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Book Review: Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

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Love Latin foods? I do, and so do many of my family members. My husband is an omnivore — he’ll eat just about anything I make as long as it’s not too spicy; I’m a flexitarian, easy on the animal products; granddaughter Chloë is vegetarian; Chloë’s mom, my daughter Jen, is vegan, my ultimate challenge. Cooking vegetarian with butter, eggs, and milk is a no-brainer. Eliminate those ingredients, and I’m serving rice.

Terry Hope Romero, coauthor of Veganomicon, comes to the rescue of cooks whose imagination limits their vegan output, and vegans who would like more Latin dishes on their menus. There are 200 recipes in this colorful book; among favorites like tacos, burritos, and tamales (and everything else you’ll find in popular Mexican, Cuban, Costa Rican, South American and Spanish restaurants), there are wonderful desserts, salads, stews, snacks, sweets, casseroles, and (my favorite) corn dishes. Surprise — there’s a recipe for a vegan Cuban pressed sandwich.  And, ooooh, those creamy corn-filled empanadas!

Many of the dishes in Viva Vegan! are also soy- and/or gluten-free, and the recipes indicate which ones they are. Remember, though, this is vegan, not diet, and some of the recipes are richly delicious.

For my family, minor adjustments in spices have to be made for those who like their meals hot, not-so-hot, jalapeno-free, and sans lime. Once that’s accomplished, there is a great selection of dishes that everyone will enjoy.

Everyone has private standards for what makes a cookbook great. I turn to the desserts. Can you imagine dairy-free dulce de leche? Terry Hope Romero did. She also offers recipes for ice cream made with coconut milk and soy milk, and baked goods without eggs or other dairy products. “Crepes with Un-Dulce de Leche and Sweet Plantains” are swoon-worthy.

For non-Latino/Hispanic cooks, many of the ingredients will be unfamiliar. Romero includes a chapter on the “Vegan Latin Pantry” that introduces both new-to-you ingredients and uses for familiar items. She also introduces a variety of utensils and cooking tools that make Latin cooking that much easier.

One of the barriers people encounter when they want to try any type of ethnic cooking is the availability of some ingredients. Those living in Manhattan will have little problem finding all the ingredients needed for authentic Latin cooking, but it’s not an easy task for those living in Skunk’s Elbow. Viva Vegan! includes a list of Internet sources for both Latin American and vegan ingredients.

Cooking terms are explained, as are a variety of techniques, and there’s a convenient metric conversion chart for those who don’t have a netbook in the kitchen.  I can’t wait to share these recipes with my family — won’t they be surprised!

Bottom Line: Would I buy Viva Vegan!? Sí.

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About Miss Bob Etier