Pros: Extremely comprehensive tips and hints; wonderful recipes
Cons: None that I can think of!
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’m not a vegetarian; I simply recognize that a high proportion of vegetables in my diet is a healthy thing, and a good way to find balanced, interesting vegetable dishes is to explore vegetarian cooking. Frankie Avalon Wolfe’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being Vegetarian, Third Edition brought me to the startling revelation that somewhere along the way, my consumption of meat had dropped off enough that I’d probably be considered a semi-vegetarian (I didn’t even know there was such a designation!).
Unlike other books I’ve looked at that were primarily vegetarian cookbooks, Being Vegetarian is meant to teach you how to go vegetarian, why vegetarianism is a good and healthy option, and how to survive and thrive as a vegetarian. It does a truly amazing job of this, covering a wide array of fascinating and helpful information.
While the author is a lacto vegetarian (a vegetarian who eats dairy products), she details the wide array of potential vegetarian diets, from the least strict (such as pesco pollo vegetarians, who eat fish and poultry) to the most (e.g., macrobiotic diets, which avoid anything denatured, processed, refined, etc.). Her recipes suit a lacto vegetarian diet, although she includes suggestions for adapting them to vegans.
Dr. Wolfe includes a huge amount of nutrition information, both in support of the idea that a vegetarian diet is a perfectly healthy one, and to make sure that you continue to get all of your nutrition as a vegetarian:
Anyone can be a sickly, overweight, toxic vegetarian if they choose junk foods as their staples. Vegetarianism should be used as a term to describe health consciousness, not just an absence of meat.
Since vegetarians often take up their diet due to health concerns, environmental concerns, or reasons of conscience and animal cruelty, Dr. Wolfe includes information about organic foods, nutrition for all stages of life, cruelty-free products, and so on. I think this holistic approach to the book is going to be particularly useful for many readers.
There are many issues related to going vegetarian that I’d never even thought of that Dr. Wolfe addresses. She provides suggested ways to gradually phase your diet over to a vegetarian one. She details ways to handle holiday meals with the family; road trips; airline travel; restaurant eating; neighborhood barbecues; pregnancy; vegetarian teens; and more. She discusses the idea of using the various available vegetarian substitutes for diary, meat, and eggs, vs. finding other ways to fill out your diet.
In addition, the book includes 92 vegetarian dishes, ranging from breakfasts to dinners, and including a handful of dishes from various cuisines around the world. I think the only thing I was surprised to find missing was any mention of agave nectar in the section on alternative sweeteners, particularly since it’s vegan and ideal for diabetics.
The recipes are laid out clearly, occasionally include black-and-white photos, and often come with helpful tips. The ones we tried came out wonderfully and were quite delicious; my favorites were a meusli recipe and a chard kopita recipe.
Whether you’re interested in becoming a semi-vegetarian for health and/or environmental reasons, want to go straight to being a vegan, or need to learn more before making a decision, this book is a great way to get started. It addresses all sorts of big and little issues, some of which you might not have thought to ask about!