Lee Watson, the author of vegan cookbook Peace & Parsnips, has shared the 5 cookbooks that shaped the way he thinks about (and eats!) food. Find out more about Lee's own cookbook here.
I have been cooking vegan food for many years, I've always been fascinated by the creative way we can use plant-based ingredients to produce stunning dishes to suit any palate. Veganism for me was a gradual shift, it seemed liked the more I learnt about it, the more it embodied the lifestyle I wanted and my ethics and hopes for the future. The New Good Life was one book that made a big impact on me. Being a vegan has many positive effects, not just relating to animals, the environment and our health. This is a passionate book which gives practical steps to move away from the view that happiness is gauged by our status or what we have lurking about in the bank. We can live well on less, whilst moving ever closer to harmony with nature, the planet and ourselves. This is certainly my approach. Diet is a major part of this and John explains the health benefits of a plant-based diet, planet-friendly food that saves money and much more.
John was a big part of the popular ice cream brand 'Baskin and Robbins' until he went through a complete change of heart after realising the true implications and costs of the dairy industry. John became an advocate for a vegan lifestyle and has now been campaigning for years, living the good life and writing many books, 'The New Good Life' is my favourite.
As a sign of the times, Baskins and Robbins are now releasing their first ever vegan ice creams. I'm looking forward to trying some soon.
This book came out in the early 70's, it was before its time, one of the first books to highlight the hugely negative impact of meat production on the environment. It is also filled with meat-free recipes and tips on a healthier diet. Frances argued for 'environmental vegetarianism' and veganism naturally takes this further in the right direction. The book also highlighted issues like world hunger and how it is affected by our still highly ineffective food policies.
It can be baffling and frustrating to read this book and know that we've been talking about the same issue for over 50 years. I think one major issue is that we just aren't offered the correct information about the environmental impact of our dietary choices.
Going vegan or choosing to eat more plant-based meals minimises the support for large-scale animal agriculture, which is the number one source of global warming, much more destructive than the entire transport industry put together! This is a contentious issue but gradually, the true impact of animal agriculture is being understood. Environmental issues like these certainly influenced my reasons for becoming a vegan and cooking planet-friendly foods.
For anyone interested in veganism or moving in this direction, on any level, this is the first book that I recommend. There are precious few books out there that speak from the heart of veganism, which for me, is rooted in compassion for all beings. Will looks deeply into the implications and rationale of a vegan lifestyle; from ethical, health, historical, cultural and environmental perspectives. He really breaks it down in a highly readable, logical and illuminating way.
Veganism is a profoundly positive and peaceful way of thinking and acting, many global issues can be linked with the food we consume and how it is produced. Will brings this to life with realistic examples, scientific support and an open approach. I think the secrets to a truly better, more peaceful and sustainable world are tucked away in these pages.
I admit to not reading many cookbooks or watching food programmes on TV. I work as a chef and once I've been cooking all day, then cooked dinner, I'm ready for something a little different. A nice slice of peace.
Mindfulness is becoming more and more popular and How to Cook Your Life takes us back to the 13th century, the writing of Zen master and philosopher Dogen. It reveals the rules and etiquette of a Zen kitchen and how cooking well is an integral part of living well.
I believe wholeheartedly in this approach, every part of the cooking process is important, from buying or growing the food right up to the washing up!
I see mindfulness as being inextricably linked with a vegan lifestyle. The more mindful I become, the more sensitive I am to the way that my thoughts and actions affect myself and others.
In a Zen Monastery, only the abbot has a higher status than the cook (or tenzo), who is always an experienced monk. The abbot looks after spiritual matters, you could say feeding the mind, and the cook takes care of the physical side, feeding the body with wholesome food imbued with good energy. This book helped me to realise a more conscious and focused approach to the way that I cook, eat and live.
This is one of my partner Jane's favourite cookbooks. It was a tough choice as there are so many amazing vegan chefs out there writing brilliant books; Aine Carlin, Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Angela Liddon to name but a few, but my cooking influences come from all sorts of angles.
The Mystic Cookfire is beautifully written with an open heart and lovely illustrations. It's the rare kind of cookbook that you could quite happily read like a novel, tucked up in bed, with some hot chocolate. On the rare occasion that I have a day off playing with pots and pans, this is Jane's go to cookbook, we eat from the 'Mystic Cookfire' (what a name!!).
I love eating food with soul, something so intangible, but you know the kind of food I'm talking about. Home cooked happiness! These recipes are simple, plant-based and nourishing; the kind of food that can make a house a home, dishes that will become family staples for years to come.
This book also focuses on the deeper relevance of food and cooking. How it is much more than just throwing some ingredients together. Cooking can be a daily routine that accentuates the lives of cooks, families and loved ones.
I'm a sucker for a good quote and this book is packed with amusing and informative references and quotes. Good cooking for me comes from a place deeper than just sound technique. There has to be some love in the mix!
Want to try some of Lee's own recipes? Click here!