Kinda like jumbo shrimp, Midwestern vegan seems like an oxymoron. Not so, says Meredith Pangrace, who researched the best vegan food in Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and across the Rust Belt region for her new book Rust Belt Vegan Kitchen ($14.95, Belt Publishing).
“There’s a buzz about plant-based diets and the benefits, but since we live in a meat-and-potatoes town, it can be a little intimidating,” she says.
So, the book veganizes popular local cuisine like pierogies, Detroit coney dogs and Cincinnati chili, but it also guides novice veg chefs. Having the right machinery, such as an air fryer or a Vitamix, and pantry staples for simple substitutions such as ground flaxseed for eggs as a binder can make the learning curve less steep. Finally, the book tells the stories behind these delicious recipes, including tales that range from Pangrace’s personal journey as a veggie-based Ohioan to peeks inside the kitchens of the region’s best vegan chefs, including chef John Hagerty’s The Green Kitchen in West Park, the indie book store behind Two Dollar Radio Cafe in Columbus and Oscar Narvaez of Chicago’s The Chunky Scones.
And while Eastern European transformations come to mind first, the book also highlights vegan offerings from Southern, Indian and Mexican chefs in the region. “For me, the Rust Belt is Eastern European, but that’s just my experience,” says Pangrace. “I wanted to make sure we got everyone’s story and showed the diversity of the landscape.” beltpublishing.com