Elevate Difference

Ripe From Around Here

When jae steele’s Ripe From Around Here arrived, it joined a pile of vegan library books on my kitchen table. I needed inspiration and fresh ideas, and hoped one of the books would help. steele’s book was the star. These are the recipes that will become everyday favorites, and the ones that omnivores will devour, blissfully unaware that no animal products are present.

The first part of Ripe From Around Here lays out steele’s philosophical interests and approach to food. As a holistic nutritionist, steele hopes readers will slow down and eat healthful foods. She presents helpful health information without sounding preachy or heavy-handed. I especially appreciated her emphasis on mindful eating—the importance of taking time to notice our food with all of our senses. The section on seasonal influences, inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, has interesting and practical ideas. steele lays out the numerous food choices available to North American consumers—organic, local—and offers advice on the various benefits.

The recipes are flexible enough to work for cooks who find it challenging to prepare any dinner at all, as well as those who aspire to do things as much from scratch as possible. These dishes are not just for the virtuous; plenty of dessert is included too. Some of the recipes put a tasty twist on dishes I already make, such as root and barley soup and Mexican stuffed bell peppers. Others, created more for special occasions, I look forward to hungrily. Blueberry lavender ice cream, made with coconut milk, tops this list, followed closely by rosemary mushroom gravy. The tomato chard bake and herbed garden biscuits are sure to become staples in my house.

steele strikes me as a very practical idealist. She does not expect diet purity from readers, but offers up options so that we can make informed choices. For example, many of the recipes call for spelt flour and sunflower oil; steele cites why these are her preferred options, but also knows readers will substitute to suit individual preferences.

As her title hints, steele encourages the use of local ingredients. She also recognizes (as a resident of Toronto) that many delectable ingredients would have to be omitted, and sorely missed, if one sticks to a strictly local diet plan. The key, I think, is to appreciate a lemon as a gift from a warmer climate, and to not take it for granted. Thoughtful, reflective eating can help our health and our local economies.

I actively seek out vegan recipes for their flavors as well as healthfulness. I love the creative use of produce and the variety of grains found in innovative vegan kitchens. Ripe From Around Here provides plenty of tasty options to explore, and steele’s blog offers additional recipes and kitchen ideas. Overall, steele presents food as an opportunity for joy and pleasure.

Written by: Lisa Rand, November 3rd 2010

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