Book Review: Main Street Vegan

Main Street Vegan Book ReviewAuthor: Victoria Moran
Publisher: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
Book Publication: 2012

From New York-based author and speaker Victoria Moran comes this thoughtful, informative book on how and why to switch to a plant-based diet. Complete with 40 vegan recipes, practical tips, inspirational guidance and a ton of resources, this book serves as both a rich reference guide and an enjoyable read.

Main Street Vegan begins with the story of the author’s decision to go vegan, describing her childhood spent near the reeking stockyards of Kansas City, Missouri, her first serious experiment with vegetarianism as a fashion student in London, and her writing of the one of the earliest books on veganism, Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, in the 1980s.

She describes herself as a “high-green, high-raw, juice-guzzling, smoothie-slurping, salad-munching vitality vehicle,” but Moran doesn’t force her convictions on the reader. In fact, it’s hard to detect even a whit of condescension or zealotry in her delivery. “This isn’t a competition,” she writes. “The idea is to do this, either all at once or in stages, in a way that’s comfortable and fun, improves your health, makes sense in your actual life, and lasts forever.”

Split into 40 small chapters, each based on a sort of invitation or suggestion (Chapter 13: Get Your Calcium Where the Cow Got Hers), Main Street Vegan overflows with a veteran herbivore’s obscure but important knowledge. We learn that the male chicks of laying hens are tossed by the millions direct from birth into a machine that liquefies them on impact; that veal comes from dairy farms, where boy calves are worth more dead than alive; and that humans raise and kill about 58 billion land animals a year.

Moran is a gracious storyteller. Her frank, folksy style makes you feel you’re not so much reading as “having a chat across a table,” just as the author would have it. She has a knack for lending dignity, not only to farm animals, but to human beings too. She writes: ”If we reflexively quash any uneasy feelings we have about what happens to the animals we eat, we lose a sliver of our humanity.”

This book makes a compelling case that diet is everything, determining the shape of our health care systems, the scale of global warming, the degree of world hunger, and the extent of corporate tyranny. Moran endorses a plant-based, whole-foods diet, arguing that heavily subsidized Big Agra foods, including processed grains and factory-farmed meat, are to blame for generating the health crisis that Big Pharma exists to address. She touches on the medical community’s endorsement of the vegan diet, which has been shown to combat cancer, stroke and heart disease, the three leading causes of death in North America. Comparing today’s vegans with yesterday’s suffragists and abolitionists, she reminds us that the original vegans in wartime Britain had little notion of what health benefits their dietary experiment would bring – they were acting on pure compassion.

Main Street Vegan isn’t all polemics. It also contains vegan recipes for such green treats as lentil-spud burgers, easy mushroom gravy, kale salad, and chocolate mousse. Readers learn how to get enough calcium, vitamin B12, Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. With handy appendices including a bibliography, an index of cruelty-free companies and a list of documentary films, Main Street Vegan makes the perfect companion for the conscientious eater.

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