Cookbook reviews by Rachel: The Sexy Vegan  »

Overall Rating: C
: B
Level of Difficulty
: Intermediate to Advanced; most recipes unnecessarily complicated
Best for
: People with lots of time to spend in the kitchen and who want to spend it on hearty, dude-friendly food

I kind of love Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan. He’s basically what you’d get if  John Hodgman and Ellen DeGeneres had a baby and the kid came out with Hodgman’s self-conscious nerdiness and Ellen’s dietary choices, plus hyperactivity. Patton recently tweeted a link to this yearbook photo. He makes silly jokes in his cookbook, starting with the title. He seems like the kind of friend I’d love to have at every potluck, especially the ones that involve drinking games until 2 a.m.

Thing is, friends like that don’t necessarily write the best cookbooks.

Like Brian himself, the book made me smile on nearly every page (in a Will Ferrell-meets-Shakespearean-puns kind of way: ”New England Blam Chowder: I cleverly change the C to a B and BLAM! We’ve got a delicious vegan chowder”; a dish called “My Balls”). But it’s been sitting on my shelf for months and the only time I’ve managed to use it is when I forced myself to so I could write this review.

The problem is not that these recipes don’t work or aren’t good. The problem is that they’re unnecessarily complicated, and Patton gives no hints or advice to convert them into something suitable for the everyday, after work, home cook. He doesn’t even acknowledge that he’s asking a lot, he just continues his charming-dude act. 

Oh Brian, you’re just too high maintenance! 

One entree that sounded amazing and that I considered making, Barbecue Ribz, involves flipping to SIX OTHER RECIPES. These include things like “Crazy Shit Vinegar” (a relish and flavored vinegar with peppers and carrots you could in theory make ahead of time and have on hand if you’re a member of the cult of Brian Patton) and “Blackened Seasoning”, which is just a spice blend, but seriously Brian, don’t make me mix it up ahead of time or do math and shit! I hate that! Just tell me what spices to use! The Millenium Cookbook isn’t even this complex!

And Millenium food this ain’t. The dishes I managed to accomplish—by taking a special, specific trip to the grocery store and planning way ahead—went over well with some nonvegan friends at a dinner party, but they were homey, not gourmet. Definitely not the kind of thing you’re glad you saved a whole afternoon for.

The Blam Chowder was not very clammy but a yummy, hearty, creamy vegetable soup. What really made it was the smokey flavor imparted by the tempeh bacon. But I cheated and used store-bought tempeh bacon, not Patton’s recipe (which takes a sub-recipe, liquid smoke, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and at least eight hours to marinate).

The jambalaya was like a chunky pepper/tomato sauce over rice; again, what made it was the sausage. Patton’s recipe for seitan sausage is more involved than say, Isa or Terry’s (it includes a cooked potato and mashed white beans), but it resulted in a softer texture which was a nice change. But the dish would have been just as delicious if he’d billed it as fast food, told you to make some rice while you chopped some veggies and opened a can of tomatoes, then added some Field Roast afterwards. It tasted basically like that. Not worth my whole day.

Final Verdict: An amusing but ultimately inessential addition to the growing vegan cannon. 


"Is Veganism for Everyone?" A New York Times debate!  »

You guys, the NYT is all over veganism lately. We’ve made it! Or is this a rehash of every other “fad diet debate” the media have ever had? Let’s decide together.

Today, Room for Debate asked some people* to discuss veganism and YOU. (Not “you,” of course, everyone else who isn’t vegan.) Repping for the vegans are Rip Esselstyn, hot-stuff author of The Engine 2 Diet; and Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. Other debaters include scare-mongering vegan-parent-hater Nina Planck; scare-mongering author of The Happiness Diet Drew Ramsey; ex-vegan and known jerkbag Rhys Southan; and author of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss blog Erika Nicole Kendall.

What are their conclusions? Esselstyn is proud to have helped convert Lance Armstrong to a part-time vegan diet, and Patton notes that transitioning to vegan eating can pose more cultural than dietary challenges. Ramsey warns that “vegans are often vitamin-deficient!” (which, what are the stats on omnivores and vitamin deficiency, buddy?) and Planck begs vegan parents to THINK OF THE CHILDREN before forcing their poor helpless offspring to eat vegan food. Kendall points out that meat and dairy are vectors for disease, and Southan is very concerned about the guilt that vegan diets can induce. Fully half of the debaters focus on weight loss aspects, which is fine, I guess, considering they’re discussing a vegan diet, rather than a vegan lifestyle.

Look, we welcome all vegans! Even deliberately eating vegan part-time is better than doing it never. Still, it’d be nice if the national coverage of veganism included any of the other aspects of veganism besides “quick and easy weight loss” and “not being such fat fatties.” It’s not just a way of eating. We don’t change what we put on our bodies or how we stock our bathrooms out of concern for our cholesterol levels. It’s great that eating vegan makes us healthier, but there’s more to it than what we eat, and I worry that focusing so hard on the “vegan diet = perfect body” argument trivializes the work we all do to live a cruelty-free life. Besides, it’s not true!

This Room for Debate really should’ve been called “Is a Vegan Diet for Everyone?” which would’ve allowed all the participants to make the same arguments without glossing over all the non-food issues a vegan lifestyle addresses. What do you guys think?

*Our feelings are a little bruised that we weren’t asked to participate, but seeing as how your Vegansaurus is staunchly anti-diet, we understand why.

[photo by Charles Roffey via Flickr]

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