by Crescent Dragonwagon Workman Publishing, 2002 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 4th 2003
At over 1100 pages, Passionate
Vegetarian is a massive cookbook, with over 1000 recipes. It is organized into fifteen chapters,
giving recipes for different kinds of meals and different kinds of foods, such
as hor d'oeuvres, salads, soups, stews, grains, beans, soyfoods, vegetables,
sauces, desserts and quick fixes. It is
illustrated with a few pictures, but it is mostly text. Every recipe is introduced by a paragraph
about how Dragonwagon created it, or for what kind of occasions it would be
appropriate, along with a suggestion about how many people it will serve. There follows a list of ingredients and then
instructions in straightforward steps.
Many recipes are accompanied by ideas for variations using different
ingredients if some in the recipe are not available or are too expensive. There is no information about the
nutritional, vitamin or fat content of the different recipes. The index, which
is 42 pages long, is exhaustive.
The food preparation borrows from
many different kinds of cooking: Greek, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican,
Tex-Mex, Southwestern, Creole, Cajun -- all of course vegetarian. The recipes tend long lists of ingredients,
often with ten and sometimes even twenty or more items. She uses tempeh more than most comparable
cookbooks, and she uses it in recipes where one would not normally expect
it. For example, she makes a stroganoff
with mushroom and tempeh with onions and bell peppers that tastes good, but the
mixture of textures is very different from what one expects of a
stroganoff. She is fond of peppers and
pepper sauces -- they feature is a large proportion of the recipes. She is also fond of mustards, especially
Dijon, which appears with great regularity in the ingredients. There are many sweet and sour recipes, and
many are quite rich in their flavors.
The names of various recipes tell you what to expect: "Grilled
Eggplant and Zucchini Rollatini, Sicilian-Style, with Tempeh-Provolone
Stuffing," "Curried Eggplant-Sweet Potato Soup-Stew" and
"Seitan Smothered in Brown Gravy, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Onions" are
good examples of her approach to cuisine.
Dragonwagon's tastes may not be
shared by all her readers, and it is a good idea to browse several of her recipes
to get a sense whether they appeal to you before buying the book. Passionate Vegetarian is a useful
book to have on your shelf when looking for ideas for what to cook, although
since it is so large, only the most dedicated readers will end up cooking more
than a few of the recipes. It is good
value its size, but it's probably not the first book I would recommend to
vegetarians looking for new ideas, since it seems too large and sprawling to be
very useful. I would recommend a
simpler approach to most people -- Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is
one of the books that we consult regularly in our house.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy
Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology
Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in
medicine, psychiatry and psychology.