At the desk, 10:14 a.m.
It happened a couple Thanksgivings ago in our kitchen. The overhead lights were off. The kitchen was back lit by the reflection off the building next door. On our counter sat the defrosting turkey. I rounded the corner to our kitchen and saw... a naked young child sitting hunched over on the counter.
I haven't eaten meat since. I literally can't. It's like something out of a A Wrinkle in Time. All meat, including fish, turns to sand in my mouth.
I thought I'd get over it. But that hasn't happened yet.
Needless to say, I had to find a few great vegetarian cookbooks or starve. (The husband cooks three things - Nachos, Quesadillas, and cheese sandwiches. You'll note the main ingredient in each.) Here's the problem too - I like really good food. I've checked more than a hundred out of the library and bought only a few more than that! There are four books I use all the time.
Why does this matter to authors? Because when you're working on a novel or a story, life goes like this: "Holy crap, I have 20 minutes to get dinner together." And then what? (I always remember Meg's mom in a Wrinkle in Time. If I had a Bunsen burner, I'd make chili on it too.)
Here are my favorite vegetarian cookbooks (in order of 'holy crap what am I going to make for dinner):
1. Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:
I've never tried a bad recipe in this cookbook. Deborah is the chef who put Chez Panisse and "California Cuisine" on the map. The recipes are not hard but have a real gourmet taste to them. There aren't a lot of sweet recipes, so you have to get your baking somewhere else. When we grow a new vegetable (this year it was beets), I go to this cookbook to look for a recipe. I've never made a recipe out of this cookbook that wasn't fabulous and the husband didn't enjoy. I know there are a lot of newer books, but this book is my go to vegetarian bible.
Have you ever had that moment when you know there are five people coming for dinner and you have 30 minutes to get dinner together? This is my go to book. The recipes are super yummy, easy to make, and what's even better is that they have 'what to serve with' in the sidebar. So a super yummy soup goes well with spicy kale or a corn scone. I don't know of any other cookbook that helps pair things like that. It's truly fabulous. The baking section is wonderful. I make the muffins about once a week. I also have Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special: More Than 275 Recipes for Soups, Stews, Salads and Extras which is awesome for easy to make, yummy soups. But nothing compares to the original. If you don't have this book, do yourself a favor and get it.
When I received this cookbook as a Christmas present from my friend Tammi, I was like "Uh, okay?" It wasn't until a few years later that I cracked the binding. We had a friend coming to dinner and I needed to figure something out. I was a fool for waiting so long. This is a really great book. The recipes aren't necessarily easy and sometimes require weird stuff like nutritional yeast. That said, everything in the book is amazing. I've never made something from this book that everyone, including the cheese loving husband, hasn't loved. Every recipe is worth a try. If your thinking about adding a little vegan to your life, this is the way to go.
First I have to say that I love Heidi Swanson and 101Cookbooks.com. (She reminds me of my eldest sister, if we'd actually been raised by parents and not wolves. Moving on...) I've been a fan since waaaaay back, so I wasn't surprised that her cookbook was fabulous. Let me count the ways: a) most recipes take less than 30 minutes; b) the food tends to be fresh and a little spicy; c) you don't have to have been to cooking school to make any of it; d) if there's an exotic ingredient, she gives something normal to sub-in. If you're just starting out with eating something other than a slab of flesh, a salad, and a piece of bread, this is the place to begin. You will love it.
If you have a favorite vegetarian cookbook, I'd love to hear about it! :) Let me know in the comments.