Good Housekeeping Simply Vegan! Delicious Meat-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes Your Entire Family Will Love! is that rarity of rarities, that most odd of oddities: a vegan cookbook that promotes drinking dairy milk.
Yep, you read that right.
It’s no secret the National Dairy Council has been one of Good Housekeeping’s most lucrative advertisers for years. Good Housekeeping was apparently afraid of offending – and perhaps losing! – one of their biggest advertisers by coming out with a vegan cookbook.
So! First Simply Vegan! lists the health benefits of being vegan (reduces the risk of heart diseases; reduces the risk of certain kinds of cancers; assists in weight loss and long term weight management).
Later, the book lists some other reasons for eating vegan, such as reducing world hunger and “for the love of animals.”
And, in between, this statement is highlighted in a BIG green block in the middle of page 9:
“Lactose intolerance is an inability or insufficient ability to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. It is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the small intestine. Symptoms range from mild to severe digestive discomfort.
If you or a family member suffers from lactose intolerance, reduction of milk and milk products is often part of the prescribed treatment, so the dairy-free recipes in this book may be a welcome addition to your family’s menu. However, according to the National Institute of Health, even in persons with lactose intolerance, small amounts of milk, yogurt, hard cheeses, and reduced lactose foods may be effective management approaches. Consult your doctor for the appropriate treatment.”
My jaw dropped when I read this.
First, as a vegan it’s extremely offensive to me when I pick up a vegan cookbook and read an endorsement of dairy.
Second, I think it’s extremely irresponsible to encourage someone with a lactose intolerance to eat dairy. Yes, some people with lactose intolerance can indeed eat small amounts of dairy – but many can’t! Worse, it’s presented not as, “you may be able to tolerate small amounts” but, “it may be an effective management approach!” Would we tell someone with gluten intolerance to eat a few slices of whole wheat toast at breakfast as an “effective management approach?” I think not.
The book’s editor is not a vegan, and that is an additional part of the problem. Susan Westmoreland starts the book off by saying, “‘I’m a Vegan’ were words that struck fear in the heart of this young Cordon Bleu graduate back in the late 1970’s.” She later writes, “These days, though I’m an omnivore, I cook a lot of meatless meals.”
Meatless, yes. Vegan – I doubt it.
As a result, the recipes seem typical of what a non-vegan would pick as favorite vegan recipes.
The recipes are ho-hum standards – another salsa or guacamole recipe, anyone?
Or the recipes are very healthy-sounding, well-balanced, lots of protein – and, by the way, there’s lots and lots of tips for boosting your protein intake! Something all of us vegans worry about all the time (NOT!)
There’s considerable misunderstanding throughout the book about what vegan actually means. Honey is included in at least one recipe. Sugar is used in many recipes, without noting “organic,” “unrefined,” etc. At one point Susan waxes almost rhapsodic about egg noodles, “Because of the egg in the dough, they have a soft texture and rich flavor…”
And, the recipes aren’t particularly – ummm – enticing? Creative? Mouth watering? I received the definite impression the person who gathered the recipes believed vegan food was healthy, but not delicious.
Flipping through, I didn’t find any “must-try” recipes to flag with sticky notes.
So that’s the bad.
What’s the good?
Well, the layout of the book is wonderful. Spiral-bound. One recipe per page, usually with a corresponding full-page, full-color photo. If only more cookbooks were like that!
The recipes appear to be well laid out and fairly quick and uncomplicated.
The recipes are mostly made with “normal” ingredients found in average grocery stores – nothing you need to go to an ethnic store or health food store to find!
The ingredients are all mostly “whole” foods. A few call for vegan cheese or meatless crumbles, but only a few. Fresh vegetables are mostly used, not cans of vegetables or bags of frozen vegetables.
There’s nutritional information under each recipe – calories, vitamins, and of course protein content!
Definitely not for experienced vegans – we’ve all got better cookbooks, and the naivete in this cookbook gets a little grating sometimes.
Ethical vegans, even new ones, may have a problem with the dairy promo.
It’s best for “meatless Monday” people, those just flirting with veganism, or new vegans mostly concerned with health. For those, it’s worth checking out of the library, or perhaps even purchasing if the price is right.