Yep, you read that right, this is our third vegan cookbook giveaway in 3 weeks folks, and this time it’s thanks to the generous spirit of Bryanna Clark Grogan. She’s a long-time vegan chef and educator with a strong sense for eating healthfully as a vegan. We hope you’ll enjoy her insightful comments on recipe creation, balanced nutrition and the complicated logistics of family holidays. Read to the bottom for a chance to win a signed copy of her latest book World Vegan Feast.
Allison Rivers Samson: You have devoted 22 years to vegan cooking and your ninth sure-to-be-popular vegan cookbook was recently released. Was your experience different with World Vegan Feast as compared with your eight previous books?
Bryanna Clark Grogan: Yes it was. For one thing, this was my first time publishing with Vegan Heritage Press, my previous 8 books were with The Book Publishing Company. Also, I was working with recipes that I had developed for my now-defunct subscription newsletter, The Vegan Feast Kitchen, over a five year period. So this time it was primarily the tasks of organizing, re-testing and re-writing recipes, researching resources, and photographing for the book. However, the editing process goes on for quite a long time whoever you’re publishing with!
ARS: Much of your work has been with health gurus like Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Neal Barnard. Are there common themes for improving vegan diets?
BCG: I did get some advice from Dr. Weil when I did my early books (for which I was very grateful), and he used some of my recipes on his website, but he seems to be moving further away from a vegetarian diet and is so heavily into supplements now. I developed the recipes for Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes and he was great to work with. The recipes had to be fat-free, fiber-rich (virtually all whole grain), low on the Glycemic Index, very little sugar of any kind, etc. It was a challenge to create easy, tasty recipes. But I don’t follow that type of diet daily. I lean more toward a vegan (and usually lower fat) version of the “MediterrAsian” diet—lots of grains, pasta, legumes, vegetables, a little oil, the occasional sweet (vegan chocolates, of course!). There are many themes for improving vegan diets, some contradicting others—it can be confusing. But all of them agree on one thing—eat more vegetables! I think we should all agree on that point and not squabble over issues like fat, gluten, soy…
ARS: I couldn’t agree more. I think more people are in danger of getting too few vegetables than anything else, even protein. Many of your recipes are based on flavors found in ethnic foods. There often seem to be more vegan options at ethnic restaurants than at standard American eateries. Do you have a theory about that?
BCG: I think it is because many of these incredible cuisines originate in what we might refer to as “Third World” countries, where meat is a luxury. In addition, many countries with strong religious affiliations have a large number of fast days (Ethiopia, for instance) when they refrain from animal-based foods. So these cuisines just naturally have many vegetarian and vegan dishes. We love to go to Lebanese restaurants, for instance, because they have so many dishes that are vegan without any changes. It is the feast dishes of many countries that are often heavily laden with meat, eggs and dairy products, and those are the recipes that need veganizing!
ARS: What are some of your favorite ethnic ingredients and how do you like to use them?
BCG: I’m in love with pomegranate molasses! It’s used in Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine, and also Georgian cuisine (the republic of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union). It is tart and sweet at the same time. I use it in gelled desserts, salad dressings, drinks, and savory glazes or barbecue sauces, as well as in traditional recipes. In my latest book, World Vegan Feast, I used it in Iraqi Sweet and Sour Pomegranate Soup (Shorbat Rumman), and Pomegranate and Walnut Turkish Delight candy.
I also love Spanish smoked paprika, or smoked pimentón. It adds a layer of smoky goodness to soups, spreads and dips, bean dishes and stews. (I also used it in my homemade vegan “Bacon Salt,” which is on my blog.) It can be a sweet variety or a hot one. I wouldn’t be without it. Similarly, I always have Asian roasted sesame oil in the house. I often use it in the way omnivore cooks use bacon fat or duck fat—you don’t need much to add richness and smoky flavor to a dish. In Latin American dishes that normally require lard, I use olive oil with a touch of roasted sesame oil.
ARS: I’ve never heard of pomegranate molasses. Sounds like a must-try! Smoked paprika is my latest favorite ingredient, too. I used it with exciting results in my ‘Veganize It!’ recipe for Twice-Baked Potatoes (VegNews March+April 2012). You cooked professionally as a non-vegan for some time. Have some of your fans followed you into the world of vegan recipes? What’s their feedback been like?
BCG: Oh, yes. Many of the folks in the area where I live who read my cooking column for years before I became a vegan still read my new vegan columns in a couple of other local publications, and buy my books. Many eventually contacted me for advice on how to cut back on animal-based foods as they aged and found it necessary for their health!
ARS: Your innovative recipes have graced many tables. Were there any moments you had playing in the kitchen when you experienced a synergistic “aha!” that led to a new creation?
BCG: A few, but most recipes are either the result of just playing around with a recipe and somehow doing it right (and you’d better write down what you did!), or the result of a great deal of research, experimentation and even failure. Sometimes I get an idea and I know where I want to end up, but getting there is not that easy. Some I work on for years, off and on. Sometimes a favorite recipe may be the result of a desire to make a certain dish, but not having all of the required ingredients. So you substitute. “Fruity Tabouli,” from World Vegan Feast, is one. Lack of fresh tomatoes led to the idea of adding fresh mango and oranges instead, and now it is a perennial summer favorite. Other times you may just get a hankering for certain flavors and decide to combine them into one dish. Such was the case with another World Vegan Feast recipe, “Triple-Ginger Cake with Espresso Icing,” which has also become a family favorite.
ARS: I can see why that would be a favorite; I could go for a slice right about now! Is your family supportive of your vegan lifestyle? How do you deal with the dietary differences in your family? Is it hard for you that your children and grandchildren aren’t all vegan? If so, how do you handle that?
BCG: My family is a large one and, though most are not vegan, they are very supportive and proud of me, and like my food. I do not proselytize to my family. I answer any questions asked truthfully and briefly, give more information when called upon, and serve them delicious vegan food. We were all there once, after all. My husband is a vegan, voluntarily, not because I demanded it of him. One of my daughters recently became a vegan, and two of her daughters are almost-vegan vegetarians. My oldest granddaughter has been a vegetarian for about 6 years. Of course I wish that they would all become vegans overnight, but your children seldom do exactly what you want them to! Sometimes they prefer to do the opposite, as any parent knows.
To manage family holiday meals, I tell my kids to have their holiday meal with their in-laws whenever that is convenient for them (even if it is on the exact day) and then we plan a family gathering on another day. The meal at my house is a vegetarian buffet. I make all vegan items, of course, but my only rule is no meat. My husband and I, and any guests we may have staying with us, have a totally vegan meal on another day, sometimes with a few family members and/or vegan friends. This is the compromise I have worked out over the years that works for us. Some vegans have criticized me for this, but family is very important to me.
ARS: I think it’s wonderful to find what works best for everyone involved. Sometimes being an example of compassion (for all beings, including humans) is the most powerful form of modeling. Do you have a favorite AG product?
BCG: I think it would have to be the Chocolate Lover’s Gift Set because it contains three of my favorite chocolate indulgences—assorted Artisan Chocolates, Chocolate Bark, and Chocolate Almond Toffee.
Thanks again, Bryanna, for your interview and also for letting us give away a signed copy of your new book World Vegan Feast! To enter your name in the drawing for this book leave us a comment answering this question: What favorite springtime holiday food from your past would you like veganized, or have you already veganized to your satisfaction? You must be a resident of the US or Canada to win. Good luck!
Thank you for your entries, this Giveaway is now closed. See the Winner here!