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If Alicia Silverstone’s diet is “kind,” what does that make yours?

Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook, The Kind Diet, was published this week. She joins a long line of celebrities who’ve brought their laptops into the kitchen to write about their own eating habits, mostly super-healthy, vegan-ish cuisine: Carol Alt, Suzanne Somers, Mariel Hemingway, and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few.

Silverstone has commitment. She’s been a vegan for ten years, so this is no 11th-hour conversion to the current Hollywood religion of small footprint living. Yet, as an unabashed carnivore (Melisse wanted me to mention that she hasn’t eaten meat in 15 years), at first it was hard to get past the preachy, judgmental title. Her thesis is that being a vegan is kind to the earth and to your body while eating meat, dairy and processed sugar is “nasty” to all those things. Though I was prepared to be annoyed, as I read Alicia’s surprisingly well-researched arguments peppered with lots of great cocktail party tidbits and illustrated with photos of cuddly piglets and calves, I found myself drawn in by her appealing, accessible tone.

The recipes are fantastically delicious, and easy to follow, although the ingredients require some foraging (kuzu, umeboshi vinegar, kombu seaweed, anyone?). I don’t much care for tempeh and seitan, but I do love veggies and whole grains and this gave me dozens of cooking ideas. For lunch I made Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins (p. 176) and Quinoa with Basil and Pine Nuts (p. 224). Both were delicious, and satisfying at the table. But I was ravenous two hours later. And snarfed a ham and cheese sandwich.

alicia-silverstone-garden-mdSilverstone recognizes that we’re not all “superheroes,” her term for people who’ve fully adopted a vegan or macrobiotic lifestyle. Her goal is slowly to convert you, just as she was converted from a pork chop lover to a lentil lover. I don’t think she’ll find many full-on converts in the People Magazine audience that this book is marketed toward. But readers whose environmental education was based Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, will find the nutritional counterpart in The Kind Diet. And subtle, incremental changes–even if it means just one less steak a month–start the slow march toward lighter living.