Could we please just eat?! August 6, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: cookbooks, raw food cookbooks, vegan cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks
Silence Dogood here. Yeah, all right, our friend Ben just wrote a post, “The cookbook wars continue,” making fun of my obsessive cookbook collecting, my enjoyable quest for personable, delightful cookbooks. Fine. I like cookbooks. I love cookbooks. You have a problem with that?
After giving Ben a few choice comments on that post, I checked out my Yahoo! mail and saw that our dear friend Huma had forwarded a New York Times article by Mark Bittman called “Rich, Luxurious, French (Not to Mention Vegetarian).” It was about his visit to a restaurant called La Zucca Magica in Nice (that’s in France, for those who are geographically challenged; say “neece,” not “nice”). This restaurant happens to be vegetarian (“zucca” means gourd or squash; you can see the relationship to “zucchini”). Bittman proclaimed the restaurant good and traditional, despite the bizarrity of its location. (As he says, “The French can be quite hostile to vegetarianism.”)
What makes it possible for La Zucca Magica to thrive in Nice and to satisfy omnivores as well as vegetarians? Quoting Bittman, “Zucca’s owners, Marco Folicaldi and Rossella Bolmida, believe in sizable portions… and extremely rich food. If you associate ‘vegetarian’ with ‘meager’, this place will change your mind.”
Which brings me full circle. It’s horrifying to me to go into bookstores and see the vegetarian sections dominated by minimalist, vegan, raw-food cookbooks. Rather than delighting in books that, for example, tell vegetarian cooks how to create authentic Lebanese or Greek or Thai or Vietnamese cuisine, vegetarian-style, the shelves groan with books that tell us how to imitate meat by torturing soybeans, create raw-food meals with five ingredients or less, or reduce our portions to pinhead size while eliminating all fats and flavor.
Folks, this is a sea change. Prior to the raw-food, postage-stamp-portions trend, vegetarian cookbooks celebrated abundance and flavor and joy. It all reminds me of the saints and latter-day mystics whose goal is surviving on nothing but air. Pitiful, miserable anorexics, say I. Food should be pleasurable. Food should be joyful. Meals should not leave you hungry. Food should be an opportunity to thank God Creator for the bounty we have been given, the delight we find in deliciousness and abundance.
Puritans, go eat raw seaweed—but not too much, God forbid—and flog yourselves if you want anything more. Everybody else, let me just say that vegetarian cooking is not about paucity and deprivation. It’s about delicious food and plenty of it. It’s about celebration. It’s completely about joy, both in the cooking and in the eating. As all good food should be.
‘Til next time,