It wasn't that long ago that any Latina who announced to family and friends that she was a vegan -- people who don't eat meat, eggs or dairy products -- would immediately receive one of three things: shocked looks accompanied by the sign of the cross, have a candle lit in her honor or the inevitable question, "QuÃ© es eso?"
Well, in these times of health crises in the Latino community with serious problems such as rising diabetes rates and increases in childhood obesity, Latino families can no longer afford to not know about healthy alternative eating styles, such as vegan diets.
Yet for Latinos, the popular assumption is that too much of our food, which is an intrinsic part of what keeps Latino culture alive at home, would be sacrificed in a vegan lifestyle.
Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero shows how eating vegan doesn't mean giving up any part of the Latino culture. With simple substitutions in foods, spices and oils, Romero illustrates how adopting a vegan eating habit is practically pain-free.
Featuring 200 recipes that incorporate family favorites from a range of Spanish-speaking countries, Viva Vegan! features dishes ranging from appetizers, casseroles and salads to soups, tamales and desserts. She uses common ingredients to create recipes that most readers will be impatient to try in their own kitchens.
With titles like: "Fried Sweet Plantains," "Cilantro-Lime Rice," "Mango-Jicama Chopped Salad," and "Vanilla-Coconut Flan," there's no doubt there's at least one recipe that will get mouths watering for a try.
There's even a chapter on how to create favorite Latin-infused drinks like horchata, sangria, and, of course, mojitos. Along with the recipes, there are page-size color photos of some of the finished dishes to surely jumpstart the motivation to get into the kitchen.
The only downside to the book is that it doesn't provide a breakdown of calories and nutritional value for each dish, but it does provide several helpful glossaries of cooking techniques and terms, menu samples, shopping lists and sources to go online for Latin cooking ingredients.
Viva Vegan! may not appeal to die-hard meat lovers but everyone should be attracted to a style of eating that contributes to good health.