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'The New Vegan' by Áine Carlin - a review

This review has been organised by the VEGAN lifestyle ASSOCIATION []. It has not been paid for and the copy of the book I received was sent free of charge. This is my genuine and unbiased review of the book.

It is published by Kyle books -

Essentially, this is a vegan recipe book.

However, at the start, there is some very useful comment and advice for those going through a transition to a vegan lifestyle and, perhaps, not finding it to be easy or straightforward.

Recently, I have been speaking at a number of Vegan Festivals and have helped out on the Vegan Lifestyle Association Stand at these Festivals. In my experience there are many people who visit Vegan Festivals either because they want to become vegan (maybe they are vegetarian) or they are in the process of becoming vegan – but they are finding it difficult. In both cases, they are looking for some help and advice.

This is an ideal book for such people – it has lots of good vegan recipes and the introduction addresses (albeit rather briefly) some of the issues involved in becoming vegan.

People choose to become vegan for a variety of reasons – but to be able to claim to be fully vegan, it means living without the need for any animal exploitation whatsoever – no animal products in the diet, no leather goods, no cosmetics that have been tested on animals etc etc.

In Áine’s case, it was, initially, health concerns about both herself and her husband – but she says that, without doubt, she has never felt better than she does now on her plant based diet. She does point out that she does still use moderate amounts of added sugar, caffeine, alcohol and white flour. She also uses various oils in a number of her recipes.

Clearly, everyone has to make up their own minds about this. In my case, I regard my diet as extremely important in helping to maintain my strength and fitness for cycling – so I follow a pretty strict Whole Food Plant Based Diet – which means no added sugar, no white flour, no white rice and no added oils. Essentially, Áine is pointing out that it is not necessary to be quite so fanatical to maintain a good, healthy vegan diet.

Next she considers the issue of animal exploitation – a very contentious subject in the vegan world. She points out that, although this may not have been her initial motivation to move to a plant based diet, the more she has learnt about the meat and dairy industries, the more compassion for animals has become the foundation of her veganism.

However, she also admits that this is an aspect of veganism which she finds very difficult to talk about – mainly because non-vegans generally don’t want to hear about this and would prefer to ignore it. I would have to agree that it is both difficult and frustrating when trying to explain and convince non-vegans and ‘vegetarians’ of the totally unacceptable way in which animals are reared and their products used for human consumption!

She then refers briefly to the environmental disaster that is animal agriculture. Anyone who has any doubt about this should watch the documentary ‘Cowspiracy’!

Áine then explains how much she is now convinced that her vegan lifestyle contributes to her general state of ‘wellness’ and happiness. Though she also appreciates that many who are new to veganism have much concern about making sure they are that they are getting the range of vital nutrients.

In practice, this is not difficult and she provides a very useful list of foods high in some nutrients about which there is most concern (protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C, omega 3 and vitamin B12). This list includes the likes of chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp, nutritional yeast, kale and many others – very nutritious and probably rarely part of any non-vegan’s diet!

When starting to try and move to a vegan diet, an issue often cited is cravings for burgers, cheese, ice cream etc. Personally, this was never a problem for me, but I can see that it is for many people. To help with this, Áine provides a possible menu for a week – based around recipes in her book. Obviously, this has some flexibility but it will be important to resist any temptation to include any animal products and following this menu should be helpful.

Eating out is certainly a problem – sure, some restaurants are now offering more vegan fayre but, in my experience we have to be careful. Most ‘vegetarian’ dishes include cheese and it is surprising how many dishes include milk, eggs, butter or cream. Often the waiters / waitresses don’t know and have to go and check!! In this section, she offers some advice and strategies to get round this problem – including the fact that many dishes in Indian, Chinese and Thai restaurants are usually vegan.

In the last section before her recipes, she asks ‘What do you tell people?’. I would have to say that I am now so confident (and, hopefully, knowledgeable) about the correctness of the vegan lifestyle that I just tell it straight – but I know that this can be difficult.

In general, we vegans do not get a great press ‘How do you know if there’s a vegan in the room? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you’

It is at this point that Áine makes it clear that she is not particularly comfortable when discussing veganism with non-vegans and she makes a number of points :

  • Don’t be the first to bring it up

  • When dining out, if people do not know that you are vegan, they can bombard you with a barrage of questions and you can be perceived as being a bit awkward

  • Learn to deal with this and ‘take it in your stride’

  • On occasions when you really don’t feel like talking about it, then don’t

  • Try and be patient with those who don’t understand and refuse to see your point of view

  • Dealing with your own family can be tricky – especially so when you have children of school age who might find it awkward if they are being perceived as ‘different’

  • Finally, she suggests that the best way to win people over is to show them what fantastic food you eat as a vegan!

There then follows over 100 pages of recipes. She divides them into Breakfasts, snacks and lunches, easy meals, special meals and sweet stuff.

Anyone who buys this book will have a great time trying out many of these recipes. One or two that interest me in particular include :

Beetroot and Banana Smoothie

I am already a big fan of ‘Overnight Oats’ (I usually soak my oats with flax and chia seeds, cinnamon and some non-dairy milk) – but I like her suggestions for other combinations.

Her section on plant based milks is also very informative and persuaded me to invest in a nut milk bag and start making my own!

Polenta with Rose roasted plums

Stovetop Beans with a Twist (homemade baked beans)

Jolloff Rice

Bliss Balls – these look really interesting!

Plus lots more!!

Finally, the book ends with a section on vegan beauty products and clothing.

As someone who does not use any beauty products, I can’t really comment on this section! However, it does look interesting and very useful.

As far as clothing is concerned, the big question is always what to do with any leather or wool clothing that you might have at the time of adopting a vegan lifestyle? In my case, I had to decide what to do with some leather footwear and belts and some wool jumpers. The options are to sell them, give them away (Charity Shops?) throw them away or continue to wear them, but replace them with vegan friendly items. It sounds like Áine probably did a combination of these (as I did) and it is really up to everyone to make their own decisions about this.

I would have to say that when I got more involved with the world of vegans via Social Media (Facebook and Twitter mainly) I was horrified at much of what people post regarding the leather and wool industries – as a result it was an easy decision to remove such products from my life.

Finally, Áine does point out that many of the manmade fibres can have a harmful environmental impact but that, now, there is an increasingly available range of products made from linen, hemp, bamboo and a sustainable fabric made from wood pulp (usually called tencel or lyocell)

This is a very interesting book – plenty of useful information for newly turned vegans and excellent recipes for all vegans – old and new!

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