Vegetables You Used to Hate!
by Darlene King
Published by Whitecap Books
232 pages, 2000
The Kitchen Gardener's Companion: Pat Katz's A-Z Encyclopedia for Using the Food That You Grow
by Pat Katz
Published by Hartley & Marks Publishers
298 pages, 2000
High Fiber, High Flavor
by Rosemary Moon
Published by Firefly Books
224 pages, 2000
The Inner Art of Vegetarianism
by Carol J. Adams
Published by Lantern Books
176 pages, 2000
Reviewed by Sienna Powers
You don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the value that vegetables can add to your diet. After all, everyone is always going on about the health benefits of various vegetables -- in general and in particular -- and you hardly ever hear similar raves about pork fat. Even replacing a couple of your meat-based meals every month or week with vegetable-based savories can do much for the overall health picture of your family. And, quite often, there can be budget benefits, as well.
Darlene King, author of Vegetables You Used to Hate!, is a Cordon Bleu chef and the food editor of Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine. Vegetables You Used to Hate! is no one's idea of a vegetarian cookbook: many recipes include chicken stock or dairy products. The creative vegetarian chef, however, would be able to swap in completely vegetarian ingredients for most of the recipes. And, with her Cordon Bleu background, many of the recipes would be worth the effort of replacing offending ingredients to get the skinny on making the Mushroom and Leek Pot Pie, for instance. Or the Roasted Butternut Squash Casserole.
Several of Vegetables You Used to Hate!'s recipes are completely vegetarian but are full-flavored enough to satisfy carnivores, as well. Don't be frightened off by the length of the ingredients list for the Bombay Vegetable Curry: there are lots of things to cut up or otherwise prepare, but actually putting this completely vegetarian curry (if you opt for vegetable stock rather than chicken, of course) together is very simple and, as throughout the balance of the book, King's instructions are clear and concise.
King's royal treatment of vegetables continues right through to the dessert section, where there are several surprises waiting. The obligatory carrot and zucchini desserts are here, of course but the Butternut Squash and Cranberry Muffins and the Sweet Potato and Apple Pie with Pecans were both great finds.
If you grow even a small percentage of what you eat -- or even if you just like working with really fresh produce with some authority -- The Kitchen Gardener's Companion will be an important addition to your cookbook shelf. Subtitled Pat Katz' A-Z Encyclopedia for Using the Food That You Grow, the book's alphabetical setup makes it very easy to use. Though some recipes are included, that's not really the intention of this book.
Did you manage to get a good batch of cucumbers from your garden? By checking the "Cucumber" reference you will learn right away that "Cucumbers are one of the oldest known garden vegetables," and more about their history and the varieties you might expect to find. Next is the "Handling" section -- in this case "Handling Cucumbers" where you learn a little bit about when and how to harvest your crop; and how -- though this is brief -- to prepare them for the table. A couple of sidebars on the "Cucumbers" pages tells you about storage for the vegetable and there is a "Cucumber Ideas" section here, as well as a couple of fast recipes that call for -- you guessed it -- cucumbers. This format is followed throughout the book, from Apples through to Mustard (Greens and Seeds), Rhubarb and Watermelon. Got a plethora of anything at all? Sections on Drying, Freezing and Canning can help you put your surplus by. Katz has brought absolute order to the chaos of growing edibles. Got a question? Here is the answer.
While it doesn't pretend to be a book for vegetarians, High Fiber, High Flavor boasts enough completely meat-free recipes to be a noteworthy addition here and -- since it's concerned with fiber in general and more healthful eating in particular -- it seems appropriate in this category. More: the recipes are varied, well-thought-out and just generally excellent enough to make it a contender in any company.
Author Rosemary Moon has also written The American Harvest Cookbook, Pasta Cuisine and Onions, Onions, Onions. Despite a well-rounded foodie background -- a home economist by training, she's done everything from run a delicatessen to teaching cooking to writing for television and radio -- Moon attacks her topic like a fiber ninja. In her informative 18-page introduction to High Fiber, High Flavor, Moon gives an interesting crash course on why any of us should care about fiber at all.
Dietary fiber is the substance that forms the cell walls of all plants -- the superstructure or skeleton of the plant world.
She goes on to explain why fiber is missing from the modern diet, why we need it, where we can get it and -- finally and briefly -- how to use the recipes in the book.
Even if you don't particularly want a lesson on fiber in your life right now, Moon has included over 180 interesting and healthful recipes. At least a few of them are bound to pique your interest. Each chapter of recipes -- there are five of these: Soups and Chowders; Salads and Appetizers; Main Dishes; Desserts and, finally, Breads, Cakes and Cookies -- begins with a brief but interesting preface. For instance, the Main Dish chapter begins with Moon telling us that, though she isn't a vegetarian, "like so many other people, I now eat significantly less meat than I used to."
The she puts her money where her mouth is:
Several of the dishes included here contain a mixture of meat or poultry and high-fiber foods. For example, in place of the classic Beef Bourguignon, which is often rich and heavy, I have included a Chicken and Lima Bean Bourguignon.
Those wanting still more meatlessness won't feel left out, however. Among the main dishes, Moon includes Corn Mexicali; Chickpeas with Sesame Sauce; Lentil and Pumpkin Lasagne; Brazil Nut Loaf; Curried Lentil Soufflé and many others that are entirely meat-free. It's a healthful yet delectable mix.
If simply skittering on the border of full-out vegetarianism isn't what you had in mind, Carol J. Adams' approach to meatlessness in The Inner Art of Vegetarianism might be the primer you've been looking for. No recipes here, Inner Art is more of a cookbook for the soul. As she writes in Chapter One:
This book is not only about vegetarianism, it is also about spirituality. How vegetarian consciousness works within us is one aspect of our spiritual practice. While this book is written for vegetarians desiring a deeper appreciation of the spirituality of their vegetarianism or interested in other spiritual practices to enhance their life, it is also for spiritual seekers interested in practicing vegetarianism.
The Inner Art of Vegetarianism goes a lot deeper than mere non-flesh consumption, however. Adams' book is really about the place where vegetarianism and spiritual practice intersect. Adams is no newcomer to her field. A vegetarian herself since 1973, Adams is also the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, now in its 10th anniversary edition. Adams is a yoga practitioner and cook as well as author. | October 2000
Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.