Saturday, October 22, 2011

Viva Vegan!

Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers by Terry Hope Romero

You know when you admire the work of a famous person and then you finally get the opportunity to meet them and then your whole image of them shatters because you find out they act like an asshole in real life? Not Terry Hope Romero. She's as genuine as they come. She's witty and pretty, she pokes fun at herself about being a nerd (I sense a kinship), and she's Latina. I like her.

Plus, Terry Hope's encouraged my blogging which scores high in my books. I met Terry Hope at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival this year. I attended her workshop on vegan blogging (since I lost that Vida Vegan Con Burrito Bonanza contest and couldn't see her in Oregon)

and saw her cooking demonstration of pastel de choclo.

I have a huge interest in Latin culture and studied Spanish for over a year. My long-time dream is to visit both Central and South America. I got a little dose when in Cuba. Also, if the British lost the war in Jamaica, mi premera lengua would have been espanol. As a child, I wished I was Puerto Rican. I learned to salsa and queca (national dances of the Dominican Republic and Chile, respectively, thanks to an ex). My fiance plays Brazilian music and now I'm soooo wanting to learn Portuguese. (I am working on a children's picture book set in Brazil.) La cultura latina is muy similar to that of Jamaica (where my parents come from). There is the whole shared history of slavery, imperialism, and colonization for starters between Jamaica and the rest of the Latin world. There are the vibrant cultures, cuisines, and music which have fans around the world. The African influences in both Jamaica and the Latin world are evident throughout music, dances, and foods. Plus, the ingredients in the food are essentially all the same: rice and beans, yams (cassava or yuca as they are called in Latin America) and potatoes, assorted corn products (non-GMO, por favor) and hot peppers. The combinations of these staples are different, for example a lot of Latin dishes contain some sort of tomato which is probably a Spanish influence and Jamaican cuisine has some types of yams, but we are essentially el mismo.

Terry Hope is muy occupada! Cooking up a storm, demos around the world, writing cookbooks (the newly released Vegan Pie in the Sky! along with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and Veganomicon), blogging, and running websites Vegan Latina and the PPK (Post-Punk Kitchen).

I love Viva Vegan! and I have made its recipes over the past two months. The layout of the book is primarily in black and white with red-letter print and there are some glossy colour photos as well. Each recipe and dish has been a winner and has not failed me yet. There is no tofu obsession (although TVP is used in some recipes) but instead seitan tends to be the protein of choice so if you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or an allergy to gluten, you will need to do substitutions here. There are plenty of easy-to-follow descriptions and lots of ways to alter and substitute your dish. She also gives the background and some history about each dish. Plus, something I really love, she has written different menu options complete with which dishes go best together just in case you want to entertain and floor your guests with The Buena Vista Social Club or Latin Caribbean Buffet. There are tons of dessert recipes. I tried making the alfajores which contain dulce de leche cream. Stay tuned for another Vegan Photo Album where I share how they all turned out.

I would have loved to see more main-dish-y type recipes since that is what I cook most but in Latin cooking there is so much flexibility in making the "side dishes" into the main dish. Take empanadas for example. Instead of just having one (as a snack), you can have two or three for a meal. Lastly, I would love more pictures.

Vida Vegan! got me out to my local Mexican and Latin American stores to purchase tortillas, tomatillos, hominy corn, anatto seeds, ancho chili powder, sweet paprika, Mexican oregano, and jalapeno, serrano, and poblano peppers. Just saying all of these words is making me hungry. (Probably that and I haven't had breakfast yet.)

I feel like I have just scratched the surface in making the recipes from this book and I look forward to mucho comida Latina con sabor muy deliciosa!

Check out her cooking demo here:

Coming Up Next: Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur

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