The Part-Time Vegan

The VB6 Cookbook: More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night, by Mark Bittman,  (Clarkson Potter), 272 pages, released May 6, 2014

While I’ve been an on-again, off-again vegetarian throughout my adult life, I’ve never been vegan. Give up cheese? Never! But love of cheese aside, I’m always eager for a book that takes a new approach to vegetarian cooking. VB6 isn’t a vegetarian cookbook, but it’s a good 3/4ths vegetarian, and definitely worth a look for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike.

Mark Bittman’s approach to eating evolved out of his love of food and the health challenges that many of us hit along the way: extra weight, pre-diabetes. Rather than completely changing his eating habits or beginning to take an assortment of medications, Bittman came up with his own dietary compromise: he eats vegan for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but is open to all possibilities at dinner.

The recipes he offers are delicious. While some may be familiar, there are interesting possibilities as well. (What that man can do with chickpeas!) The gorgeous photography throughout the book increases the temptations. Bittman categorizes fruits and vegetables into into groups we can eat in unlimited amounts (leafy greens, citrus, melons) and those that we should eat occasionally because of starch or fat content (avocados, corn).

The book offers recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and desserts. He also puts together a month’s worth of daily menus. The menus are a great idea, but would involve more time working with food than I’m accustomed to. I can spend a while cooking dinner, but breakfast and lunch are on the run, so I can’t imagine myself actually using the meal plan. And I’m a curmudgeon about desserts. As a diabetic, I try to skip prepared desserts and to stick to my favorite fruits, so a whole section of desserts felt a bit like wasted space to me, though I know others will disagree.

Final verdict: I’ll be keeping this book on my shelves, but won’t build my diet around it. Instead, I will use it primarily as a source of interesting dinner recipes. I’ll also make regular use of his advice on stocking a pantry and buying groceries. It’s sound, helpful, and definitely doesn’t have the feeling of diet deprivation. I’d add this to your diet guide too, it sure won’t hurt.

Note that I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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