For the month of September, this blog will be devoted to VeganMofo. Tune in while I provide short reviews of some of my favorite, and least favorite, vegan cookbooks.
For most of my life, I have not been a fan of raw vegetables. I didn’t even like fruit very much for that matter. I had a healthy plant-based diet for years, but it consisted heavily on roasted vegetables and warm soups. I was tempted by the pseudo-health benefits of a raw diet, but it ended up being the one diet I never tried because I knew that it would be nigh impossible for me. I could probably have given up sugar more easily than give up cooking my food.
When I first visited Blossoming Lotus in Portland, then, it was with a sense of adventure. They had, at the time, a varied menu with the kind of macrobiotic bowls that vegans used to be known for, comfort foods such as bbq tempeh and mac and cheese, and a selection of raw dishes that were unique to Portland. I could finally try a raw dish that was not just a salad, and a professional quality one as well. I had the raw pizza that day: a flax seed and nut crust, topped with a cashew-based cheese, curling strips of zucchini, and other vegetables that were both tender and flavorful. It was delicious. Based on this dish alone, I went out and bought their cookbook, Vegan World Fusion, thinking that it would usher in a dietary Age of Aquarius where I would suddenly want to eat all of the beautiful, healthy dishes my taste buds had previously scorned.
That didn’t necessarily happen, although I am still sure the blame rests with me and not with the book. The book is beautiful and packed with recipes and as varied as their restaurant menu. A raw fettucini alfredo is preceded by a thai salad and two pages before that is an okra masala. I enjoyed all of the recipes that I tried, such as the blue corn crusted tempeh, but the truth is that I actually tried very few of them. Many things in this book were turn-offs for me. Every page is glossy and in color, but most of the photography is of mountains or eastern religious iconography, not of the actual food. The recipe names obscure what is actually being presented; take Serendipity Soba, for instance, which could be more accurately described as a peanut noodle bowl with vegetables, or Mount Sinai Manna Bread, which is a versatile raw loaf recipe based on wheatberries or spelt berries. It made it hard for me to imagine myself preparing and enjoying the food. Instead I was imagining myself on a meditation retreat in Hawaii. Very pleasant, but not what I needed to inspire dietary changes.
Luckily, the restaurant is still flourishing in Portland, so I can enjoy their food for its taste alone, and I don’t even have to clean up afterwards.