Elevate Difference

Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers

Let’s just get this out of the way—Terry Hope Romero is the best gift a vegan chef could ever hope for. While I am just a vegetarian, I often find myself flirting with the idea of going vegan. Thanks to Viva Vegan!, though, I can now successfully have a vegan Mexican dinner night.

Now, if you are a vegetarian, chances are you’re familiar with things like seitan and tempeh. If you’re not, no need to worry. Romero begins the book with an extremely helpful section called “The Vegan Latin Pantry,” which itemizes traditional foods necessary for the Latin kitchen and lists vital foods for vegans. The book is helpfully formatted with short paragraphs and text boxes to make the pages more visually interesting—let’s just say that the “These Are a Few of My Favorite Beans” text box has staved off any boredom I was experiencing from my standby black beans and rice lunch.

The 200 recipes in this book are sorted into an impressive fourteen categories, ranging from salsas to tamales. One benefit of having such a range of recipes is that there truly is something for every skill level and every kitchen. Personally, I don’t have a steamer basket or a large lasagna dish, so the tamales weren’t up my alley, but I found plenty of soups, stews, and condiments to try. There aren’t just guacamole and salsa recipes here—Cashew Crema and Chocolate-Chile Mole Sauce make for a delicious condiment section.

In addition to her creativity with condiments, I’ve got to give it to Romero on her commitment to home cooking. An alarming amount of cookbooks seem comfortable recommending that their readers use tons of ingredients that are bought from grocery store shelves, like bread, cakes, and other items that can be made from scratch. While Romero has a few recipes like that, she doesn’t say to head to a specialty store to pick up seitan; she explains how to make your own for chorizo seitan sausages. As someone who’s spent way too much money on seitan in the past, I’m grateful to have an easy recipe to follow that’ll save me money and produce a great dish.

Some of the recipes can be intimidating (I still haven’t tried to conquer making empanada dough), but all of them are well-explained without a hint of condescension. If you’re starving, don’t make the mistake I did by looking at the sixteen pages of full-color pictures. I understand the magic of Photoshop, but digitally-altered or not, that is some fine-looking cuisine. Ultimately, Viva Vegan! is a fun cookbook to read through and experiment with. Romero does a fantastic job of proving that while vegans may have dietary restrictions, there are still plenty of delicious, creative foods to be made and devoured.

Written by: Alyssa Vincent, September 4th 2010