Mark Bittman’s most recent book, The VB6Cookbook, is a follow-up to his 2013 VB6, a diet book. “VB6” stands for “vegan before 6pm,” and that’s basically what Bittman’s diet plan is: eat no animal products before 6, and then after 6, eat as you like after 6pm. The brilliance of Bittman’s diet plan is, in fact, its simplicity. You don’t have to count calories or make special food, or only eat at certain times. I have not tried the VB6 “plan” myself, but I can tell that I would have much less problem following it than any other diet plan I’ve heard of. I happen to be a vegetarian, so going vegan for most of the day would be easier for me than for meat-eaters, but I do love dairy products. Asking me to completely cut out anything just doesn’t work. But asking me to hold off for a few hours a day in order to improve my health, lose weight, and help the environment? I can do that. VB6 has the potential to make a huge positive change in a person’s life with relatively minimal effort.
The cookbook offers many excellent tools for making the plan work, like simple charts (foods you can eat as much of as you want, how to cook different grains and beans, foods to eat in moderation, as “treats,” etc.), a short explanation of the diet plan, and a month-long eating plan that you follow (or not). The book also includes many recipes for vegan, vegetarian, and meaty dishes, but not so many that it’s overwhelming. The recipes are generally easy, tasty, and simple. Some of the most useful recipes Bittman includes come at the end of the book. He calls these “VB6 Building Blocks,” but they are basically Bittman’s favorite “magic” recipes. They show up in many of his other books.
This brings me to something that I find a bit confusing about this book, and many of Bittman’s recent books—in particular the Food Matters books. Food Matters and The Food Matters Cookbook both include many of the same “building block” recipes, cooking tips, and nutrition tips as the VB6 books. As far as I can tell, the only real differences between VB6 and Food Matters is that the former sets a time at which one can stop being vegan, and the latter just says to eat more vegan than not vegan. But the ideas are otherwise the same. It seems like VB6 is basically just a repackaging of Food Matters with a punchier title and catchier gimmick. That’s fine, but I wish Bittman were more up-front about it.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.)