“Raw. Vegan. Not Gross: All Vegan and Mostly Raw Recipes for People Who Love to Eat”
Author: Laura Miller
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)
A few weeks ago I reviewed “Lulu’s Kitchen,” a cookbook by Lucy Buffett featuring recipes from her restaurant at Gulf Shores. Buffett wrote that the general philosophy at Lulu’s was “Fried. Died. And Gone to Heaven” and her menu used to include “rice pilaf and steamed vegetables, but we threw away more than we sold.”
This book, “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” is not like that book.
There is absolutely no frying going on. And there is no restaurant involved. These are recipes for people to make at home. Period.
I am not a vegan. I am not a vegetarian, even, but I got intrigued by these recipes or, more accurately, instructions for assembly.
As is the style lately with cookbooks—although strictly speaking this only partly a cookbook, as very little cooking goes on—there is a good deal of memoir by the author.
Miller is from California, of course, and her YouTube show on the Tastemade channel has a considerable following. (Rather than replacing books, the internet is more and more the origin of printed books.)
Miller tells us she was raised on a healthy diet, no refined sugars. No donuts after church because mom said: “You’ll eat them and then you’ll all be whiny grouches afterward.”
Nevertheless, even with healthy eating Miller became extremely body conscious, “on the verge of an eating disorder.” Her sister suffered from a “pretty serious eating disorder.”
Later, even as a vegan, Miller became overweight.
There can be a lot of calories in plant fat, cocoa powder, and fruit. She was “always sad and tired, …uncomfortable with [her] body.” In fact suicidal.
Psychotherapy, combined with exercise, all joined to a raw/vegan diet , put her on a healthy course.
In this book, there are many raw soups , like gazpacho, and unusual salad combinations which look good: green apple and fennel, watermelon and avocado, orange and watercress, seaweed—two kinds—and arugula, tomato and pomegranate. All fermented vegetables are highly recommended.
Food photography these days makes everything beautiful and in addition to the dishes, there are also amusing photos of Miller wearing fruit and vegetable jewelry: banana hat, beet necklace, etc.
Miller began her career selling raw vegan desserts, which sound tasty. Because she is wary of the amount of sugar in fruit, fruits are used sparingly.
The banana cream pie has crust made from crushed cashews. No cooking. There is cheesecake with almond flour and beets instead of cheese, and blueberry tart with ground walnuts instead of flour.
In fact, there is no wheat flour in this book. Miller acknowledges that less than one percent of people have celiac disease—problems with gluten—but insists we would all feel better without gluten. No regular bread, not even rye or whole wheat.
The recipe for pancakes calls for flax seed flour and gluten-free oat flour.
Most of the recipes are labelled raw but some were “mostly raw.” I was perplexed, until I read the fine print. If maple syrup is the sweetener, it has been cooked. Miller is strict.
There is a list of useful tools. Most are sensible, like sharp knives for cutting all those vegetables. But there is also a dehydrator. Some dishes, like tasty-looking chips of kale or Brussels sprouts, are made by putting the veg in a dehydrator for several hours, instead of baking them in the oven. In Alabama this might be handy in the summer for keeping your kitchen cool.
Considering that all the water is being removed from many of the vegetables and fruits, I found it ironic that Miller declares she is perpetually dehydrated. She carries a water bottle, recommends a water drinking app for your phone and includes “recipes” for water with lemon juice or water with persimmons and turmeric; “turmeric root is the second coming,” she assures us.
Miller insists that most of us are too acidic—that “coffee, sugar, alcohol, meat, all create acidity in the body.” A morning tonic of lemon juice and water will help.
Miller is a sincere writer and deserves to be taken seriously. If there is a possibility that the suggestions in this book could help you be healthier and/or happier, go for it.
Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark with Don Noble.” A shorter form of this review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio.