The title sounds like an oxymoron but Miyoko Schinner is absolutely serious about “The Vegan Meat Cookbook: Meatless Favorites”. Made with Botanicals (Ten Speed Press, $28).
Schinner is the founder and CEO of Petaluma-based Miyoko’s Creamery, the nation’s fastest-growing plant-milk cheese and butter company. She is also the author of “The Homemade Vegan Pantry”, co-host of “Vegan Mashup” on PBS, host of a weekly Facebook cooking show and co-founder of Rancho Compasión, an animal sanctuary.
Born in Japan, she grew up in the United States, became addicted to meat and cheese, then dropped out when she was in college. Thus, it includes carnivores and vegans.
This book features recipes using homemade and purchased vegan meats. It provides an introduction to the growing market for commercial meat alternatives that educates readers on the latest offerings, including “raw” style products such as “it kids” – Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
A sought-after speaker, she speaks on “the future of food” and gave us a striking insight into the world of meatless cooking, whether you change your eating habits out of compassion for animals, for your own health or for the health of the planet.
Q: What inspired this project?
A: This is my sixth book. What inspired me was that I had written a book that sort of started the artisan vegan cheese revolution, “Artisan Vegan Cheese,” in 2012, which has become something of a cult classic. And my editor for my previous book to this one called “The Homemade Vegan Pantry,” said, “Hey, can you write a book about vegan meat?” And I was like, “Well, you know, I’m the vegan cheese queen, but I’m not the vegan meat queen yet. But cheese, meat, it sort of goes together. So why wouldn’t I try?
Q: You write that you can use fresh ingredients to make your own vegan meat and you recommend buying specific vegan meats, which is helpful because they vary so much.
A: A lot of them are bland… so the recipes were developed with that in mind, to amp up the flavor.
Q: I don’t want to get on a controversial tangent, but you have this great quote: “Making food from animal milk is like making energy from fossil fuels.” I take it don’t you see lab-grown meat as the future?
A: Well, it could be. But I’m not interested in eating it. …I’m more interested in making foods that consumers understand that grow from the ground, made from grains, legumes and fresh organic vegetables.
Q: It’s also better for the environment, isn’t it?
A: According to the USDA, the average cow needs 8 to 12 acres of land. Thus, 50% of the landmass of the United States is allocated primarily to animal agriculture.
Q: It floored me.
A: I think it’s just hidden. People don’t see the resources that go into that piece of steak. That’s why I say it’s like getting energy from fossil fuels. We must create the future.
Q: Who is this book for?
A: In fact, I wrote it for flexitarians and anyone who really wants to learn how to cook.
Q. I enjoyed the recipes. The Soyrizo roasted cauliflower was so tasty and the Indian butter chicken had a velvety sauce. Calzones with Beyond Meat Italian sausage and preserved lemon were fantastic. The way you roasted the sausages in the oven with olive oil to give them extra richness was awesome. Where did you acquire your cooking skills?
A: In the 1980s I became a vegan, and I dove deep into food and started experimenting because I was living in Japan, and I loved French food and Italian food, and I had to figure out how recreate that. So, I am self-taught. I worked my way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. I’ve tried to veg every recipe Julia Child has ever written. I have a cassoulet recipe in this book. …I started experimenting and basically learned on my own. I had a few bakeries and I had a restaurant in San Francisco.
Q: It shows in the tips and tricks you reveal. You bring out the best in these ingredients and there is something for everyone.
A: The first chapter is “Appetizers, small bites, salads and sides” and the second chapter is “Comfort the soul”. They are therefore both relatively simple and easy to make. “Weeknight Wonders” is so you can just mix things up, but then the chapters where I really feel like I shine are the next two chapters, “Wow Them” and “Around the World in Eighteen Dishes”, because i’m really on the high. My very first cookbook was about how to take a concept like veganism and really elevate it, show it’s worthy of your time.
Q: Well, those recipes certainly are.
A: My whole life has been about getting people to experience food in their own kitchens and empowering them to cook. The art of cooking is such an enormous power; throughout history, it’s what has brought people together, broken bread. We find our joy and humanity in food, so I’ve always been interested in teaching people how to cook.