I recently had the pleasure of working with a vegan marketing company to help an author named Victoria Moran obtain speaking gigs at vegan and veggie festivals nationwide to discuss the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
Since that experience, I had the opportunity to read her newest book, Main Street Vegan, which, as filmmaker Michael Moore puts it, “isn’t preaching to the vegan choir, but to the people in the pews — and the ones who can’t fit in those pews.”
It’s a book for those who aren’t familiar with all the ins-and-outs of the local health food store, what exactly quinoa is, or the fact that meat might even be harmful.
Though I’ve been vegan for a few years, I could still appreciate the information Moran presents in Main Street, tailored to those who have never enjoyed tofu steak or tempeh barbecue. In fact, it helped kickstart a vegan rut, opening me up to the variety of plant-based foods I used to consume when first going vegan.
The first part of the book is all motivational — geared to get you to put down that cheese dip and try out a new dietary approach, even while admitting that it probably won’t be easy.
Main Street provides shopping resources, tips on how to join a food co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture), and even offers some simple, yet tasty recipes (more on that below).
Interspersed between discussion of the particular health benefits for each plant-based food, Moran presents tidbits on the factory farm and modern agriculture industry, rather than beating readers over the head with the message (though it is important!).
Moran also presents dealing with common social settings where new vegans might want to take a break and enjoy a non-vegan treat, to which she responds with a motherly approach, not a chastising one.
Then, Moran breaks from the food talk and goes into cruelty-free household cleaners, fashion and even booze, making the point, once again, that those who don’t eat meat or dairy, or use animal products, still let loose just like everyone else.
It might be about the basics, but Moran’s Main Street Vegan is anything but run-of-the-mill, and it’s a nice “refresher course” for those who might need a little shaking up.
My favorite recipe from this book is Moran’s Seitan Stroganoff, recipe as follows. This was one of the most ingredient intensive recipes in the book, so if simpler is more your style, there are other offerings to choose from!
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 cups diced onions
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsely
- 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons barley miso
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard (Ed. note: the best kind of mustard!)
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
- 2 cups seitan, thinly sliced, then cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot, kuzu, or cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup cashews or blanched almonds
- 4 1/2 teaspoons umeboshi paste (Ed. note: A Japanese plum paste, used as a substitute for fish sauce)
- 2-3 cups cooked whole-wheat noodles or fettuccine
Heat the oil and saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, parsley, and mushrooms. Saute for 6 to 10 minutes, until soft.
Dissolve the miso into 1/4 cup of the water. Add the miso, another 3/4 cup water, the mustard, tamari, and sherry, if using, to the sauteed vegetables. Bring the mixture to a simmer, add the seitan, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then add the dissolved arrowroot, stirring vigourously to create a smooth consistency. Blend the cashews with the remaining 1/2 cup of water and the umeboshi paste until smooth. Add this mixture to the vegetables and stir well. Heat gently and serve with the noodles.