There is a bookstore nestled on a quiet street in Noe Valley, the San Francisco neighbourhood I affectionately call the valley of the prams. It is a bookstore with a difference. Omnivore Books is a store that just sells cook books. I’d love to tell you they are all vegan cookbooks but no. However, they are there, among the shelves and plentiful in number. The store regularly holds awesome book signings and some great vegan authors have gathered the crowds.
A couple of years ago, whilst conducting research for a cookbook I am yet to write, I came across a book called The Flavor Bible (Forbes named one of the best ten books of the century). It was heavily meat oriented but it had some interesting and clever flavour pairings I took note of. I recall thinking at the time ‘if only there was a veggie version’. Imagine how excited I was when I picked up the book store’s author talks schedule last week and saw that the author of The Flavor Bible had written just that! The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, I had to go along.
New Yorkers, Karen Page and the book’s photographer who is also her husband, Andrew Dornenburg, had such a warm, fireside manner about them. I liked them immediately. Karen has a long list of culinary literary accolades. A two times James Beard Award winner no less. She began telling us the story of her writing career served up in the culinary world. Her and Andrew toured the country for years, befriending top chefs to discover the alchemy of ingredients, always focussed around the nucleus of meat. The book was hugely successful and Karen and her husband made meat the focus of their culinary leanings. Until, devastated by the loss of more than one family member to cancer, the thrice daily meat eater began researching nutrition and its positive effect on Americas’s three biggest killers…cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Karen began to experiment with making more vegetarian based dishes for her and her husband Andrew. She recalled how she experienced a slow dawning ephipony that the true kings of flavour in any dish were actually not meat but the vegetables! The pair both lost more than twenty pounds and what she had previously believed were ‘normal’ aches and pains of life, dissipated. As I listened to her story I could see that this change was not only a personal revolution for her but potentially for everyone. Seriously, even Award winning restaurant critic Alan Richman wrote in GQ, ‘I had trouble understanding how vegan food had advanced this far this fast without an accompanying outpouring of acclaim’. For Karen, a notable voice in the culinary world, to have come from such a background to come to the life changing conclusion that plant based food offers superior flavours, and life can not only thrive but be infinitely improved by a plant based diet, to me is something to get very excited about. The tipping point has arrived.
Inspired and fired up by this excitement I contacted the publishers and got hold of a copy to giveaway. I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy to one of you.
A recent study found 54 % of Americans now wish to decrease or eliminate meat from their diets. But their questions, which invariably stump them and keep them stuck in the status quo is ‘what can I eat’? and ‘where do I get my protein’? But probably a fear that stops them from adopting a new diet of choice is ‘what about the flavor?’ ‘Hippy lettuce and lentil fuelled diets once fed the general notion that the food not only made you fart but it was also going to be bland as hell. As an international food chaser and restaurant reviewer myself, I can tell you Vegan food has come a long, long way. Even celebrated American restaurants are now including vegan tasting menus for their discerning diners (e.g Daniel, Eleven Madison Park and Per Se to name just three). Even the restaurants in the House of Commons in the UK are taking vegan dining onboard. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is designed to addresses any concerns people may have about flavor and nutrition. The colour coded easily accessible book features flavour profiles of hundreds of foods. With serving suggestions, cooking tips, nutritional profiles with a handy ‘substitute’ guide it has everything you’d need to begin or continue your plant based eating journey. Karen shares tips on how to make vegetarian and vegan versions of standard, meat heavy dishes. She has even included a master sommeliers advice for pairing wine with plant based dishes. This book has it all. But, what you won’t find contained in this weighty tome is a single, solitary recipe. This book is set to teach you how to understand flavor and give you the necessary building blocks to healthier eating. An example of some of the surprising (to me) flavor pairing in the book, as; cauliflower, harissa, dukkah and mint or peaches, tomatoes and thai basil.
Karen and Andrew both agreed, hands down the best meal they have ever tasted was in fact vegan.
I know you will love the book and it will become over time a tatty old, much thumbed friend on your kitchen shelf. I wish I could offer a free book to all of you. However, I have just one. For your chance to win a copy of The Vegetarian Flavor Bible enter below.
United States entrants only.