Book Review

The Vegan Sourcebook

By Joanne Stepaniak, M.S.ED
Lowell House, Los Angeles, CA, 1998
Softcover. 352 pages. Bibliography, Index, Recipes
ISBN: 1-56565-880-9
US $21.95; Can $30.95
Reviewed by Karen Davis, PhD
People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has always been done since earliest of times.
– Isaac Bashevis Singer, quoted in The Vegan Sourcebook

People who want to explore the full meaning of a vegan lifestyle and philosophy should purchase this book. It is beautifully written, elegant, and informative. To be vegan is to avoid the use of animal products in one's diet, but it is more than this, because it embraces the entire way one chooses and wishes to live in relation to all of one's fellow creatures and to the earth itself.

Vegans desire that the Golden Rule should be a reality and not just a pipe dream. "And let it begin with me." For this they are often criticized. As Maureen Koplow says in this book, "I've been accused of being a do-gooder as though it were a bad thing to be. My reply is that in every situation you can do good, do bad, or do nothing. There are no rules, no laws, no guards looking over your shoulder."

For those who think vegans are "squeamish" and weak, this book shows the fallacy of such thinking. It takes guts as well as imagination and self-control to look an innocent victim in the eye at the moment of that victim's supreme suffering and degradation at the hands of one's species. To live with this scene as well as to confront "every day of your life the fact that you are most definitely in the minority" is not for the squeamish. Meanwhile, this minority grows bigger every day.

Very much, this book is about the travail of the vegan experience as well as the joy of it. If you want to know how the modern vegan movement got started, the author takes us there. What I like best about this book is the immediacy of personal experiences told in a variety of voices, including the author's, of which mine is one among many others. We all have our stories of "how we got here," along with the trials and rewards of maintaining and extending our position in the world we seek to influence. How do one's deepest sentiments get transformed into convictions and principles of conduct, a way of life, a lifework?

The Vegan Sourcebook combines personal experiences with history and philosophical perspectives. It looks at the earth and at the treatment of animals. It provides a clear explanation, including a glossary, of foods, food ingredients, and vegan nutrition. It lists organizations, addresses and phone numbers. It has a section of vegan recipes: breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts; salads, soups, breads, and spreads. Joanne Stepaniak is the author of five internationally acclaimed cookbooks. This book, which is a cookbook and a guide to civilized living, costs $21.95 ($30.95 in Canada). It is worth every penny.