It is good to sit by the water at lunchtime, on occasion, and read while tasting something new (thanks, kitchen!). Here, an incidental passage from a book review that fit yesterday’s midday meal at 51:
…When my grandmother taught me to make banana pancakes, which we did every Wednesday night through much of my childhood, she would counsel “Hold the bowl” as I stirred, which became, in our letters to each other, code for “I love you.” At the beginning of Nigel Slater’s memoir “Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger,” the author puts it this way: “It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.”
Surely none of this was on my mind on April 5, 2013, when I purchased “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” by Deborah Madison. I had, exactly a month previously, met a swell fellow, who happened to be vegetarian…
The revised “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” from 10 Speed Press, has around sixteen hundred recipes (about two hundred more than the original), plus a new introduction. The original never felt particularly outdated to me; when one’s aim is to use fresh, local ingredients to cook simply and healthfully, one tends to avoid weird food fads (fermented black beans). “The book originally took about seven years,” Madison explained to me recently. “When I started, in 1990, everyone thought tofu was going to save us. And now we know that maybe we should pay more attention to miso and tempeh.”
There are other changes. Gone are the dated photographs (a photo-editor friend maintains that she can identify not just the origin year of a food image but its origin month). There are fewer stir-fries; sautés take their place. There are newly appreciated grains (farro), spices (smoked paprika), oils (coconut), and plant milks (almond, hemp). Madison notes that kale salads have made the leap from obscurity to ubiquity, and that you can acquire Greek yogurt without leaving the country. She no longer graces the cover—having been replaced by gilt outlines of plants on a matte purple background—but her bangs, grayer but still perfect, persist in the author photo.
Many of the heavier dishes have been lightened or removed, although Madison’s den-motherish empathy means that some things linger. For instance, a risotto gratin (butter, cheese, cream) that she’d planned to cut was given a last-minute reprieve. “I was giving a talk and I said, ‘That’s coming out, because it’s very rich,’ ” she told me. “And two women raised their hands and they said, ‘Oh, you can’t take that out, because we always make that for our birthdays, for each other!’ ” The risotto gratin stayed.
“I’ve never been a fan of canola or soy or corn oil,” she continued. “But they were out there, and a lot of people did like them. This time, I just took them out! If people want to use canola oil, they will. I’m not a policeman.” It’s true that Madison is a gentler guide in your endeavors than many other cookbook writers of today, who insist that you follow recipes to the letter before indulging in fantasies of experimentation. Madison is quick to commiserate. “I can barely follow my own recipes!” she told me. “We all say, all of us who write recipes, ‘Read it through.’ It’s your road map; it’s going to tell you where you’re going, and when you’re going to take that unexpected left turn. But even I will be making one of my recipes and say, ‘Oh, darn!’ ”…
Read the whole review here.