Remember a while back when I tried to write a cookbook review and ended up breaking the oven? (and coining the new cuss word FOCACCIT!) Well, I’m proud to report that just 6 months and $1200 later, we have a new oven! And I STILL haven’t made that focaccia. But I am ready to write a review of the The Moosewood Cookbook: 40th Anniversary Edition.
Short Review: Buy yourself one today! Or get one for the mama in your life for Mothers Day! If you use that Amazon link, it will be here in time for Sunday. Probably. Wedding gift, graduation gift, Treat Yoself gift…this book belongs in every kitchen.
Being without an oven meant I had to do some re-engineering in the kitchen. Loooots of Crock Pot cooking. Also more salads and stir frys. I feel like this beautiful book helped me fall back in love with the basics of cooking–the sensual, spiritual creation of concoctions that nourish us.
(Does that sound sufficiently Hippie enough for ya? Good, let’s continue.)
I was unfamiliar with the story of the Moosewood Cookbook. It’s one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time, a classic of vegetarian cooking. Mollie Katzen, one of the founders of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York, compiled and illustrated this collection of recipes 40 years ago. The cookbook started as a binder of recipes used by the cooks at Moosewood–none of them professional chefs. The collection includes recipes from grandmothers, restaurant diners, international adventures. A little of this, a little of that.
Yes, it’s packed with exotic flavors from around the world, but what I loved most about this book was that it helped me get back to the basics. Over the past couple of years, I’ve fallen into the trap of the working mother–convenience foods and a boring routine of proven, easy recipes. Seriously, we are one taco salad from oblivion up in here.
When I prepared the Moosewood recipe for French Onion Soup, I remembered the simple pleasure of caramelizing onions on a Sunday afternoon (and G even ate it too!). Just below the recipe for onion soup are instructions for making croutons. I didn’t need a recipe for croutons–I just needed a reminder that I COULD make my own croutons. And I did.
This book reminded me that I can make my own vinaigrette instead of relying on Paul Newman’s. As I mixed the ingredients, I remembered how my sister taught me to smash the salt and garlic together with a fork to release the flavors. I shook my dressing in a cruet that reminded me of Big Gay and the homemade salad dressing she keeps on hand. I got back in touch with the act of cooking.
Instead of cracking a bottle of LaChoy, I cracked open the Moosewood Cookbook and taught myself how to make stir-fry sauces from scratch. Again–not complicated things to do, but a return to the basic joy of making foods with my whole brain instead of a jar.
It’s not only an interesting and varied cookbook–it’s beautiful and playful. Katzen hand-lettered and illustrated each page. It’s a completely different feeling from the Pinteresty, food stylist, soft focus filter world of today. The simplicity of the pages reminds me of the Flint River Favorites cookbook that my school put together in the 1970s (except there are a lot fewer recipes that call for cream of mushroom soup). I remember my mother helping to collect and type all those recipes. The cookbook fell open to the page with the brownie recipe, which was smearing and smudged with so many drips that it smelled like brownies.
I’m looking forward to working my way around to the jicama salads and spanakopita and Ukranian poppy seed cake, but for right now, I’m so glad I have this rich book to explore, one taste at a time.
It’s a marvel!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Check out Blogging for Books if you’d like to know more about the program!