The person who initially inspired my shift to a vegan diet was Alicia Silverstone, and her book, The Kind Diet. What appealed to me most about her book was Silverstone’s obvious exuberance and enthusiasm for the vegan lifestyle. She writes with humor, honesty, and passion. She leaves science to the scientists, nutrition to the nutritionists, and medicine to the doctors. She provides extensive endnotes referencing such esteemed professionals as T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Dean Ornish. These men are devoted vegans who have spent a lifetime studying the effects, and inevitably benefits, of a diet independent of animal protein. I encourage everyone to check out their websites, particularly Barnard’s as he hosts a “21 Day Vegan Kickstart.” Think about it…you could change the way you look and feel in just three weeks!
Silverstone spends the first part of her book tackling the extensive nutritional, ethical, and environmental topics inherent to any discussion of a vegan diet, delineating the difference between the “kind,” i.e. plants and the “nasty,” or all animal products. In a voice that sounds a lot like Cher from Clueless, Silverstone brings the spotlight to important questions we have generally ignored and reveals the hypocrisy and deception inherent in the omnivorous lifestyle. This is not to say that eating animal products requires participating in the cycle of cruelty perpetuated by our current agricultural system. Only that not participating in it requires constant vigilance over what is on your plate and where it comes from, necessitating innumerable questions about your food. These questions are obviated when you choose a plant-based diet.
The rest of Silverstone’s book focuses on the food obviously. She divides her discussion into three categories. The first, the Flirt, is perfect for people who want to test the waters without making a serious commitment. Silverstone advises moving toward vegetarianism, checking out local health food stores and experimenting with unusual ingredients. Flirting is supposed to be fun, and flirting with food should be the same! This has been my favorite part of my food adventure; opening my mind and my kitchen to things I had never tried before, even things that irrationally scared me, like seitan. Silverstone even helpfully provides photos of cute vegan boys in this section to inspire you. The second category is the Vegan, and her final is the Superhero. The Superhero plan is based on the idea of a macrobiotic diet, emphasizing whole grains, greens, and minimizing processed foods as much as possible. One of my favorite Superhero recipes is Arame with Carrots and Onions. When I moved home I was craving seaweed madly and this recipe was my first experience cooking with sea vegetables. It’s a mild way to incorporate these magical greens into your diet.
In honor of Alicia and her book, I made her Moroccan Couscous with Saffron loaded with zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cashews alongside her Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts. Topped off with a glass of Rosé, this was a perfect summer meal!