Cooking with Dante

 

I have a very loyal kitchen hound. His sensitive little ears perk up the minute I enter the kitchen to cook and within moments he is sitting at my feet, looking up inquisitively at my motions, listening to the sounds of chopping and slicing, rustling papers, the unwrapping things, all sounds that have to do with food and cooking. Food is very important for dogs, I have learned, even though my dog does not wolf things down. He is endlessly interested in something to eat, however.

Food is important yes, but he doesn’t go for just any old bite. He is quite selective. We’ve been going through this routine for nearly six years, and I know that he doesn’t like onions. Still he makes a lot of little squeaking noises until I offer him a piece. He sniffs carefully and ever so slowly until he’s finally satisfied he doesn’t want the bit of onion. He turns his head to the side, his elegant poodle nose rejecting what I knew he would reject. We go though this with every vegetable, including those that are cooking. I offer him the skillet to preview, knowing he wont’ be interested. But he thinks he might be.

There are some things he likes. They are beet skins. Sweet potatoes. Cooked carrots, and what I call broccoli bones, (the coarse lower ends of broccoli stems, which he’s carries away and works over just as if they were bones). He will accept a kale stem, but then he just walks around the island and drops it on the floor. When I finally emerge from the stove the floor can be littered with bits of stems and leaves. And when I sweep them up, he doesn’t linger at the dustbin wondering if there might be a treat. After all, that’s usually about the time he gets his own dinner, which he far prefers.

You might have met my pup on the page after 231 In My Kitchen. He shows up a few times. But my favorite picture is of him sitting on the kitchen steps looking very robust indeed. In case you’re wondering, his fur is not colored and he is a small Labradoodle – actually mostly poodle. He weighs only 32 pounds, but he’s pretty convinced he weights at least seventy. Must be all those brococli bones! Whatever it is, he’s a good kitchen friend.

 

 

Grubbing Around in the Garden & Looking for Spring

One day every body is complaining about snow and winter, then, the minute the temp sores to 50 degrees, suddenly it’s spring and all is forgiven.  

At least that’s how it was this past Sunday.  And Monday. And even Tuesday.

There wasn’t a speck of green to be seen on Sunday. The rain, wind, sun took their turns throughout the day, and the warmth was pretty fragile. But it was enough to pull people outside and make them feel giddy. I closed my lap-to,  pulled on my gardening gloves and grabbed a rake.  I was so tired of those brown leaves and besides, I was dying to see what was going on beneath them.  Here’s what I saw. Maybe not so thrilling to most people, but let me interpret these tangles among the dead leaves.  There are a few nibs of chives poking out of the withered strands that froze months ago Here are the first sorrel leaves to appear. The leaves of the thyme are looking fleshy here, instead of merely dried. And I didn’t even take a picture of the first red shoots of the lovage plant because they really were pretty small. Barely visible to the uninterested eye. This may not look like salad to you. But in a few weeks there will be a garden salad that will include, along with the lettuce, spinach and arugula still under safe cover of remay, maybe one snipped chive blade, few torn sorrel leaves, probably not the thyme, but perhaps a tender lovage leaf. There will be more snows and freezing nights for weeks to come, but this tiny bouquet will be enough to launch both spring and summer. This is the wild joy that the garden promises.  Even though I’m heartily tired of brown, I rather love this time of year because each day there’s something new poking up and leafing out, usually plants I’ve forgotten about. I stare at some leaves and remember, oh, the agastache!  The daffodils. The wild strawberries. Little signs of life appearing each day, taking hold. It’s like seeing old friends, whether birds as they first return from their travels, or human ones. What I’m wondering, though, would these tender shoots and leaves be happier with their blanket of leaves left to cover them a little while longer. Or can I take them off? Tell me if you have an answer to this because I really want to know. I suspect the leaves should stay, but I’m really eager to see them go.  Many thanks to all who try to set the story straight.

My New Book: In My Kitchen

 

A friend pointed out recently that myweb-site had disappeared!  And she was right, but it’s back now, which is good, because I want to tell you about my new book that’s coming out in March.

It’s called In My Kitchen. And that’s just what it is – me in my kitchen cooking favorite recipes, brought right up to date with today’s new ingredients, as well as recipes that are quite new.  It is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photographs by Erin Scott and all in all I think it’s a handsome, intimate book. (I just got a copy in the mail from my publisher, 10-Speed Press.) It is richer in narrative than most of my books, replete with stories and a close look at how new ingredients have made good food more accessible.

I really enjoyed writing this book and working with everyone who was involved with it. I hope you’ll like it, too!

Thanksgiving Without the Turkey (but with so much else!)

Platter of Fall Fruit (photo by Laurie Smith)

For years I’ve been asked by news folks of various stripes to comment about what vegetarians can eat at Thanksgiving, and for as many years I’ve replied, ”Everything but the turkey.” Even when turkey is on the table, there’s bound to be a host of other foods, mostly seasonal vegetable dishes, that are just right for the vegetarian and everyone else at the table, too. Traditionally those sides so numerous that plates are heaped with them while the turkey makes up but a small portion.

And if you’re planning to make a Thanksgiving meal without the bird, what then? Here are some of the thoughts on that.

The first is to skip the mock turkey, unless you just absolutely love it.

The second is to make something that’s special to you and those at your table, something that you don’t make often because it’s too expensive or too time consuming, or maybe too rich. Such as? A wild mushroom lasagna (or any kind of lasagna, especially when made with fresh pasta.) Homemade ravioli are always welcome. Or a winter vegetable stew that brings together black lentils, root vegetables, pureed potatoes and a red wine sauce. You know what you like.

While you might choose to make menu with that special dish as the star, another way is to honor the holiday is to go for the groaning board approach, a big table loved with seasonal dishes. Now is when we’re excited about winter squash and sweet potatoes, or the appearance of corn meal or dried beans at the farmers market, or you home grown cache of Jerusalem artichokes, so you might just decide to indulge and have some of everything.

You could have everyone sit down and start off with a bowl of warming soup, then invite people to get up and help themselves to the bounty. Or just keep passing all those platters with someone designated to set them somewhere when they’ve gone around once.

Whatever approach you take, do invite others to participate in making the meal. They may just want to bring a favorite dish of their own, or help out in your kitchen, or show up with an extra pie or a bottle of wine.

Here are a few dishes I’m likely to serve, all of them can be found in my cookbooks. VCFE can for the most part, be the old or The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I have to admit, it was hard to choose just these.

 

Possible Appteizers

White Bean, Sage, and Roasted Garlic Spread, VCFE

Savory Wild Rice Crepe-Cakes, Vegetable Literacy

Gourgere (Cheese Puffs), The Savory Way

 

Two Special Soups

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque with Sunflower Sprouts, Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

My Really Good Mushroom Soup, from the soup book, above

 

Three or Four Main Dish Possbilities

Braised Root Vegetables with Black Lentils and Red Wine Sauce, Local Flavors

Winter Squash Galette, VCFE – or another vegetable galette -there are more!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage, VCFE or Mushroom Lasagna, VCFE

 

Some Possible Sides

Quince Compote or Spiced Quince and Cranberry Compote, The Savory Way

Asian Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter, Vegetable Literacy

An Over-the-Top Holiday Sweet Potato Gratin with Red Chile, The New VCFE

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans, VCFE and a different one in Vegetable Literacy

Wilted Greens with Crisped Bread Crumbs, VCFE

Celery Root and Potato Puree with Truffle Salt, VCFE

Provencal Winter Squash Gratin or Delicata Squash Rings, VCFE

Buttermilk Skillet Corn Bread with Heirloom Flint Cornmeal, Vegetable Literacy

 

Salad

Endive with Walnuts and Blue Cheese, VCFE

Shredded Radicchio with Walnut Vinaigrette, Vegetable Literacy

 

Dessert Possibilities

Steamed Persimmon Pudding, Local Flavors

Sweet Potato Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans, Vegetable Literacy

Indian Pudding (if you have an oven free for a few hours), Seasonal Fruit Desserts

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding, Seasonal Fruit Desserts (a very light dessert)

 

And you don’t need a recipe to build a platter of fall fruits, nuts, chocolates and the like for people to munch on long after the table is cleared.

Happy Thanksgiving To All

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Harvesting Larkspur Seeds in July

Larkspur seeds

Larkspurs are a great annual plant, one that that flowers and seeds abundantly. I love this plant because it’s generous and beautiful. Its little black seeds germinate with ease and produce tall stalks of delicate flowers in shades of blue, purple, pink and near white. Over the years I’ve selected seeds from those with the richest azure color, and now my larkspur are stunning in they blue and purple groups, which is how they tend to grow.

I started with larkspur nearly twenty years ago when we moved into a house whose yard was barren. It was one of those lots that had been scraped clean, save for the house. A friend gave me a handful of larkspur seeds and another handful of deep red giant amaranth. I tossed both into the dirt and lo and behold, they all —or so it seemed—germinated. The amaranth was a little creepy with it’s big, nodding blood red seed heads on six-foot tall stalks. My husband asked me not to plant them again and I didn’t. But come spring, thousands of them came up, carpeting the lot with a sea of scarlet leaves. They were gorgeous—and edible.

The larkspur was easier to handle. They were robust growers to be sure, but not overwhelming like the amaranth. Certainly not creepy. As the latter came out and more perennial plants came in, the blue blossoms of the larkspur seemed to harmonize with every color, especially the silvers and grey plants. Plus they could also end up in a vase and look sprightly for a nearly a week. I started saving the seeds, which is easy to do, and have ever since. I wanted those flowers again. And I’ve had them ever since—everywhere!

Today, in a different yard and a hotter summer, I noticed that the seed heads were starting to open a month early and that the flowers were so diminished in number that the hummingbirds had little interest in them. I also was ready to reveal some of the plants the larkspur were hiding —a handsome oregano plant, a culinary sage coming into a second bloom, the gorgeous Mojave sage, a stand of rue, clumps of ornament grasses that  had come back after the gopher snake moved in,  and above all,  a snaking trail of Blonde Ambition, a striking grama grass that didn’t need the punctuation of larkspur given that it’s own handsome seed heads were about to emerge.

I started clipping the seed heads that were open and bringing them into my office where I set them on a  metal table. With every bump from me, the dog, or a whoosh of wind, the black seeds came tumbling out of their elongated pods. There are so many. I’ve already given some away and there are thousands more seeds that will fall out while I’m at the Seed Savers Exchange Campout this next week. Unless I get busy.

I’m thinking the time has come to use a little more control, having stands of larkspur only here and there where they set off other plants or cluster together to make a purple-blue haze, rather than having them come up willy-nilly everywhere. So if time allows before I leave, I’ll be ruthless about pulling out the rest of the plants that remain, their seed heads still closed and ripening.

The Golden Glow of Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

Meyer Lemons in a Bob Brady bowl.

A heavy box arrived just before Christmas, delivered by my trusty UPS man who always has a warm hello for my pesky little dog as he searches the big brown truck for cookies. It was from chef Charlene Badman of FnB, (as in Food and Beverage). Charlene is one of my favorite chefs. Anywhere. In addition to serving up some very good dishes, FnB also has a bodega where some of those good and unusual ingredients used in the restaurant can be bought, and a wine shop to boot. It makes such good sense. FnB happens to be in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Scottsdale is also a place where Meyer lemon trees grow along with other citrus fruits.

I suspected that this large, well-taped box might be filled with Gillfeather rutabagas, a vegetable Charlene and I share something of a passion for. But once I cut though all the tape that held the cardboard together, it was lemons that came tumbling out, lemons of a deep yellow hue, lemons that were exceptionally large and that spewed fragrant oil into the air when nicked with a fingernail or sliced in half. These were the lemons I grew up with in California. Charlene couldn’t have known – or maybe she did – how very happy her citrusy gift made me, especially in winter when I tend to be more homesick than usual for California produce.

Don’t get me wrong – we are grateful to have snow on the ground and we’re happy to have it be cold outside because fruit trees need their chill hours to bear fruit next summer. Nine degree mornings aren’t the easiest for dog walks, but the sunny cheer of these winter fruits seemed to warm up the air with their glow.

First I put them in a bowl –one of my favorites— (see the picture) and it’s made by Robert Brady in Berkeley (www.traxgallery.com) to admire. Nestled there, they lit up the darkness of winter. Even in sunny New Mexico we do have grey, overcast days. I also left some in the refrigerator so that they wouldn’t get slack and soft, and now that the official holidays are nearly over, my lemony lights will join them in the chill. I do treasure them so I know there’s a danger of keeping them far too long instead of using them, but I intend to overcome that, starting now. I know there are many things I can do with Meyer lemons, besides look at them.

There are lemon sorbets and ice creams to make, lemon curd and lemon tarts, which David Lebowitz (www.davidlebowitz.com) has recently written about, or, turning to one of my favorite dessert books, Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts, I’m reminded of how to make a Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie and her Meyer lemon Ice Cream. And of course these fragrant fruits can be used wherever lemons are called for. For the moment, though, I will use at least some my lemons in sauces and vinaigrettes as the holidays have brought a surfeit of sweets and the beginning of the New Year does inspire a break.

So here’s a simple Meyer lemon sauce from Local Flavors, Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers Markets, that I’m inclined to spoon over avocado and pomelo salads, toss with shaved fennel, or spoon over poached or roasted fish or use to dress a frikeh and beet salad—on the menu for tomorrow, I think. In short,  you can use this sauce wherever you want a complex tasting but simply made dressing. Now is one time I splurge on buying fresh tarragon, as mine has crisped up and fallen away with winter and its freezing temperatures.

 

Meyer Lemon Sauce with Tarragon

Makes 1/3 to 1/2-cup.

1 large Meyer lemon

1 shallot, finely diced

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped

 

Remove the zest, juice the lemon and put both in a small bowl with the shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand for several minutes, then whisk in the oil and add the tarragon. Season with a little freshly ground pepper. Taste and add more oil if needed. Meyer lemons are generally sweeter and less acidic than Eurekas so 2 tablespoons might be enough.

Generosity and Gratitude

A recipe from Marie Simmons book, Taste of Honey.

A recipe from Marie Simmons book, Taste of Honey.

 

Having neither parents nor children, and siblings who live 1000 miles away, I am sometimes ambivalent about Thanksgiving; it’s simply not a family event. But I do have a family of friends to celebrate with, and there is much to be thankful for.  It seems important to share a meal with others, to bring something if not many things to the table, and so we do. And it’s a pleasure.

This year I am especially struck by generosity of others, especially farmer and producers.

I just unpacked a large box that arrived from California. It was filled with Satsuma Mandarins, the very first of the season. This friend has sent us mandarins for many years. An email shows up in late November that says expect them in the next few days, and that’s it. They arrive. We eat four or five at a time so they don’t get a chance to spoil, we share them others, and we don’t get colds. They pleasure they give us is enormous.

A late freeze decimated my apple crop once again, but yesterday I made applesauce from a gift of apples that came from friends. I have made eight batches of applesauce that are now lying in snug little packets in my freezer, plus I’ve made a few tarts and galettes. A compote of dried plums rests in the refrigerator, a gift from the same couple. In my cupboard stands an elegant bottle of best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted, which they also make and which I use, by the quarter teaspoon, as suggested.

Neighbors are dropping by and I’m serving them paparadelle with a ragout of grass fed beef and wild mushrooms. The beef is a gift from a rancher friend, the mushrooms from neighbors who brought them back from Italy. And, as it turns out, the tomatoes in the dish, red, dried and broken into pieces, are a gift from a friend who farms in upstate New York.  He also supplied the honey that will be used in a dessert of roasted Bosc pears, a recipe of Marie Simmons from her book, A Taste of Honey, that is a great gift indeed as it has become my favored winter dessert.

At breakfast we might have toast with exquisite blackberry jam, a gift from a farmer in California, or perhaps it will be a Yuzu marmelade, an equally exquisite delight from my sister-in-law. My brother’s olive oil graces out salads. And the list goes on, back through the year— cases of endive, packages of Sonoran wheat and Purple Tibetan Barley, a dozen Gillfeather turnips, a bottle of wine. But this isn’t  just about foods being given. I also feel that the foods I buy weekly at the farmers market are also gifts.

The thought of these many presents of food is humbling. The generosity of others is so big, I find myself wishing I had something that I grew enough of to gift others. (This may well become a goal to accomplish in 2015.) In the meantime, I am grateful for my friends and family for their generosity, for the hard-working producers of food and books, for good recipes, for wisdom, for foods born of hard work and sustained passion.

It’s all a gift and I will raise a special glass to all of you, strangers and friends alike, in gratitude on Thursday, this Thanksgiving.

Zuni Stew

 

Zuni Stew from The Greens Cookbook

In The Greens Cookbook there’s a recipe called “Zuni Stew.” It was inspired by my first trip to New Mexico in the l970s, but memory of the exact source has pretty much disappeared. I suspect it’s from either a book called Southwest Indian Cookbook by Marcia Keegan, or from The Pueblo Indian Cookbook by Phyllis Hughes, both books I bought on my first trip to New Mexico. In any event, my recipe had little to do with Zuni, or with Zuni dishes as described in either of those books. I had made changes to make it more lively and contemporary, and it proved to be a good and well-liked dish at Greens. But was it Zuni? Probably not so much. But then, what is today?

Recently I went to Zuni with the intention of looking at their waffle gardens. I had seen one at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe and it left me hungry to see more and talk to people who had experience gardening in them. By chance, an invitation came a few days later. There was going to be a health fair at Zuni and would I come and speak a bit? Of course, I would! So I drove to Zuni, where I met a lot of women involved in various government programs meant to insure or create paths to health. They were all at the Health Fair with tables of information and foods to taste. The WIC program, breast feeding support services, programs to combat diabetes, senior programs and one for teen health, healthy babies and a Zuni family preservation program were all represented. One group had designed a Jeopardy style program that the Zuni kids enthusiastically took part in. There were signs for non-competitive runs, walks, bike rides.  Gifts and rewards are given to attendees of anything health related, and it seems that the community shows up. They did that night. And I was given a handsome long-sleeved t-shirt that’s just perfect for the now cool mornings.

One sees large hornos (adobe ovens) throughout Zuni, as many as 3 to 5 in a yard. I was told the reason there were so many and that they were so large was because they were used for community feast days when they needed to cook a lot of food. There is one market and one restaurant that serves pizza, subs, hamburgers, surf and turf and enchiladas. A lone Boca burger is the most healthful option. There are no native foods on the menu. There’s no McDonalds or such, either in Zuni pueblo, but the kids apparently know and like fast food. So at the fair there were samples of alternatives to the high fat/sugar/soda offerings of the outside world. I tried a popsicle made with water and fruit that was extremely refreshing in that dry place, and also waters that were infused with fruit, in this case ample amounts of raspberries, strawberries , pineapple and such. They were eye-catching and delicious. I can easily imagine the appeal of lots of fruits, especially red ones.

An alternative to sugary carbonated drinks.

An alternative to sugary carbonated drinks.

A woman at the table devoted to combating diabetes was preparing strawberries with a topping of lightly sweetened low fat Greek yogurt. Everywhere the emphasis was on low fat or non-fat dairy and how to use USDA foods. There was but one table that showcased native foods through both a picture display of various native corn, squash and beans, the actual foods themselves, then three stews. The recipes weren’t exactly Zuni. I was told, but cobbled together from Lois Ellen Frank’s first book on native cooking of the Southwest. But they were food – real food. Delicious and light, or filling and robust stews that were based on beans, meat (in one), and various forms of corn were offered. My favorite was a corn and posole stew with sunflower sprouts. The fresh corn was cut into chunks; the sprouts were added at the end, and posole was another form of corn and the liquid was chicken broth, I believe from a box. There might have been onion in it — but whether it did or not, it was pretty, good to eat and very satisfying. I would have loved to have been able to orders such a soup at the restaurant. Or the infused waters. Or the fruit icicles.

Zuni Corn Stew

My doctor was, when I described it to her, very dismissive of the carbs. in the corn soup. They were the problem, as she saw it, with diets and food in general, especially in the pueblo communities. But I couldn’t help but think if these were the carbs. you ate, along with other traditional foods and pretty much only those, it would be indeed as nourishing as it tasted, and quite possibly, not a problem at all. Try making it fit with USDA provisions and modern American tastes, and it does get confusing and is problematic. I felt that the Zuni, among the loveliest, kindest, and most happy people I have met anywhere, are caught in the tensions between their traditions and the modern world.

As for the waffle gardens, I saw one. It was very small, sadly limited by the high cost of water. But in the museum there were some great depictions in a mural, and in movies made in the l920s, so in a way, I did see them. And more about them, later.

The Zucchini with Ribs

Costata Romanesco zucchini, whole and sliced.

Costata Romanesco is hands down my favorite zucchini.

I know that might sound strange, for zucchini isn’t the most interesting, vibrant, or glamorous of vegetables. Plus everyone likes to complain about how they have just way too much of it. I say to those lucky complainers, “You don’t have squash bugs, for if you did, you’d treasure each and every squash and blossom!” For some of us, the effort to grow zucchini means encounters with hoards of creepy grey bugs and the inevitable early death of one’s struggling plants. So if I’m going to open myself to squash bugs and anxiety over the early demise of my summer squash, then I’m going to grow a zucchini I get excited about.  And Costata Romanesco is it.

There are three things that are special about this old variety. Each squash has ribs, the ridges that run along the long body of each one. A little hard to capture in a photo until you slice them, then you can see them as the ruffled, sculptured edges of each round of squash. I think they look wonderfully fetching and are truly so when a mass of the rounds is jumbled together. It doesn’t matter whether you steam or sauté them, either, because they will taste good.

Another virtue of the Costata Romanesco is its density. Somehow, this variety is less watery and the texture more firm, which makes it a much more satisfying summer squash to eat than others.  Add to that the flavor, and you’re home. The flavor is, well, simply more squash-like. Some describe it as nutty. I think of it as down-to-earth. In any case,  it’s there, and it has real taste, which cannot always be said of more modern squash.

The Costata (meaning ribs) is an Italian heirloom. Lots of companies stock seed packets for this gem. (Johnny’s, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Sustainable Seed Company, Fedco).  Like many heirlooms, it doesn’t always produce as heavily as other zucchini, but the plants are big and robust and if you don’t want a glut of zucchini, why not choose the best and go with what it produces? Actually, I’ve always found that mine make plenty.

And one squash makes a a fast and neat little lunch for one.

 

One Zucchini Lunch

A One-Zucchino Lunch for One

Time required: about 4 minutes

1 7-inch Costata Romanesco squash

Sea salt

Good olive oil

Fresh herb, such as dill, basil, marjoram

Pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

Lemon if you wish

 

Slice the squash crosswise  into rounds about ¼ inch thick or a little more if you like it heftier.

Steam over boiling water for about 3 minutes —taste to make sure it’s done enough for you.

Turn it out onto a plate or better, a shallow bowl.  Season with sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil, some fresh herb, a few pine nuts, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

That’s it. Sit down and enjoy. Mop up the juices with a piece of bread.

 

And this is just the beginning. You might add halved Sun Gold tomatoes, thin shavings of Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, a shower of very young arugula leaves, a slivered squash blossom —or just leave it as is.

About a Vegetarian and Vegan Book Signing in a Butcher Shop.

 

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My friend, Joseph Shuldiner, who wrote a beautiful sexy book called “Pure Vegan” and I decided to a joint book signing for our books (“The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” for me) in the Real Butcher Shop, a new store in Santa Fe brought into being by Tom Delehanty. Tom has been a chicken farmer in New Mexico for the past 20 or so years. The meat he sources for his shop is all from the West, grass fed, raised with care, and definitely not from CAFOs. He also sells the offal, and he also makes vegan/vegetarian stocks, gives space to a baker who is making http://www.gafasraybanoutletes.com/ breads from ancient grains, and he has a few excellent raw milk cheeses and other raw dairy. He plans to feature vegetables as the season progresses (and a farmer was present that day) and the store finds its stride. In short, he’s mixing things up while offering wholesome, nourishing food that’s traceable and has integrity. And since Joseph and I feel that we try to do the same in our work, only without the animals, we thought, why not join forces with Tom? I posted about the event on Facebook and those who were offended were free to let me know. And I do understand.

But I believe in the open table, a place where people can come to eat regardless of preferences, labels, and such, where vegan, vegetarian and omnivore can sit down together and break bread together. Exploring inclusiveness has always been the intention behind my work, and while I thoroughly enjoy the meatless meals I cook, I don’t like a label that pushes others away so I’ve never really felt comfortable with the word “vegetarian.” I don’t use it to describe an exclusive lifestyle, but more as an option. (That’s why it’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.”) We can all enjoy plant foods and have meals that are without meat whether we do so everyday, only on Monday’s, or on more or less frequent occasions.

Today, more than any other time, plant based way of eating is respected and even seen as valuable to one’s health and well-being. A meatless meal is now a viable option to the usual menu offerings of lamb, salmon, chicken and beef, regardless of who is eating. When recently interviewed by a graduate student who was doing a project on plant-based diets I was taken aback when he said, by way of introducing a question, “Nutritionists today say that with a plant based or vegetarian diet you’ll get all the nutrition you need.” I had to ask him if I had Ray Ban outlet heard him correctly, because that’s a huge change. The questions used to be, “Do you get enough protein?” And the assumption was you weren’t. (Another reason for saying I wasn’t a vegetarian – I didn’t want to answer that question all my life.) Nutritionists, dieticians, and doctors were very concerned about all the lacking elements in a meatless diet. No more, apparently, and that’s terrific. Now it’s a plus not to eat meat.

In the 30 plus years I’ve been involved with cooking dishes based on plants rather than meat, vegetarians have gone from being weirdos who had to defend their diets to something entirely more mainstream. Now it’s not a big deal if you say you’re a vegetarian or a vegan. And one might be a hardcore or simply experimenting. I have a niece who says she’s a vegan because she doesn’t trust or like the animal foods that are offered as part of the meal plan in college. She grew up on a farm and has parents who discern the differences between industrial food and well-raised food. Does that mean she’s really a vegan? For the moment, it’s a strategy. It might stick or not. I’ve taught more than one vegetarian cooking classes in which someone confesses that although they’ve been a strict vegetarian for twenty years they now dream of eating turkey. It’s possible that we change. I also know a 3rd generation Australian vegetarian (unlikely, when you think about it) who doesn’t even know the taste of meat and isn’t curious about it nor does he think of its absence as a lack. Others might be happy little vegetarians until they smell that roast pork shoulder studded with garlic and laced with rosemary or that roast chicken being pulled from the oven, then they succumb to something larger and possibly more fundamental than their ideals.

It’s also quite possible that one can be truly offended by the smell of meat. And the thought of animals being killed. After all, none go willingly to slaughter. I think about this a lot. Such people shouldn’t come to a butcher shop for a vegetarian book signing, but others might come and also take advantage of those vegan stocks, those nutty-chewy breads, that raw milk and amazing raw milk cheeses—even if they don’t eat meat. Hopefully there is room for all kinds in this world. In fact, the event was included a great big happy mix of people. Some ignored the meat. Others ignored me and Joseph. But it all felt good. Kind of like family.