Every now and then I toy with the idea of going vegan – that is, eliminating all animal products from my diet, including eggs, dairy, and honey. The trouble is that most vegan dishes I’ve encountered involve brown rice (okay), seaweed (yuck!), and vegetables that no respectable Southern girl would touch. All that has just changed. Terry Hope Romero has opened my eyes to a whole new world of vegetable possibilities with her book Viva Vegan!.
Romero is a Venezuelan-American vegan chef with several popular cookbooks to her credit. Viva Vegan!, however, is the one for me and probably for a lot of people who agree with me about seaweed. It contains 200 recipes for vegan Latin food. Now there’s a concept I’ve been waiting for, and Romero’s book makes it so simple that even I can whip up meals.
She opens with well over a dozen salsas, including tomatillo and Simple Latin Tomato Sauce (which makes anything taste better, right?). Of course, sauces aren’t usually the problem for vegans. I was eager to get to the meat of this book, so to speak, so I skipped salads and bean dishes to try out the Black-Eyed – Butternut Tostadas. I opted to start with that one because there’s no way black-eyed peas could make an acceptable Latin dish, or so I thought. One bite and I was converted.
From there I moved on to Black Bean-Sweet Potato Tamales, with the same delicious results. Then I followed Romero’s recipe for a simple and relatively traditional pupusa. Equally delectable, but if I get bored with it, Viva Vegan! includes suggestions for several more fillings that are just a wee bit radical and perhaps even scandalous. I like that all the spiciness in this cookbook isn’t necessarily in the food.
Romero includes helpful tips, friendly encouragement, and snippets of beginner Spanish that let us gringas pretend we’ve got Latin flair in the kitchen. Equally generous is Romero’s acknowledgement that not all of us have access to authentic Latin American ingredients, so she gives us her recommended adjustments and substitutions.
Viva Vegan! Is a perfect way for the not-quite-committed to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle without giving up the flavors we love. As the author points out in her introduction, this book is also aimed at Latinos who crave familiar foods but prefer to avoid pork-filled tamales.
Romero’s approach is chatty and light-hearted, suggesting that whipping up these recipes is equally breezy. I can tell you that this particular kitchen-illiterate reviewer found it to be just that, and produced easy, tasty dishes that even the family carnivores wolfed down.