Great Cookbooks for Families
Reviewed by Katy Killilea
Have you noticed the people around you becoming vegan, but making exceptions for bacon, butter, and local cheese? They’re not exactly vegans–OK, not vegans by any stretch of the imagination–but rather people who eat vegan meals some or most of the time. Vegan Lunch Box is the ultimate lunch-box packing book for genuine vegans as well as vegans who wolf down bacon-wrapped scallops whenever possible. That is, it is a very useful book for anyone who is responsible for packing her/his child’s lunch box.
Prize-winning blogger Jennifer McCann is the valedictorian of lunch-box cuisine. She goes way beyond balanced nutrition and using cookie cutters to make sandwiches cute (although she does that too). Since her child uses a Laptop Lunch set with four sections, each of Vegan Lunch Box’s suggested menus is comprised of four parts, usually a main course, a fruit, a vegetable, and a sweet. An example of a menu from the “Ready and Waiting” section includes: broccoli calzones, tomato sauce for dipping, an apricot, and a piece of vegan candy. In addition to “Ready and Waiting,” there are three other menu categories: “Quick and Easy,” “Rise and Shine,” and “Lunch Box Adventures” (which are for special occasions and include components like Scary Spider Sandwiches and beets carved into heart shapes).
Did I mention that this book is full of good ideas? Some are as simple as promoting the idea that eating bread crusts will enhance one’s ability to whistle, or rolling up slices of faux meat into tight little cigars to make them more fun to pick up and eat. Others are more complicated, such as tofu-apple spring rolls. Or how about a thermos filled with hot vegan cheese fondue accompanied by your child’s choice of cubed bread, lightly steamed veggies, or olives, and a utensil for spearing and dipping. Still others are unfathomable: making hot pretzels with your child in the morning before the bus comes (“talk about your upcoming day as you take turns pinching off bits of dough and roll into interesting shapes…”). Mornings at my house, that’s not how we roll. But I can heat up a thermos for tofu pups simmered in baked beans on a chilly morning before school. Vegan Lunch Box will match your needs–simple or complicated–your choice.
As I read this book the first time, I found myself translating it into omnivore food, substituting the cheeses we usually have on hand for soy cheese, for example. I also found myself vowing to do a better job packing lunches this year. Vegan Lunch Box is inspiring without making anyone who relies heavily on PB&J feel bad. For parents who love food but have somehow spawned picky eaters, hope springs eternal! Vegan Lunch Box is welcome motivation for all of us who stare into a lunch box demanding to be filled again and again.
Vegan Lunch Box
By Jennifer McCann
2008 DaCapo Press