Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Brave New Meal, by Bad Manners

A plant-based cookbook from the original Vegan bad-asses, Thug Kitchen, to show you how to shop and cook smarter.

Despite my own failures with these recipes, I still retain hope that others are worth trying.

The popular vegan cooking website Thug Kitchen is an acquired taste. Founded in 2012 by Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, they changed their name to Bad Manners in 2020. Targeted squarely at adults, their foul-mouthed, in your face attitude will either connect with those carrying their own chickpea chip on their shoulder, or put potential readers off their food.

Sassy style aside, Brave New Meal is not their first cookbook, and their experience in food delivery is evident. They tell it as they see it, from our bad relationship with food, to the laziness of waiting an hour for home delivery when you could have cooked it yourself in just as much time. They’re very wordy and unapologetic in pushing the reader to face facts, but the reward is a wealth of knowledge across more than 250 pages. There’s even a 30-plus page encyclopaedia of foods, each broken down into what they are, what benefits they have, and how to cook and store them. It’s followed by two indexes, the first of which listing the recipes under useful headings like Freezer Friendly, Gluten Free, Pantry Staples, and Good for Leftovers.

The variety of recipes makes it easy to forget this is a vegan cookbook but, more interestingly, the colourful design by Kara Plikaitis and Matt Holloway’s photography combine to keep the pages dark and earthy. There are no bright flashes of yellows and light greens. It opts for dark greens, browns and often black pop-out boxes of information. This does create quite poor colour contrast at times, not least being their section on How to Knead on page 29, which uses a thin dark purple font on a black background.

When following the recipes, they’re well explained but the wordiness does make them difficult to follow at times from across the benchtop or at a glance. The success of the recipes remains to be proven, with my two test runs ending in one complete failure and one average result. Many other recipes appealed though, with the Strawberry Rosewater Cheesecake on page 150 still calling my name for a future date.

If you’re sensitive to explicit language or you’re an inexperienced cook, Brave New Meal is not likely to be the book for you. If you’re keen for a smorgasbord of vegan recipes however, you may have more luck than I did.

Oklahoma-Style Fried Okra (page 93)

I’m a massive fan of okra, particularly cooked the Afghan way, so when this recipe proclaimed that Oklahoma-style is “the only way to do it”, I had to try. There were four simple steps and only a few ingredients, so how it went so horribly wrong is anyone’s guess. The entire meal went in the bin, inedible and unsalvageable. The dish lacked taste, and was visually unappealing too. There were only two cuss words in the introduction to this recipe but I added a few more in my footnote.

Zucchini Blossom Pasta (page 140)

While this dish was nowhere near as appealing as it sounded, I put much of the fault on myself, selecting a zucchini blossom recipe when none were to be found. I consequently swapped the zucchini blossoms for sun-dried tomatoes in the hope they would give the dish a flavour boost. The result was okay. Not great, but okay. The recipe instructions were wordy but easy to follow, as per most of the book, and the predicted cooking time was about right–that’s always a nice surprise. I enjoyed the guilt-free pleasure of eating this meat-free pasta but would probably add in a few more flavoursome vegetables or herbs next time to give it the kick it needs.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: November 2021
RRP: $45 Hardback

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