Since I almost starved on a strict macrobiotic diet when I first went vegetarian, I'm a bit prejudiced against macrobiotics. Like most prejudices, mine doesn't hold up under close scrutiny.
Christine Waltermyer bases her cooking on macrobiotic principles. However she expands and transcends macrobiotics with recipes that are fresh & wholesome, simple & easy, comforting & delicious.
From The Way of the Natural Vegan Kitchen: "For a health-promoting diet to last a lifetime, the food has to taste so good we think it must be bad for us. Otherwise, why bother."
Christine explains the basic macrobiotic principles that she follows: eat in harmony with your natural surroundings, maintain balance in your life and diet, savor mealtimes, and enjoy natural living - excellent principles to embrace, regardless of your ideology.
Then she adds her enhancements to make macrobiotic diet better:
All of the above, combined with a deep love & respect for food, and a huge talent for cooking and teaching others how to cook, results in an outstanding collection of recipes - mostly gluten free, but with a few seitan recipes, pita bread fruit pizzas, and a barley salad.
The Natural Vegan Kitchen is one of The Book Publishing Company's top vegan books of 2011.
I have only one quibble with this cookbook: The recipes call for fresh produce, which in a northern climate with a long winter, can be tough to do. For instance, fresh tomatoes in winter are hard, tasteless, expensive, come from Mexico, and have almost zero nutrition.
IMHO, canned or dried tomatoes are a reasonable substitution. Same goes for using some frozen veggies, such as peas and corn. Freezing, drying and canning are just ways of preserving food, like fermentation, e.g. miso, tamari, tempeh, umeboshi - all of which are used in this book, along with canned beans.
On the Plus Side:
The glossary of ingredients, mail order sources, and reading list are thoughtful and helpful additions - although you'll be able to find most of the ingredients in your local grocery or natural food store.
We tested the Black Bean Soup, which delighted even the pickiest eaters - a.k.a. the grandchildren, our toughest recipe testers. I regretted not doubling the recipe, because there wasn't any left for supper. Boo-hoo!
We also tried simple, quick & easy White Beans & Greens, with cannellini beans and red Russian kale - local, organic and greenhouse grown, which I snagged at last Saturday's farmers market. Delish! One of my new recipe staples.
We ate the beans & greens with another Natural Vegan Kitchen recipe, Sweet Potato Polenta Pancakes, which I cooked as patties, in far less oil than the recipe specified. We all thought they were much better suited as a side to a savory dish than as breakfast pancakes with applesauce and vegan sour cream.
You don't have to embrace macrobiotics, or know anything about it to benefit from The Natural Vegan Kitchen. Christine Waltermyer's recipes will give you a basis for healthy happy eating which you can build on for the rest of your life. Even the desserts are healthy!
Along the way, you'll probably learn to love kombu, miso, and umeboshi vinegar, used frequently in this cookbook. I've been using kombu for years as my secret soup and bean weapon, so I'm happy to see it in so many recipes.
I'm already sold on miso, and have some in my fridge. Umeboshi vinegar is another matter, but if I can find it, I'm willing to give it a try. (Update: found it at my local natural food store and love it, but rice vinegar is a good sub)
I read the The Natural Vegan Kitchen several times, marking many recipes I want to make, including gluten free power pancakes, fruit pizzas, coconut curry carrot soup, super slaw, Tuscan spring salad, zucchini rice patties, peachy quinoa pudding - etc. etc.
Thanks for a great cookbook, Christine Waltermyer!