THERE'S A saying about not giving a man a fish for one meal but instead teaching him to fish, so he eats for . . . well, as long as there are still fish to catch.
As V for Veg eschews the gifting of animals (not really ours to gift), here's a better idea: Help your gift recipients learn to cook healthy and flavorful animal-free meals. Our 2012 holiday-gift tip is to pick a special person or two, get them a lovely cookbook - AND make one of the recipes, delivered along with the book (the dollar store has cute holiday tins), so they kind of hit the ground running.
Of course, which book will depend on your and your recipients' tastes, but note that there are a bunch of new vegan cookbooks suited to the job.
You can hardly get more apropos, after all, than Vegan for the Holidays: Celebration Feasts for Thanksgiving Through New Year's Day by Zel Allen (Book Publishing Company, $19.95). It's filled with festive, plant-based recipes, though given its specific time-of-year focus, this is a book someone should probably receive sooner rather than later.
Also very appropriate is Vegan Food Gifts: More Than 100 Inspired Recipes for Homemade Baked Goods, Preserves, and Other Edible Gifts Everyone Will Love (Fair Winds Press, $19.99) by Joni Marie Newman. Anything made from this book is a legit gift, because the title says so! Philly's own "Urban Vegan," blogger and author Dynise Balcavage, called the book "a gift that literally keeps on giving, ethically and deliciously."
But if you're making samples, maybe you want something less crafty that you can't mess up. Check out The Easy Vegan: Over 440 Delicious Recipes and Menus for Every Day of the Year by Janet Hudson (Hampton Roads, $21.95). Or for true novices, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! by Tamasin Noyes (Fair Winds Press, $19.99) could wind up doing just that.
For easy dessert treats (and come on, it IS the holidays!) there's Sweet & Easy Vegan: Treats Made with Whole Grains and Natural Sweeteners by Robin Asbell (Chronicle Books, $35) Meanwhile, Apples, Bean Dip and Carrot Cake by Anne and Freya Dinshah (AVS, $24.95) could be a win-win for a household with children.
The book grew out of Freya Dinshah's working with kids in a South Jersey after-school program and teaching them to make healthy snacks that "the parents couldn't believe the kids were eating," she said. Dinshah, co-founder of the American Vegan Society, enlisted her daughter, Anne, and a passel of area kids to test and illustrate recipes. They also demonstrate knife and stove safety, measurement and basic ingredient combining.
The book's subtitle is "Kids! Teach yourself to cook." It progresses from trail mix to soups, stews and even cookies, pies and cakes that, yes, even you can make, using the excuse of inspiring the kids!
Best of all, having the next generation know and understand whole food, where it comes from and what to do with it is truly a gift to all of us on Earth. Peace!
V for Vacation: Take a day off from all that holiday cooking by having Miss Rachel's Pantry "Bring A Vegan Meal to Your Holiday Table." The South Philly café/caterer (1732 W. Passyunk Ave.) has delicious full-course meal platters (glazed seitan, herbed tofu, roasted carrots, caramelized brussels sprouts, etc.) that you can pick up or have delivered on Dec. 23 at $25 a person. More info at missrachelspantry.com.