Book Review: Vegan’s Daily Companion, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (2011)

May 8th, 2015 12:37 pm by Kelly Garbato

“…vegan is what I was meant to be.”

four out of five stars

My hope is that we can navigate through this world and our lives with the grace and integrity of those who need our protection. May we have the sense of humor and liveliness of the goats; may we have the maternal instincts and protective nature of the hens and the sassiness of the roosters. May we have the gentleness and strength of the cattle, and the wisdom, humility, and serenity of the donkeys. May we appreciate the need for community as do the sheep and choose our companions as carefully as do the rabbits. May we have the faithfulness and commitment to family as the geese, and adaptability and affability of the ducks. May we have the intelligence, loyalty, and affection of the pigs and the inquisitiveness, sensitivity, and playfulness of the turkeys.

My hope is that we learn from the animals what it is we need to become better people.

With no fewer than four cookbooks under her belt – The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, and The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is destined to become a classic – many of you may know Colleen Patrick-Goudreau as an accomplished vegan chef. But she’s also got a master’s degree in English Literature, which she puts to use as a writer and public speaker, educating the public about compassionate living and animal rights. Her exploration of the intersections between human and animal exploitation, both on the Food for Thought podcast and various short videos released on YouTube, are among my favorites.

In Vegan’s Daily Companion, the self-described Joyful Vegan brings all her talents and avenues of interest together to create a book as unique as it is informative. Part cookbook, part self-help book, part pop culture guide, Vegan’s Daily Companion offers 365 days of inspiration, knowledge, and celebration to vegans, both new and experienced. From Monday through Sunday (with the weekends sharing a recipe), each day you’ll find a short discussion or series of tips, each tailored to a specific theme:

Monday / For the Love of Food – “A celebration of familiar as well as new foods to spark enthusiasm for eating healthfully.”

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Each Monday, Patrick-Goudreau delves deep to reveal things you may not know about your favorite foods – and introduce you to some foods you might have written off completely. For example, Day 99 includes some handy tips for cooking beans from scratch (salt and acidic ingredients should be added last, since they hinder the cooking of the beans). And Day 57 gives you a handy chart for cooking grains.

Also, arugula is another name for rocket! All these years tagging rocket pizzas on fuck yeah vegan pizza, and I had no idea!

[Insert the more you know and shooting star gif here.]

Sometimes the featured food ties into a recipe featured on an adjacent weekend; more often times not. Either way, this intermediate cook found many of the tips quite handy.

Tuesday / Compassionate Communication – “Techniques and tactics for speaking on behalf of veganism effectively and compassionately.”

Similar to Joan Dunayer’s Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (call it the Cliff’s Notes), Compassionate Communication explores the roots of popular terminology, offering alternatives to those promote animal exploitation, whether intentionally or not. While it’s time to ditch animal-unfriendly phrases like “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” “let the cat out of the bag,” and “fat pig” (in what is perhaps my favorite quote in the book, Patrick-Goudreau counters this insult thusly: “They’re not fat pigs; we’re mad scientists.”), you might be surprised, as was I, at the seemingly harmful sayings that are either sympathetic to animal suffering (“an albatross around one’s neck”), or have nothing at all to do with nonhuman animals (“more than one way to skin a cat”).

Compassionate Communication also offers answers to the many inane questions vegans will inevitably face (If we stop eating animals, won’t cows take over the world?; What about the bugs killed in crop production?; Why do you want plants to suffer?), as well as tips for responding to them honestly, with grace and humor.

2015-01-26 - Mags - 0001 [flickr]

“But what if you were trapped on a deserted island and only had animals to eat?”
Mags wants to know. “Just not dogs cuz I is one.”
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Wednesday / Optimum Health for Body, Mind, and Spirit – “Care and maintenance for becoming and remaining a joyful vegan.”

Wednesday is a bit of a mixed bag, spanning nutrition, burnout, and self-care. I especially love Patrick-Goudreau’s tips for creating a gratitude list, finding peace in nature and solitude, and visiting animal sanctuaries as a sort of holy place.

Thursday / Animals in the Arts: Literature and Film – “Inspiration across the ages that reflects our consciousness of and relationship with nonhuman animals.”

Here you’ll find a remarkably diverse and extensive look at animal-friendly films, novels, poetry, and art. While I recognized a few titles (Plague Dogs chief among them), Patrick-Goudreau grew my reading list and Netflix queue in leaps and bounds. Books and films run the gamut, from poets William Cowper and Walt Whitman, to author-activist (and mother of Mary Shelley, also featured here) Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin, to the 1977 student film Killer of Sheep – and of course that one episode of The Twilight Zone (“To Serve Man”).

Items high up on my radar include: Shad Clark’s short story “Little Boy Pig,” currently free for download on Amazon; a 1973 French science fiction film called The Savage Planet; James Agee’s “A Mother’s Tale”; the Italian film Umberto D.; and Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

However, be warned: since many of these works address cruelty towards animals, things can get rather depressing at times.

Bruce wondering if I have food

Bruce the pig! CC image via Marji Beach on flickr.
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Friday / Stories of Hope, Rescue, and Transformation – “Heartening stories of people who have become awakened and animals who have found sanctuary.”

Stories celebrates the deliverance of animals – both humans and non. Regular folks – like Itai in Tel Aviv, or Linda in San Fracisco – share their journeys to veganism in short essay format. Likewise, those who have cared for rescued animals – turkeys, burros, pigs, and chimpanzees – give voice to their exploitation, liberation, and (hopefully) eventual transformation. No doubt you’ll recognize many of the sanctuaries and rescue groups that helped with this project: Animal Place, Rolling Dog Ranch, Farm Sanctuary, Animals Asia, Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch, Performing Animal Welfare Society, and the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, to name a few.

The personal submissions introduce an interesting element to Vegan’s Daily Companion, since the authors are occasionally guilty of partaking in behaviors that the author herself warns against. For instance, one contributor uses the word “nag” as a pejorative; a nag, of course, is one who complains a lot or makes excessive demands. A nag is also “an old, inferior, or worthless horse.”

So, yeah. Perhaps the personal essays could have been vetted a little better? Or maybe I’m just biased, since I’d rather read about a cow over a person any day of the week. (I kid, but not really.)

Saturday + Sunday / Healthful Recipes – “Favorite recipes to use as activism and nourishment.”

Saturday and Sunday share an entry, which is a recipe. Many are reprints from Patrick-Goudreau’s previous cookbooks – The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, and The Joy of Vegan Baking – so if you already own one or all three, you might be a little disappointed. But there are also a few friend/follower contributions in the mix, including a Lentil Bolognese dish I just loved.

2015-03-18 - VDC Lentil Bolognese - 0004 [flickr]

So far I’ve also tried the Cream of Mushroom Soup, courtesy of Compassionate Cooks member Melissa Phillips.

2015-03-20 - VDC Cream of Mushroom Soup - 0002 [flickr]

This was my first time drinking mushrooms in a semi-liquid form, and I was not entirely fond of the experience. My husband was a big fan though.

The recipes are all over the place: salads, entrees, desserts, snacks, and breakfasts – all get a little face time.

I kind of like that Saturday and Sunday share a recipe; if you read this book chronologically and in time, two days should give you plenty of time to shop for and master a recipe. And if you commit to working through the entirety of Vegan’s Daily Companion – recipes included, no matter what they may be – the project just might challenge you to try new foods and dishes that you might not otherwise.

(Me? I’m too impatient to read a page a day. I usually read a week or two per sitting.)

On the downside, I kind of wish there was a dedicated recipe index for easy skimming. Recipes are listed by title and ingredients in the main index, but one big, separate list would be even handier.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Vegan’s Daily Companion. While I could do without some of the New Age woo-woo (manifesting – that’s similar to The Secret, right?), Patrick-Goudreau thankfully keeps it to a minimum. As a longtime vegan, I still learned quite a bit – especially when it comes to tips and tricks for preparing various foods. I especially enjoyed Patrick-Goudreau’s knowledge of popular culture, and the many lovely animal rescue stories.

I’d say that Vegan’s Daily Companion would make the perfect gift for a vegan friend who’s feeling down or at risk of experiencing burnout, except that it’s not entirely free of scenes of animal cruelty and abuse. The “Animals in the Arts” section in particular comes with a trigger warning. That said, it’s still a wonderful inspirational/how-to guide for newbie and old timer vegans alike.

2015-04-20 - Vegan's Daily Companion - 0003 [flickr]

Buy it with: The Daily Vegan: A Guided Journal, adapted from Vegan’s Daily Companion, and/or one of the author’s vegan cookbooks, for a shiny little gift set.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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