Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet, and Fuel Your Resistance One Meal at a Time, 2018, by Carol J Adams and Virginia Messina. Published by Conari Press, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA. ISBN: 978-1-57324-743-6.
Are you one of the many people who see their diet as an individual choice; you eat what fits your preferences, as long as it also fits your budget. Protest Kitchen challenges this view; it informs and urges that you see food as a conscious choice that affects not just your own health and happiness but as a choice that also impacts the role you play in the world around you. In other words, “how you eat provides a way to make positive change” (p. 2). Thus, food choices offer us a great way to act locally – in our own kitchens – while thinking globally, a way to stage effective protests against some of the more unpleasant aspects of life in the first quarter of the 21st century.
The book’s authors, Carol Adams and Ginny Messina, are well-established authorities on the links between vegan food and other issues. An overview of Carol Adam’s work can be found at https://caroljadams.com. Perhaps, her most famous previous book is The Sexual Politics of Meat, which recently celebrated a 25th anniversary edition. Ginny Messina’s research based nutrition advice can be found on her Vegan RD blog – https://www.theveganrd.com. Among her books is Vegan for Life, written with Jack Norris.
Four features of their present book stand out. First, Protest Kitchen links vegan diets with a wide range of causes, including climate change, poverty, women’s rights, racial equality, democracy, rights for the disabled, mental health, and, of course, kindness towards farmed animals. Second, the book provides detailed information, information that goes beyond a surface mention of matters, to provide really useful, detailed knowledge on food. For instance, when the authors recommend that you experiment with plant milks in place of the milk meant for calves, they provide extensive information on which plant milks are best for different types of cooking and which are the better sources for different nutritional needs.
A third outstanding feature of Protest Kitchen are the 30 recommended activities that enable readers to heighten their positive impact on the world. Many of these activities feature recipes. Indeed, the book contains more than 50 recipes. For example, the recommendation to “Bake with Ethically Sourced Chocolate” is followed by a recipe for zucchini brownies and the recommendation to “Celebrate Food of Middle Eastern Countries” is followed by a recipe for baba ganoush.
Among the non-recipe recommended actions are signing up to bring vegan food to hungry people, taking children to an animal sanctuary, and stocking your freezer with snacks for when you do outreach to the public about farmed animals.
Fourth, the authors of Protest Kitchen are not health food purists. For example, in their list of vegan convenience foods, their recommendations include instant oatmeal, ready to eat cereals, canned and frozen foods, microwaveable shelf-stable rice, and Rice-A-Roni as an example of an instant grain mix. Many of these foods contain various artificial preservative and flavors. Most likely, the authors would not recommend that readers build their diets around these foods. However, these foods do allow people to get by in a crunch.
The basic structure of the book’s eight chapters begins with some information on the chapter’s topic. For instance, Chapter 5 examines links between the oppression of minorities and the oppression of animals. The remainder of the chapter alternates between actions and recipes. The recipes cover food for all meals and for all parts of meals, including desserts and drinks.
The book seeks to overcome stereotypes about veganism, such as: (1) vegans are obsessed with their own health, rather than the welfare of others; (2) vegan diets only work for the wealthy; (3) vegans only care about nonhuman animals; and (4) preparing vegan food takes up too much time. In contrast, with these largely incorrect stereotypes, veganism, according to the authors, is an inclusive lifestyle, and a practical way to live which contributes to a wide range of progressive causes.
One of the more unique chapters in the book is Chapter 7, “The Diet You Need Now,” which explains why a vegan diet can play a role in reducing stress and lifting the dark clouds of depression. The authors explain the link between stress and depression, on one hand, and inflammation, on the other hand. This is not the inflammation you experience when your hand swells after you accidentally bang it against a hard object. Instead, this inflammation leads to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, the antioxidants in vegan food reduce inflammation, whereas animal foods seem to show no antioxidant activities. The fiber in less processed vegan foods also help lower inflammation by slowing the rate at which your body burns glucose. Thus, people are best off eating potatoes, not potato chips, and whole grain rice, not white rice. Another anti-depression suggestion from the authors involves being sure to have a regular source of Vitamin B12, such as a daily B12 supplement.
In conclusion, Protest Kitchen is an inspiring book. It inspires with the knowledge that every time you prepare a meal provides an opportunity to make a conscious choice, a choice that in a small, but not insignificant way, can impact the world for the better. And, the book does not only inspire, the authors also provide many steps to take in order to maximize the impact of our food choices. As global consumption of animal based foods continues to rise, now more than ever, we all need to raise our voices in communities, workplaces, families, and, of course, in our kitchens.