The Adaptable Feast by Ivy Manning

Book Review 2009

This time of year sees perhaps more mixed dining than any other time of year — and by mixed, of course, we mean vegetarian-vegan-gluten-free-with-omnivore dining. Thanksgiving and holiday parties bring people of all dietary preferences together, and so even if you don't already cook for a mixed household of vegetarians and omnivores on a regular basis, you may be this month. If you are, may we suggest a cookbook for you?

Ivy Manning is a cookbook author who is a committed omnivore. Her husband, on the other hand, is a staunch vegetarian. There were dire warnings from their friends when they got married; would a marriage between a vegetarian and omnivore work? Why yes, it turns out, and Ivy has now written a book from her experience of cooking for two — two different eating preferences, that is.

Here's our take on this book, which we like very much.

Title & Publisher: The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table, by Ivy Manning. Published by Sasquatch Books, 2009.

First impressions: This is a glossy book, nearly square in shape, with shiny pages and a very readable typeface. There are numerous full-color photos scattered throughout the book.

The angle: Manning's approach to cooking for two different styles of eating is a "fork in the road" pattern for recipes. Most of a recipe will be the same for both sides of the table. But somewhere she will fork it and put barbecue tofu in half the steamed buns, for instance, and pork in the other. Her recipes are all still relatively low on meat; she has many recipes here that would be equally satisfying to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores.

The other stuff: Manning also offers some basic, succinct tips for getting enough protein in your diet and other health considerations for vegetarians and vegans. She includes a whole chapter in the back of the book, too, with basic recipes for vegetarian staples like seitan, vegan fish sauce, and pesto.

Strengths and weaknesses: Overall this is beautiful, approachable book. We can see ourselves cooking many things out of it, and Manning's approach is very appealing. One small annoyance that this book has in common with several other recent cookbooks is its lack of a table of contents. There's a short TOC at the front of the book that lists the chapters and sections, but we could find no one place where all the recipes are listed out, even by chapter. This is unfortunate, as we like to browse cookbooks by running down a list of all the recipes, and that's difficult to do with this book.

Recipes for right now: Roasted Mushroom Stock, Hum Bao (Steamed pork/tofu buns), Curry Laksa (Malaysian Curry Rice Noodle Soup), Cassoulet for the Whole Crowd, Caramelized Onion, Olive, and Ricotta Tart, and Vegan Chocolate Birthday Cake. Watch for a couple more recipes coming up later today from Ivy.

Recommended? Yes, strongly. This is a great resource for those of us who would like to eat more vegetarian food, while still gathering inspiration for adding a little meat here and there. It's also of course a wonderful help for people who cook for mixed parties on a regular basis.

• Buy the book: The Adaptable Feast by Ivy Manning, $16.29 (Amazon)

More 2009 Book Reviews
The New Portuguese Table by David Leite
Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
Clean Food by Terry Walters
On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
Big Food by Elissa Altman
Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Milk by Anne Mendelson
The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo

(Image: Sasquatch Books)