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December 12, 2006

Book Notes - Isa Chandra Moskowitz ("Vegan with a Vengeance")

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across some video from a New York public access cooking show, the Post Punk Kitchen, and it quickly became my favorite cooking show, ever. Hosted by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero, the show was as entertaining as informative. Even to a non-vegan like me, the hosts created tasty, wonderful recipes with genuine charm and humor, and the music fan in me appreciated each episode's musical guests. The show also has mystical powers, I have nourished many friends and family back to health with the matzoh ball soup recipe from the Passover episode.

When Isa Chandra Moskowitz published her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock last year, I knew she would be a perfect fit for the Book Notes series. I have given this cookbook to both vegans and meat-eaters, and everyone has been astonished by the breadth of recipes, tips, and writing. These are not only good vegan recipes, but flavorful dishes that will appeal to everyone, and several have become staples in our house.

Isa's second cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule, was recently published. Look for co-author Terry Hope Romero's Book Notes essay for that book to be posted soon.

As FoodTV's new shows become increasingly lame, the network should consider adding Isa and Terry to the lineup.

In her own words, here is the Book Notes essay from Isa Chandra Moskowitz for her book, Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock

To read most cookbooks you would think that writing them were a happy affair. Organization, nourishment, warm scents and celebration. Looking through the playlist on my winamp I wonder how I ever got through slicing all those onions without hitting a major artery. It's just that depressing. Lots of Elliott Smith and The Smiths and anything with Smith in it, really. But to get to the bottom of it, the songs that get me into the kitchen in the first place are the most important ones.

I've spent countless hours browsing the self help section in bookstores, but move over just a few paces and there you have it. Cookbooks. For me the kitchen is cathartic. It's how I figure everything out. I don't want "semi-homemade" or "30 minute meals." Of course the whole point of cooking is eating, but the steps that get us there shouldn't be discounted as mere tedium. And music somehow makes my onions easier to slice.

Big A Little A – Crass

The first time I heard Crass as a teenager they inspired me to do something but I just wasn't sure what. Did I want to smash a bank window? Did I want to tell my mom to f*ck off? Did I want to plant a garden? It felt like I had been caught in an eternal discus throw and suddenly my thoughts and feelings were catapulted. From that moment on I was never the same, I had someone to listen to that could give me better answers than my guidance counselors or a teen magazine that tried to make me pluck my eyebrows and mix and match my outfits. But, let's be honest, mixing and matching black with black isn't such a challenge anyway. I choose Big A Little A because it's empowering. And even a little tough love. Yeah, it says, life is f*cked up but don't sit around whining about it, you can do something. It may sound trite now, but back in the 80s if you said it with a British accent it held some authority "External control are you gonna let them get you?
Do you want to be a prisoner in the boundaries they set you?
You say you want to be yourself, by christ do you think they'll let you?
They're out to get you get you get you get you get you get you get you"

Free Falling – Tom Petty

Because I do love my mama and America, too. Not so much Jesus or Elvis or my boyfriend, but that isn't the point. Free Falling is about entering the mall but instead the sliding glass doors open and you fall into an alternative universe full of micro-gravity and possibility. It's about going out for a smoke break and never coming back. It's the song to listen to if your pie crust isn't coming out right but whatever, a little bit of flour and water isn't going to keep you down.

Thousands Are Sailing – the Pogues

I like to think about my ancestors. My family talks a hell of a lot but very few of them seem to know very much about how we got here or who we were when we got here. But I like to picture a weathered woman with smooth red cheeks and a shmata on her head, absolutely plump in the face of starvation. She's on a crowded boat with the sight of Ellis Island just breaking through the fogs ahead. She clutches an old cookbook to her chest, the only item she was able to bring with. Her visits to the motherland would have to be gustatory alone. This is how I feel when I make beet soup. This is how I feel when I listen to Thousands Are Sailing. The fact that I am not at all Irish has not been lost on me. "When I got back to my hotel room I suppose I must have cried."

Unite and Win – Sham 69

Sometimes you plan a dinner party but didn't account for the fact that you would be PMSing or that your cat litter wouldn't be cleaned for a week or that you are just plain lazy and don't feel like it. Sham 69 isn't going to let your dinner party fail. Put it on, get those dishes done and start chopping those veggies. Soon everyone you like is going to be sprawled on your living room floor playing Trivial Pursuit against their will wrapped in the warm scent of lemongrass and garlic. Oi! music may not have liberated the working class but it can make us work much faster.

Third Sex – Definition

When I have a lot of prep work to do I like to think about all the people who I hate and everyone who's ever wronged me. Whether you just got out of a tumultuous lesbian relationship or not, this is chopping music for anyone whose ever been bullshitted.

Juicy – Notorious B.I.G

"f*ck all you hoes, get a grip motherf*cker." Because Mr. Weinstein told me to give up and drop out of High School. Because that one drug counselor in rehab told me I would be back and I'd never make it. In your face, I'm living my dreams. I feel like I got where I am, climbing those Amazon stats gangsta style. I like to pump up the Biggie when I need to inflate my ego and cook up some fancy ass crepes. Living life without fear, putting tofu in my baby girl's ear.

Me and Mia – Ted Leo

"Do you believe in something beautiful? Then get up and be it!" How can words like that not make you stop f*cking around on the internet and get with the business of revolution? Ted Leo is vegan and that alone makes me love him and do his bidding. But add to that poppy punk that isn't at all self conscious about being poppy punk, a hardcore falsetto and lyrics that make being 30 feel like the new 16, and well, forget about the scrambled tofu, I might be having your babies by the time the song is over.

see also:

The Post Punk Kitchen
The Post Punk Kitchen episodes
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World blog

Slashfood review
The Veg Blog review

Washington Post interview with the author
Gothamist interview with Isa
Isa on YouTube
Isa's Thanksgiving recipes at Satya

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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