Edited to add: Right now we’re getting hit by the remnants of Hurricane Patricia. A tornado touched down just a few miles to the eat of us, and our neighborhood is right on the edge of a flood zone. Wish us luck….
★ ★ ★ ★
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison | November 1997 | Broadway Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday | Hardcover $40.00
hat Julia Child is to French cooking, Deborah Madison is to vegetarian cooking—a demystifier and definitive guide to the subject. After her many years as a teacher and writer, she realized that there was no comprehensive primer for vegetarian cooking, no single book that taught vegetarians basic cooking techniques, how to combine ingredients, and how to present vegetarian dishes with style. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone teaches readers how to build flavor into vegetable dishes, how to develop vegetable stocks, and how to choose, care for, and cook the many vegetables available to cooks today. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is in every way Deborah Madison’s magnum opus, featuring 1,400 recipes suitable for committed vegetarians, vegans (in most cases), and everyone else who loves good food.
I read this book for both my Foodies Read list and the TBR Pile Challenge.
No, this is not The New Vegeterian Cooking for Everyone, the updated version produced by the same author in 2014. It’s the original version, with all the quirks and “outdated” dishes that made this book so popular in the late 1990’s.
Well, perhaps I should rephrase: It wasn’t the trendy stuff that made this book popular in the first place. It’s the comprehensive examination of the edible plantstuffs (and some non-meat animal products) that make up a vegetarian (or simply vegetarianish) diet. All kinds of ingredients and ways of cooking are explored in this book; the recipes, though varied and generally well-done, are not the real stand-out parts of this book.
Take as an example the “Grains” chapter. Of the 48 pages that make up this section, about 11 of them are made up of informative essays on types of rice, ways grains are harvested and prepared prior to hitting grocery store shelves, and even tips for making grain-based dishes attractive instead of just piles of mush. Recipes range from the simple, like polenta or even just plain white rice, to the more complex or exotic, like artichoke risotto or a curried quinoa dish that somehow involves orange juice and cashews.
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I’ve used several very simple recipes from this book over the years. It includes instructions for everything from baking sweet potatoes to grilling corn and the book is so well-organized and carefully arranged that turning to it for reference is often quicker and more accurate than Googling and just hoping for the best.
Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. Part of the appeal of this book, to me, is that Madison doesn’t come across as preachy or judgmental in any way, whether you’re a full-on vegan or an unrepentant omnivore who just wants to try new stuff. She herself is really a locavore, eating meat and animal products as well as produce when in season and ethically farmed in her own area. I really admire this! Here’s a relevant quote:
When it comes to forming a philosophy or a political position about what to eat, I leave that to each of you to work out. But whether you place your vegetables at the center of your plate, reserve that place for meat, or find comfort somewhere in between, enjoy, eat well, and raise a glass to life!
Lest you think this is a re-read and shouldn’t count for either of my reading challenges, the sad truth is that until now I’d totally ignored all the lovely little extras. The introductory chapters — all about finding proper equipment, types of seasonings, etc. — and the other little educational bits got completely skipped over when all I really wanted to know was how long to steam the broccoli.
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That said, I haven’t tried very many of the “real” recipes, y’know, the ones that involve more than 2 ingredients and multiple steps. I paid particular attention to the section on “Asian Noodles”, which covers cellophane, mein, rice, and soba types of pasta. My husband and I both enjoy Italian pasta dishes and Japanese- and Chinese-inspired stir-fry type dishes, so I think he would be open to trying some of these recipes. Well, modified versions of them. Neither of us eat tofu, and he would probably not be open to trying ingredients like hijiki or dulse (if I could even find them).
This is why I ultimately settled on 4 stars for this book. Not having tried many of the recipes yet, I obviously can’t judge them. However, a significant portion of them don’t appeal to me, or I know that if I tried them my husband wouldn’t even touch the results. Sometimes I just cook for myself, but given the cost/difficulty of finding of some of these “fancier” ingredients I’m hesitant to bother with them at all.
- Deborah Madison’s website, incl. a lovely but seldom-updated blog
- Book review at the Wall Street Journal
- Book review at Pop Matters
- Interview at the Washington Post
- Interview at The Kitchn
- Cook the Book feature at Serious Eats
Tell me: If you have used this cookbook, do you have a favorite recipe? If you’ve read the newest edition, what did you think of the changes?
Publication information: Madison, Deborha. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. New York: Broadway Books, 1997. Print.
Source: Owned, unsure of original purchase location.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.