Book review: Mistress Ginger Cooks!, by Mistress Ginger (aka Justin Leaf)

mistress ginger cooks!Ginger, Mistress (aka Justin Leaf). Mistress Ginger Cooks! Book Publishing Company. 2014. $24.95 (U.S.), $29.95 (Canadian). 180p. PB. 978-1-570673023.

Reviews Chair Nel e-mailed me a few weeks ago and said, “I’ve got a book that I think is right up your alley. I know you like to cook and you love drag queens.” So a few days later, I got a copy of Mistress Ginger Cooks!, a recipe book that promises everyday vegan food for everyone. Filled with practical tips, gorgeous photos, and over 50 vegan recipes that can be done in a snap, this cookbook is a winner for anyone wanting to stick their toe in the vegan waters or who simply wants to expand their cooking repertoire. And if you bought it instead for the beautiful drag photos and the witty bon mots, you’ll be more than satisfied as well.

First thing, I have to confess that I am not a vegan. At all. I think chicken fingers should probably be a food group or at least have their own holiday. But when you’re reviewing a cookbook, the proof is in how the recipes turn out, so I cooked six different items out of Mistress Ginger Cooks! and served them at two dinner parties over the last few weeks. For the first, I made one of the nine menus that she included in the book, the Latin Binge-O-Rama that included Buddy’s Burrito Bowl with Cheeky Sauce, Goddess Greens, Yam Wedgies, and a Bubbly Bombshell drink. The next week, I made the Scarbrough Stew with Roaston Russell Sprouts and Yam Wedgies. From a shopping perspective, I was able to find everything I needed at a small town supermarket except for nutritional yeast. Thumbing through the rest of the book, there are some specialty items that are needed, but large chunks can be made no matter where you live or what your specialty food access is.

So how did it turn out? I found the recipes to be easy to multitask and to have simple components that came together easily in delicious ways. The colorful food is beautiful to look at, and it tastes great. When I’m serving a mixed group of all carnivores Brussels sprouts, kale, and a vegan stew and every plate comes back to the kitchen clean, I know that it was a winner.

On top of the delicious food, the book is well-laid out and easy to follow. Each recipe is topped with a bit of flavor text from Mistress Ginger as she talks about where the recipe came from or why she included it. These humorous bits give a lighthearted air throughout the book a lighthearted air. The ingredient lists are always in the left hand column while the instructions are given in a narrative format. While this may frustrate some (who may prefer numbered lists in recipes), I found these recipes to be simple enough and the narrative straightforward enough that I had no problem with it.

Mistress Ginger spends a little time talking about why she is vegan and for animal rights, but she keeps these sections short. She points people towards resources but admits that she wants this cookbook to be fun so she states her reasons and moves on. The sections that provide quick introductions to vegan specialty foods is very helpful as well. Overall, this cookbook delivers on what it promises: vegan food that anyone can prepare on any day of the week without a huge investment of time and energy. Oh, and it’s delicious, too.

This book is recommended for libraries that collect cookbooks, those interested in providing resources for specialty diets, and those that collect LGBT or drag-oriented materials. While not super heavy on the technical side of cooking or drag culture, the book is accessible, fun, and beautiful, making it a great addition to many different types of collections.


Mack Freeman




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