In Search of the Lost Taste: By Joshua Ploeg, 127 pgs. By Sean Stewart

The number of new vegan cookbooks being published today staggers the mind. It used to be there were just a few classics out there, while many of the lesser-known books vanished quickly out of print and could only be located by prowling used bookstores or combing through online sources. But recent years have seen an increased public interest in veganism, and a subsequent flood of new resources for both the beginner and the seasoned vegan cooks among us. As a result, it’s tough to know which ones are truly worth adding to what can often be an already formidable arsenal of cooking guides sitting on your kitchen shelf. You start looking around for cookbooks with specializations by type of meal, perhaps, or even by type of ingredients. But then someone like Joshua Ploeg comes along and makes you stop and marvel all over again at how creative vegan cooking can be, and how there really is no limit to what you can make and eat.

 

 

Joshua is sort of a renegade vegan chef. He travels around and people ask him to come to their houses, where he then shows up and creates mouth-watering feasts. Before you know it, he’s left and you are sitting there with a pleasantly full stomach, scratching your head and wondering just how he made such an amazing meal. Well, with his new adventure cookbook, Joshua lifts a corner of the veil and demonstrates just how it’s done. With unique style, Joshua weaves a story about his fantastic quest for the ultimate recipe in with themed groups of recipes that match up nicely with each chapter of the tale. Talented comic artists Aaron Renier and Nate Beaty help bring Joshua’s words to life with a beautiful full-color cover and amusing interior illustrations, respectively. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what Joshua finds out at the end of his quest, but I will say that there is an important philosophical lesson about cooking, and vegan cooking in particular, to be learned in the pages of this book.

 

 

I’ve only had time so far to make a few recipes from the book, but they were all successes. Joshua is not afraid to mix what some may think are unlikely ingredients in his quest for the highest levels of flavor. The recipes are easy to follow, though, and are written in an open, conversational style that encourages some customization, if you are a cook who likes to personalize a recipe. And what true cook doesn’t? It’s nice to use a cookbook for a change that is not so strict and didactic, but instead provides plenty of elbow room, should you need it. I look forward to making many more of Joshua’s recipes in the future! –Sean Stewart (Microcosm Publishing,

222 S. Rogers St., Bloomington, IN47404, microcosmpublishing.com)