Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cookbook Review: The VB6 Cookbook

The VB6 Cookbook
Mark Bittman
Clarkson Potter, 2014

Some of you will think I'm off my rocker just to mention a cookbook with "vegan" in the title. But I've learned over the past few years that vegan cookbooks often are great sources for vegetable-heavy recipes (seems obvious, doesn't it?). When you eat lots of vegetables (like we do), you don't need or want every dish covered in cheese, butter, and the like. Sure, they taste good. But ultimately, that's not good for you, and you also will end up eating fewer vegetables because the heavier sauces fill you up.

Enter the VB6 plan: Mark Bittman's way to eat less meat. Essentially, you pick a meal of the day to eat a moderate amount of animal protein and abstain the rest of the day. For him, that's dinner, hence the title (which means Vegan Before 6:00). He wrote an entire book on the subject that is quite interesting (he wrote a similar book called Food Matters a few years ago that some of you may be familiar with). I read the VB6 book and decided to give it a whirl just for kicks. Amazingly, some health problems I had started to clear up. I've since come to the conclusion that that was due largely to my increased consumption of whole grains and lots of produce rather than eliminating most animal products. I'm no health professional, so who knows.

When I had the chance to review The VB6 Cookbook, I jumped at it. I'm a book reviewer in my other life, and I love getting books from publishers to review. Unfortunately, this cookbook is not as good as I'd hoped it would be. In the VB6 book, Bittman lays out a fairly approachable way of eating, mentioning very do-able breakfasts and snacks. In The VB6 Cookbook, however, many of the recipes seem a bit odd or out of reach for the average home cook in terms of simple appeal. There is also a 28-day meal plan demonstrating how to make the plan work. I've seen similar schedules in other "diet" cookbooks, and this one falls prey to the same pitfalls: every single meal in a given week is different. No one I know cooks (yes, cooks!) a different breakfast AND lunch each day of the week. For a change in eating habits to work, it must be easily accessible to the average person who is probably feeding a family on the side and/or going to work and/or has other commitments. A few repeats (perhaps the same breakfast every other day for one week) would make this far more doable, especially if someone is making slightly different meals for the rest of the family at the same time.

I've tried a handful of recipes from the book. Some of them were too big a change for my family to embrace (bulgur for breakfast, anyone?). And some were delicious. There is one delicious smoothie recipe in particular that I plan to put on this blog! Oh, and a quinoa salad recipe.....

The book is well organized. Like many of his other cookbooks, Bittman gives many substitutions and variations for the recipes--always a plus. He also includes many helpful charts for vegetables, grains, and beans; these charts show how to cook the ingredient, what it works well with or in, and similar types of information. If you're new to cooking whole grains, beans, and vegetables, this kind of information is very helpful. If you own several of Bittman's other cookbooks already, you will already have access to much of this information (although I'll admit it's prettier and easier to navigate in The VB6 Cookbook.)

All in all, definitely a library checkout to test drive before you buy.

For more information, check out the following:

"I received this book for free from Blogging for Booksfor this review."

No comments: