KIMBERLY • Question:How do you get traditional consumers to love vegan food?
Answer:Don’t tell them it’s vegan until after they’ve eaten it. (And, presumably, after they’ve made all those yummy sounds.)
Take it from Jill Skeem: “The biggest misconception for people is that healthy food doesn’t taste good,” she said.
Skeem should know. She is a rural Kimberly-based health counselor, educator and chef who also happens to be a morning host on 1310 KLIX Radio in Twin Falls. And she has just self-published her first hard-cover cookbook. It’s called “Comfort Food gets a vegan makeover.” This is actually Skeem’s second cookbook. Her first, a smaller soft-cover volume titled “Jill’s Real Food Cookbook,” was published in 2004.
“Comfort Food” is a 149-page, full-color book containing 62 vegan recipes, about 95 percent of them Skeem’s. The recipes — which contain no butter, cheese, meat or dairy products — are divided into eight categories: breakfast, appetizers, soups, sandwiches, main courses, side dishes, salads and desserts. Vegans and others, such as vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, may adore many of the recipes and have lots from which to choose.
Vegans, by the way, consume no animal products, including dairy. Vegetarians, meanwhile, don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but might eat dairy products such as cheese, eggs, yogurt or milk.
Skeem’s new book showcases recipes for baked oatmeal, beer-battered green beans, vegetable egg rolls, butternut squash ginger soup, tempeh Reuben and tofu marinara sub sandwiches, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, polenta fries, coleslaw, Asian noodle and Greek couscous salads and, for dessert, baklava bites and cherry crumble.
And that’s just a sampling.
“Comfort Food gets a vegan makeover” has been in the works since March 2009 when Skeem and Magic Valley photographer/designer Jason Lugo teamed up to get the project going.
Skeem received the first copy of the 8-by-8-inch book on Dec. 27, about a month after she and Lugo finished it. She initially ordered 1,000 copies and plans to order more.
“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I received it and found that it was what Ihad expected,” she said. “I feel like Ihave been pregnant for four years and have finally had the baby.”
Skeem maintained a torrid schedule as she and Lugo hammered out the book’s illustrations and details. Most days after finishing her radio show at 10 a.m., she came home, loaded the car with food and other accessories and then drove to Declo to meet Lugo. They then spent six to seven hours photographing two or three food dishes.
“That was the hardest part,” Skeem said.
The idea for the book popped into Skeem’s head following classes in which she counseled people on healthy eating.
“The students really wanted to eat healthier, but they just didn’t know how,” she said.
Skeem, who augments her vegan diet with some white-colored fish, was careful not to unintentionally turn off people who might view vegan or vegetarian recipes as just plain weird.
“I didn’t want a health or nutritional book,” she said. “I just wanted a book with healthier recipes people could easily make by making little changes in their lives.”
The recipes — most of which take from 15 minutes to an hour to prepare — make little changes, too, by using vegetable-based ingredients such as brown-rice syrup, tempeh (cooked, fermented soybeans), seitan (wheat gluten), tofu and dulse (red algae).
“Ifelt like if I could make it close enough to real comfort food without saturated fat and cholesterol, why wouldn’t anyone want to try it?” she asked. “It’s so exciting to know that people like your food and that’s it’s easy to make.”
And easy to disguise.