Friday, February 22, 2013

Cookbooks

We review a lot of fiction and nonfiction here on the blog, according to our reading preferences, but not too many "how-to" books of various kinds. Walking towards the back of the library the other day, I spotted a cookbook on the "sorting" shelves (where books go after they have been checked in but before they have been put away), and I was so happy when I noticed who wrote it!

Back in the 1970s, there were a few years when the price of meat went sky-high, for whatever mysterious economic reason. My husband and I were in low-paying jobs that kept us on a strict budget, so I decided to try cooking vegetarian a couple of nights a week. This was my first experience with vegetarian meal-planning--my previous experience in the kitchen was all about the cheap ground beef: spaghetti sauce, chili, meatloaf. I decided I'd better buy a cookbook, and the first one to catch my eye at the bookstore was The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas. By the time she came out with The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, six years later, I was one of her biggest fans. Thomas cooks imaginatively and with flare, incorporating the foods of many cultures into her own particular sensibility.

Forty years later, those two books are out of print, although you can still pick them up secondhand. My copies are in two or three separate pieces, held together with tape and rubber bands, and I may have to invest in some used copies sooner or later, or risk losing a valuable page. Meanwhile, though, Anna Thomas released (in 1996) The New Vegetarian Epicure, which reflects more the way we live and eat today (translation: less heavy cream, and more family-focused dishes), and the book that caught my eye on the sorting shelves, which is Love Soup: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes. I was particularly delighted to see this book because my favorites among her recipes in the two books from the '70s are half a dozen soups that I relish every winter: two completely different recipes incorporating split peas; lentil tomato; minestrone alla milanese (especially great if you need to feed a dozen people); potato leek; and corn chowder. (And don't neglect her bread recipes, which you must bake to accompany the soup!)

I find Thomas's books very friendly to the non-vegetarian, and encourage you to examine them even if you have no intention of making vegetarianism your lifestyle. Her previous books were not vegan-oriented, but the two new ones give vegans equal time, which should delight them, because sometimes vegan dishes lack pizzazz, but that just isn't possible with Anna Thomas!

(Some interesting trivia: Anna Thomas is also a filmmaker, and co-wrote and produced the film My Family/Mi Familia, among others.)

Another of the 100 reasons to visit your library: Find a recipe!

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