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by Crescent Dragonwagon
Workman Publishing, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 4th 2003

Passionate Vegetarian

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.

 

Link: Crescent Dragonwagon's website.

 

© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

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.