Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Weekend Cookbook Challenge: My First Cookbook


Having been (so nicely) invited to take part in the inaugural Weekend Cookbook Challenge, how could I refuse?

Well, I couldn't. But clearly, I could be a bit late!

Having been asked to create something from, and talk about, my very first cookbook, I knew I had to turn to a book close to my own age; a book a bit worn but still beautiful: The (original) Moosewood Cookbook.

I became a vegetarian almost ten years ago. Most members of my (large, extended) family thought it was a phase, like (magenta!) hair dye or parachute pants. But after a while, the notion that I would not, thanks, be having some of that carved Easter ham finally sunk in.

Through, of all people, my eye doctor, I discovered the wonderful Vegetarian Times. I spied two or three month's of the magazine in her waiting room during my first visit (she had just opened a practice in my hometown), and I couldn't contain my shock.

Someone, other than me, was interested in living a meat-free life? I mentioned, during my exam, how excited I was to learn such a magazine even existed, and she told me everyone in the office practiced some flavor of vegetarianism.


Even better, she collected every copy of VT she lying around, and gave them to me!

This was, I can only imagine, a bit like getting my hands on the Rosetta Stone; suddenly, I had answers to my veggie questions, products to look for, and best of all...recipes to try!

I was so happy about this, I kept telling everyone I knew about this magazine. I mean, there were people out there who believed as I did!

When you come from a town like mine, where entire pages of the newspaper are filled with photos of proud hunters and their kill, where the first days of Buck and Doe season are worked into the school calendar as 'off' days, where 2 out of 3 vehicles are not just trucks but trucks with gun racks, and the only meatless option on a menu is a side salad (be sure to ask that they not throw bacon in there), a baked potato and a roll...this was huge.

One day, I was visiting my mom when she mentioned she had a vegetarian cookbook. But not just any vegetarian cookbook; no, this was the hand-lettered and -drawn by Mollie Katzen Moosewood Cookbook.

She'd had it in her cupboard for most of my life, and never used it. "Here", she said; "you might as well have it".

I took it home with me, and from a distance you'd have thought I had a ancient text in my hands; I scoured the pages, but turned them lovingly, and with respect.

I read every single word on every single page. At that stage, I was still a pretty new vegetarian, and with no one to guide me...had a lot to learn.

If you're new to the meatless lifestyle? Moosewood's a pretty good teacher!

Mom had spent some time in NYC when I was young. This would have been a time when 'organic' and 'natural' and 'vegetarian' were still very much considered a hippie thing. You know, Wavy Gravy and communes and things like that.

The Moosewood Restaurant, as well as Amy's, were important places. New way of thinking.

Certainly not idealisms that would have gone over well in my town, and definitely not during the early Seventies!

But, mom had that book. Which is now mineminemine.

I don't turn to The Moosewood Cookbook as often as I should. I have almost all the other Moosewood cookbooks now; the newer and shinier ones. I have the Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, and the Vegetarian Times Cookbook. All excellent works.

But the original Moosewood? It's like the Bill Haley of veggie cooking. It was the standard, and it spawned many imitators, many worshipers. It inspired many, and still does. Including me.

So, for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I opened up ol' faithful. Very few of the recipes in Katzen's fabulous book require much time and effort, but I knew I wanted to make something simple.

I went with Zippy Cheese Sauce; a roux-based sauce made with sauteed onions and garlic, warmed milk, a small amount of white wine, dry mustard and horseradish, and few dashes of hot sauce. And, oh yeah...a cup of packed, grated cheese...your choice.

Recommended uses for the sauce were steamed vegetables, or omelets.

I'm awfully picky about my vegetables, so I made omelets.

I made mine with chopped sun-dried tomato, and Matt's contained sauteed green bell pepper and a bit of my tomato.

The sauce went well with the eggs; not too heavy, not too strong. I can see it being useful for jazzing up boring veggies; it'd be perfect with asparagus.

So, maybe not the most exciting dish, but it was fun to visit with an old friend!

Don't forget to mark your calendar for this month's Blog Party, Vegas, Baby!. We're all about giving in and indulging this time around, so start planning those entries. And remember...it's never too early to submit...entries are due this Thursday!

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2 Thoughts for food:

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Nupur said...

Mollie is one of my favorites too...for extending my vegetarianism beyond Indian food. My room-mate (also named Stephanie...I seem to adore people with that name) and I cooked so much from it, and when she moved away she gifted me the "Enchanted Broccoli Forest".
Your cheese sauce sounds delicious and versatile...thanks for bringing back happy memories.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Isn't she wonderful? I have almost all the Moosewood book, and Broccoli Forrest and Sunlight Cafe. I've never had a clunker, and that cheese tart everyone seems to love came from a Moosewood cookbook!

You know, I'd never really known anyone else with my name, but since I've been blogging? We're everywhere!


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