June 07, 2014
If you've been vegan for any length of time, there have probably been moments when you wished you could pull a book like Elizabeth Castoria's How To Be Vegan out of your pocket and say, "Here, just read this." Times when someone has said, "Eating a vegan diet seems like a great idea but it's just too hard, and I wouldn't know where to begin." Or, "I'd love to invite you to dinner but I have no idea what to cook." Or maybe, "But why would you want to give up so much good food to be vegan?" Or even, that most favorite of all questions, "Where do you get your protein?" Perhaps you just really wish you could politely and helpfully answer these questions better yourself. I say, "politely," because throughout the book, Castoria maintains that it helps the vegan cause more when vegans are nice, than when we puff up and turn into the vegan police. Chapter five is entitled Manners: Don't be a jerk, and that is an ongoing theme of Castoria's book. Be vegan, be healthy, be positive, be nice. I like that.
Another idea that surfaces often is that it's easy to be vegan. Easy doesn't mean you must do it in a day or even a week. It may take some people years to make the switch, but that's okay. She says, "To be vegan you don't have to do anything; you just have to not do one thing. ... stop buying animal products." And encouraging people to not buy animal products, no matter how long it takes, is better than chastising them for not doing it immediately, or for slipping up now and then. To help make being vegan as easy as possible, there's lots of helpful advice about how to shop, where to shop, what to buy, what to eat — how to find plant-based versions of virtually everything you need from shoes and clothing to cleaning products to personal care items to food. There's even a chapter on how to find what you need while traveling.
Eventually, all this vegan stuff comes down to eating good food. Castoria says, "...even if you use the word artisanal frequently enough in conversations about food to be a character on Portlandia — even then, discovering the dizzying depth and delectability of plant-based cuisine will curl your toes." And she is right by your side to help. From sharing a list of the 10 most popular accidentally vegan foods to providing 50 real-food recipes by Robin Robertson so you can put your new knowledge about being vegan to practical use, she is your guide to a wonderful, compassionate lifestyle.
I've been a vegan for a long time, but I enjoyed reading How To Be Vegan, and even picked up a tip or two. The book covers all the basics with clarity and humor, and without ever being condescending. I recommend it.
Elizabeth Castoria is a freelance writer and the former editorial director of VegNews.
full disclosure: A free copy of the book was sent to me for review. I wasn't paid. All opinions are my own.