Category Archives: Food

The Moosewood Cookbook: How I Broke My Oven and Learned to Cook Again

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.

moosewoodIt’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!

Ten Signs I’ve Found the Right Biscuit Joint

  1. Got the last spot in the parking lot at 9:15 on a torrentially rainy Wednesday morning.
  2. The car next to me was a genuine farm vehicle. How could I tell? Because the back seat and floor boards of the Toyota Corolla were covered in loose hay and it was sporting an after-market trailer hitch.
  3. The biscuit joint is located in a gas station. The line snakes back to the energy drink cooler over gray tile that wore down to the subfloor when Nixon was president. There is no ambience, and if you start to think there’s some, it’s the fumes. While I wait, I am free to peruse a revolving rack of “Discount Books,” most of which are about The Lord. (Locals call this place “Jesus Biscuit.”) I reach for the one entitled “It’s Your KID, Not a Gerbil!” before noticing the thin layer of fried bologna grease and motor oil on the cover and changing my mind.
  4. Listing out the biscuit toppings requires a board of the size that you might see in a high school football stadium. Bacon, ham, chicken, steak, five kinds of sausage AND fatback. My Pop would have thought he had died and gone to heaven. Alas, he has died and gone to heaven. Before anyone starts clucking about the dangers of cholesterol, that man ate fatback every time he could catch it and he died at 103. If you don’t know what fatback is, this is probably not the list you were hoping for. I’ll write about kale next week.
  5. Folks in line are not mulling over the menu or reading nutrition information. When they make it to the counter, they bark out “Bologna and fried egg biscuit” or “double red links on white toasted, side a grits and gravy.” The man in front of me ordered “two boloney on white, no toast, lettuce and tomato” and all the woman said was, “Is that it?”
  6. biscuitNot only is fried bologna an option, each piece has that little notch cut out of the edge so it doesn’t pooch up while frying. Makes me miss my grandma. She used to cut a little x in the middle of bologna so it didn’t curl up like a sombrero.
  7. The women working the counter are friendly and efficient. Two of the five people in front of me only had to nod and smile at her to get their orders because they were regulars.
  8. The woman at the counter repeats each order and simultaneously calculates the price in her head while scribbling it onto a brown paper sack. She ain’t got a calculator, but she’s got a neck tattoo. So does the woman working the griddle. Making a living off of gas station biscuits is not a gentlewoman’s game. These ladies have done some living and they got game.
  9. I feel like a dumbass when I say “to go” after my order. “Really, princess? You ain’t gon eat it standing here by the cash register so we can all clap when you’re done?”
  10. Giant flaky buttermilk biscuit with fried bologna and a fried egg=$2.39. The yella mustard was free.

If you’re in Athens, Georgia, stop by the Bread Basket inside the Chevron station on the corner of Boulevard and Chase Street. It’s all kinds of good!

Where’s your favorite biscuit joint?