checking out the recipes she wanted to try. If you don't know what you want to make for dinner, check out the music. If you're feeling feisty, make the dish with the Nina Simone song. Want something little more mellow, try the Dinah Washington, or for something funky and sexy, try the Chaka Khan. How can you not love a guy who's musical taste runs from Feist, to Duke Ellington, to Tricky to gospel choirs, and has taken the time and thought to pair the music to the food?

But of course, the big question for a cookbook is, how's the food? As it turns out, really good. I made the Jamaican patties a couple of weeks ago which we liked very much, and the potato salad recipe was a huge hit. It's a perfect dish for a big picnic or barbeque, or part of a summer buffet. The recipes are full of flavour without being difficult or fussy. This is a book that proves that vegan eating is about more than tofu and brown rice.

I made a minor change in the recipe. I toasted the pine nuts in a small skillet on top of the stove, rather than heating the oven. Of course, I needed the oven for the potatoes, but if you wanted to use the pesto on grilled vegetables or on pasta, then using the stove top would save you a lot of energy.