The Seitanic Spellbook (Cookbook)
Okay, and now for something COMPLETELY different. I present to you, a black metal vegan cookbook, which one of my friends and patreon supports bought for me and told me to prioritize!
So yeah, ladies and gentlemen – this is a review of sorts of a black metal cookbook. A VEGAN black metal cookbook that clocks in at 210 pages if you take cover etc. away. On the first page, we get a QR-code and link for gluten-free substitutions, just fyi.
Before we get into this, I feel I have to note where I’m coming from, in case you didn’t know: I’ve been a weird hybrid of goth and metalhead for all of my teen and adult my life, and my music taste is rather eclectic; from classic true and power metal to black, death and prog metal to pretty much all types of gothic music, doom jazz, hip hop and even pop, I listen to a lot of music – the reason for me to emphasize how long I’ve been part of this book’s target demographic, is that there are plenty of vegetarians and vegans in my chosen subcultures.
I am not one of them.
There is this old tired joke out there:
“How do you find out if someone’s a vegan?”
“Talk to them for 5 minutes.”
While this is a gross oversimplification, and recent years have helped a bit, veganism has gotten bit of a bad rep, and I know why. Many a person out there will have encountered the smug self-satisfaction and holier-than-thou attitude that really doesn’t help the per se valiant cause of making humanity less dependent on animal proteins. I actually consider the ethical and moral baselines of veganism great. I applaud them. I don’t want to have another person’s ethics imposed upon me. Many vegan friends of mine are not like that, don’t look down on others…but yeah, it’s still a thing, at least where I’m from.
I’ve had relationships with vegans and vegetarians attempting to “cure” me (not kidding!), and they were not successful, to say the least. (As an aside: One was even a professional vegan chef by trade, but that’s another story.)
Thus, I do have PLENTY of experience with vegan cuisine – and frankly, there’s a lot to like, but I have several limitations that need to be spelled out, as they limited my ability to properly assess the contents of this book.
- I loathe the consistency and taste of anything tofu-related. This includes seitan. I tried plenty of different versions and ways to prepare them over the years, and I just consider it to be disgusting. I just can’t handle the stuff. I eat meat. I adore good ole’ American BBQ, bacon, etc. I can’t comment on the quality or lack thereof of the homemade seitan recipes herein, or on those aspects of the dishes.
- I don’t eat any milk-based products. No cheese, no yoghurt, no milk. I also do not eat a lot of sweets, potato chips or the like. Not due to being lactose intolerant or the like, but because I consider that stuff to be somewhat icky, and chips et al. never were to my liking. This dislike extends to soy milk and soy milk substitutes, which I sometimes use in cooking, but try to limit and substitute with water whenever possible. I also don’t do pasta or noodles.
- The main reason I never went vegan: I can’t eat nuts and almonds sans dying. I have serious allergies, and they extend to a lesser degree to some components that can be found in almost all forms of salad dressing. Vinegar is my enemy. This also disqualifies me from drinking nut-based milks and using the appropriate oils.
- I’m not gonna eat supplements. Period. If I need supplements to be healthy with my eating habits, something’s wrong.
Yeah, if you’ve ever taken a look at some vegan cookbooks, you’ll notice that I’d probably be half-starved if I tried to implement that. If I had a ton of money, I could go piscetarian, but that’s as far as I would be willing to go. If you want to condemn or hate me for that, be my guest.
That all out of the way, there actually are plenty of vegan dishes, particularly from Jewish and Arabian cooking traditions that I adore. Guacamole? Heck yeah! Falafel? Yes, please! Schawarma? Oh yeah! And if I lived in Mexico, I’d probably have a diet of insect protein…loved the crickets…wait, not vegan.
What I’m trying to say is that, in spite of not being a vegan, I’m all for delicious vegan dishes! As long as it’s tasty, I’m game, and a good naga jolokia-based Indian curry doesn’t need meat.
My main issue with experimenting more with vegan cuisine myself ties back to the notions mentioned before: Every single cookbook I’ve gotten my hands on features this annoying “better than thou” missionary statement crap that gets my blood boiling. The folks that buy vegan cookbooks are probably, you know, vegans or trying to become vegan. Preaching to the choir? These books also, more often than not, also go overboard and combine veganism with a type of ecological elitism, in that spices etc., everything’s supposed to be this type of manufacturer to assure the complete absence of animal produce, etc. One trip to the bio-super-markets here costs as much as three trips to a regular one. For my US-friends: The difference is approximately akin to WholeFoods vs. WalMart/Target in price.
…yeah, I can’t afford that.
And this is where this book comes in. This is vegan cuisine sans all the elitism and BS. The book begins by stating that it’ll use prepared spices and blends and cut corners – because it’s written for the real world. The book being a black metal cookbook, it also contains some fun insider-jokes, and swearing. Lots of it. The text is also hilariously tongue-in-cheek: To quote from the recipe for mushroom broth: “If too flavorful or salty, call upon the waters of the great flood!” This is funny and unpretentious…but unfortunately, this book as well WILL once more preach to the fucking choir, stating multiple times how super-duper great veganism is in the grating essays interspersed throughout the book.
I don’t know why every single cookbook for vegan dishes has to have some ideologically-charged sermonizing it its pages. It annoys the living hell out of me and makes me want to splurge on a massive amount of meat, just to spite the pretentious tone of being talked down to. I don’t want to join a cult or philosophy, I just want recipes sans animal produce. And not even in a frickin’ METAL cookbook, these folks can keep the sermonizing out. Kinda ironic, isn’t it? Why can’t such abook simply hand me a good recipe of cilantro lime rice (really delicious one inside) sans such sermonizing?
On the HUGE plus-side, some of the essays are actually really amazing: My favorite: Veganism is not an identity. Much like belonging to a subculture, veganism and similar decisions often are used for identity-formation substitution, and having the book spell out that fact was extremely gratifying. Also, because it explains the holier-than-thou/gother-than-thou/more-metal-than-thou trveness nonsense that runs rampant among folks that define themselves exclusively over one aspect of their lives, including feeling threatened when deconstructed/challenged. Big kudos for this one – so yeah, as a whole, the essays interspersed throughout the book may not be perfect, but there is some value to be found here.
The book, as a whole, is organized by regions: Euro-American, Asian, Hispanic & Latino, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Vegan Meat.
Some surprises here that kicked behind in the Euro/American section: The chilli recipe is neat, and the bean-based burger recipe allows you to make a bean-and panko-based burger in less than 15 minutes. It works. It actually tastes good. Not like meat, mind you – not even close…but it *is* actually a good taste! I wouldn’t eat it when I want beef, but I will eat it when I want this taste. Nice one!
“Ricebound, by the devil!” is a quick and easy recipe to make yummy rice. The jambalaya recipe, in contrast, did not blow me away. Perhaps my trip to New Orleans spoiled me, but yeah – it’s a decent recipe, but not what I’d consider to be a winner. Some winners among the Asian entries would be Pad Thai (minus peanuts and tofu for me, but spices-wise, solid) and the basic tempura advice. I also tend to be a big fan of summer rolls, though we can’t get La Lot around here, which is imho crucial for a good filling, but I digress. The Thai curry also deserves special mentioning in this context – the recipe is nice, though I personally prefer green curry. The sushi guidelines also provide some nice pieces of inspiration to start experimenting…
…and this brings me to a nice plus about this book. It encourages to experiment and provides real-world advice. How to get good coconut milk, for example. The chapters also begin by providing advice on more basic, quick to make dishes, and then provide the more complex/combination-options at the respective chapter end, which can indeed be rather helpful. My favorite chapter, though? Hands down? The Hispanic/Latin started off well…but then focuses strongly on bananas and plantains – of which I’m not a big fan. I’ve got a thing for beans, chick peas and avocados, though, so I did get something out of this chapter. Yuca? Kickass, wish I could get it around here… The tostada recipe rocks, just fyi, and in the Indian section, chana masala is delicious as well! Pakoras? Heck yeah!
I do not own a slow cooker, so I couldn’t try the recipe for caramelized onions, but they did sound delicious, and having a recipe on hand will be helpful. I don’t eat much noodles or pasta, so unfortunately, I can’t comment on the quality of the Italian-based recipes. Hummus and couscous recipes are included in the book, though I already was familiar with these, obviously – and yes, love them both! A positive surprise was that this book has a recipe for baba ganoush that doesn’t taste like the floor of a barn…and I can certainly recommend the bagel with hummus and guacamole. It’s glorious and simple and easy to make…and the ultimate falafel/hummus-sandwich is delicious…as is the section that provides advice on baconizing stuff…though, alas, liquid smoke and maple syrup, even sucky one, are hard to get and expensive as hell over here. My American friends will probably be able to make this more often than ole’ me.
All right…so, when all’s said and done, what do I think of this cookbook? It’s the funniest vegan cookbook I’ve read, primarily because I get all the black metal allusions in the recipe names. It’s also the first vegan cookbook I’ve read that has both tasty recipes and didn’t make me go ballistic constantly due to annoying sermonizing. It’s here, but it’s less pronounced than usual. The qualities of the essays that are interspersed between the recipes fluctuates: Some are genuinely profound and clearly stated pieces of advice, while a few others are…basically self-help 101, with a bit of subdued esoteric thrown in. I’d be lying if I said that these didn’t rub me the wrong way.
But, do you know what this genuinely achieves? It’s a vegan cookbook that does not require spending a gazillion of bucks on esoteric spices and vegetables. Cooking these recipes is a task that’s clearly anchored in the real world. It’s something you can do after a hard day’s work sans starving or breaking the bank. There are many basics herein, but there also are some nice combinations. And the steps are clear, there are a ton of pictures of ACTUAL cooking (not this plastic-glazed advertisement glossy paper pseudo-food) and you can clearly determine how your food’s supposed to look. The dishes are tasty, grounded in reality, and lets you make filling meals without standing in the kitchen for hours on end. The focus on non-salad dishes is also frickin’ amazing.
So, would I recommend this? Well, folks experienced with cooking vegan dishes probably won’t get a vast amount of new ideas out of this one. Neither will this convert non-vegans.
Speaking of which: This makes for a good gift for metalheads that want to dip their toes in vegan cuisine. The dishes herein are not exclusively for vegans, and they can add something to your eating habits, even if you do not adhere to a vegan diet. Particularly since this is the least grating/annoying vegan cookbook I’ve read so far, with the obtrusive sermonizing kept relegated to a few essays. That’s a huge plus. Speaking of which: I was super surprised to see the lack of overpriced nut-pastes required in the recipes – I can’t eat nuts, and I kid you not, I have read whole vegan cookbooks that had 4-5 recipes without the stuff…over 200+ pages.
On the downside, I would have loved to see a few more of the outré combinations, of fusion combo-dishes and the like – while experimentation is easy, a bit more tradition-blending or a chapter on truly advanced dishes would have been nice.
On a formal level, the book comes with QR-codes for updates, as well as an epub, play books and mobi-version. In a grating form of comfort-detriment, the pdf version has no bookmarks. I can’t comment on the physical book, as I don’t own it.
So yeah, all in all, I consider this to be an enjoyable, if not perfect, relatively unpretentious cookbook. Definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will be 4 stars.
You can get this cookbook here on amazon!