Book Reviews  > The Vegan Sourcebook


Author: Joanne Stepaniak, M.S. Ed.
Publisher: Lowell House, Los Angeles, CA
A Review by Stanley M. Sapon, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics -- University of Rochester (NY) -- Director, the Maimonides Project


Joanne Stepaniak has produced an extraordinarily ambitious work that sends a fresh, invigorating breath of life to the vegan movement, a work that stands as a milestone in the history of efforts to inform, support, strengthen, and light the way for those who have already committed to a vegan lifestyle, as well as for those who stand near the threshold. It is a "sourcebook" in the literal sense of the word -- not a dry, encyclopedic compilation of facts, but a spiritually refreshing exploration of the sources of veganism, as well as an immensely useful compendium of resources ...ideas, strategies, and solutions.


 This is a happy book -- a book on veganism that makes no attempt to scare us with nightmare visions of heart attacks, strokes, cancer or mad cow disease. It points the way to veganism through love and understanding, not fear. It characterizes veganism as "living with conscience, conviction and compassion," and talks about why and how to live and grow and thrive as a vegan, and feel good about yourself. It shows how, in a culture that often seems either unknowing, uncaring, uninterested, or sometimes downright hostile, you can have a sense of personal achievement, influence and effectiveness.


After 20 years as a vegan, I felt that there was little about the vegan lifestyle I had neither confronted nor thought about. Yet I found The Vegan Sourcebook to be a "page-turner" ... absorbing, thought provoking, enlightening and, literally, fascinating.


The author has done a superb job of illumination, making visible a broad spectrum of all the whys and wherefores of vegan living. She makes it beautifully clear that a vegan lifestyle is a joyful, rewarding and fulfilling way of life, and not at all an ongoing penance of self-denial. And she succeeds brilliantly in dispelling the myths that vegans consider themselves a morally superior lot -- "holier than thou" -- or that veganism is a case of vegetarianism carried to extreme, immoderate lengths.


Virginia Messina, the widely known and respected nutritionist, addresses the needs of a healthy, well-nourished vegan. Her chapter on nutritional benefits of veganism maintains the level of balance and scrupulous accuracy for which she is noted. She provides a welcome antidote to the exaggerated and extravagant promises of "Instant Health" all-too-commonly claimed for a vegan diet.


The pages on food continue with nutrition-charts, a new vegan pyramid for menu planning, a week of sample meals (plus menus for toddlers, preschoolers and teens), all crowned by an exciting assortment of Joanne Stepaniak's recipes (61 of them!) for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner and desserts.


Stepaniak keeps the compass on course, reminding us that although a plant-based diet is an essential part of veganism, it certainly is not the only defining property. One of the most vital themes she develops is that although vegan living may be patently concerned with what goes into one's mouth, it is equally concerned with what comes out of one's mouth. If we were to treat every animal in the world with gentle regard and respect, but address our fellow humans with anger, contempt or violence, we would deny vegan principles. The core of vegan values involves not only what we eat, but a global view of our behavior -- the way we think, feel and speak, the way we respond to a whole spectrum of issues that touches our mind, our conscience and our spirit.


The Vegan Sourcebook is outstanding in its forthrightness; it uncompromisingly identifies the power of compassion as the driving force of a vegan lifestyle. Our choice of foods does not determine or direct our ethical values. Our ethical values determine and direct our choice of foods.