For many people, the idea of vegan and comfort food are seldom in the same sentence, let alone a book title. In fact, many people think of vegan as the opposite of comfort food, so Lauren Toyota’s Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics is a challenge to that idea. Now, for me, one of my comfort foods is roasted brussels sprouts with a bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, so to me, vegan comfort food sounded interesting. I am not vegan, but I love vegetables and fruits and think we are all a little better off the more vegetables we enjoy.

Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics is full of beautiful photos of foods that will make you drool, foods full of carbs and calories, foods with fried and baked breaded crusts, foods with gravies and sauces that are lush and indulgent. This is, in some ways, a book that challenges the idea of vegan food as health food. But then, there are more reasons for embracing veganism than health.

There are two ways to approach vegan cooking. One is to go for it without regret, to enjoy the bounty of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains you can enjoy. The other is to focus on what you are missing and seek ways to replace the flavors and textures of meat and dairy with vegan alternatives. Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics takes the latter approach which I think of as regretful veganism. The veganism of loss.

Which is why this book is a mixed bag. There are lots of excellent recipes, though many are too carb and fat-loaded for this diabetic. I love the idea of a cauliflower burger as shown on the cover. Cauliflower is mild enough to take on the flavor of whatever you want it to, so added buffalo chicken spices will make it tasty. The problem for me is that this is all about recreating non-vegan comfort foods with meat and dairy substitutes. I was hoping that this might also be about creating new comfort foods made with vegetables. Rather than bangers and mash, maybe a pea soup flavored with the smokiness of coffee? Is it really comforting to make a recipe based on what you miss rather than something new? To me, this cookbook focuses on what veganism deprives you of rather than on exploring how vegan recipes can be exciting and delicious in their own right and creating new classics.

I received a copy of Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics from the publisher through Blogging for Books.