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Wherein You Want to Be a Vegetarian. . .

I get asked all the time for tips for new vegetarians or my favorite vegetarian recipes, and having been a vegetarian for nearly 25 years*, I certainly have some answers, opinions, and lots of “back in the day” stories. Because, seriously, when I started being a vegetarian in Kalmazoo, Michigan, a lifetime ago, the only place to get veggie burgers was the teeny hippie co-op downtown, and those “burgers” were green and mushy and came in a tube like cookie dough (and don’t even get me started on the tahini situation!)

In an effort to put some answers all in one place, I’m going to put together a sort of “So You Want to Come to the Veggie Side” series. I thought I’d divide my thoughts into categories: cookbooks, blogs/websites, newbie recipes, easy substitutions, recipes for when you’re getting started and can’t imagine centering a meal around anything other than meat (or a meat substitute,) weird vegetarian pantry items that are actually made of awesome, etc.

So. . . Let’s get this party started:

FIVE COOKBOOKS FOR NEW VEGETARIANS

  1. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
    Every once and a while, I consider pulling the whole Julie and Julia thing and cooking through this entire book, but then I realize it’s 1008 pages and I just laugh and order takeout. That said, no fake: Buy this.
  2. Isa! Isa! Isa!
    Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the best vegan of all time. I’m not vegan (I’m a big night cheese fan,) but her Post Punk Kitchen recipes are truly fantastic and accessible. Isa Does It is a great place to start, and you’ll never buy jarred pasta sauce again after trying her Spicy Slurpy Spaghetti Sauce recipe (and you thought being a vegetarian was going to be hard.) I received Vegan with a Vengeance for Christmas (and I already have a favorite recipe from that collection.)
  3. The Moosewood Cookbook
    I learned to cook from this one. Sigh. Memories. It’s old school vegetarian, but there are still some great go-to comfort food recipes in here. It’s out of print, but you can easily pick up a used copy on Etsy. Someday, I will eat at the actual Moosewood Restaurant, and I will cry.
  4. Vegetarian Times (magazine)
    Not a cookbook, per se, but I’ve been a Vegetarian Times subscriber for years–decades, really. I love getting a hard copy of recipes in the mail every month, and I cook using the magazine as my guide at least once a week.  It’s a great investment for a new vegetarian.
  5. Your Local Library
    Don’t laugh, but one of my best tips is just to go to your local library, pick a cookbook (entirely vegetarian or not,) pick three recipes to try, cook those, take the book back. I do this all the time when I’m bored with my cooking. I usually end up trying new ingredients and have sometimes ended up buying the cookbook! Virgin Vegan: Everyday Recipes for Satisfying Your Appetite is just one example. Seriously, your local library is your cookbook superstore.

    *In the interest of full disclosure: There have been some exceptions when traveling (especially where language barriers made clear communication difficult,) but I did eat pretty low on the food chain even then.

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