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Could we please just eat?! August 6, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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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,




1. kate - August 6, 2008

I’m so with you on this! The vegetarian cookbooks I remember reading in the 1980s and 1990s were full of wonderful, creative and interesting recipes … food should taste good and delight all of our senses. Silence is wise … I hope Ben listens to her, but good!

Thanks, Kate! I think I’ll print out your comment and post it on the fridge where Ben can see it early and often!—Silence

2. Cinj - August 6, 2008

It’s true. The cookbooks out there don’t offer much variety in the vegetarian cooking areas. I’m trying to help my kids eat healthier foods and there aren’t many things out in stores that seem all that interesting

Believe it or not, some of the best recent veggie cookbooks I’ve seen are on vegetarian grilling! See if you can find one next time you’re in a bookstore and let me know what you think of it!

3. Curmudgeon - August 6, 2008

I’ve yet to meet a richer, more delectable, more luscious and joy inducing brownie than the Moosewood Fudge Brownie. Just saying…

Ha!!! I developed the most fabulous coffee pound cake from a Moosewood recipe many years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites!

4. Alan - August 6, 2008

Thanks Silence!

The way forward can’t depend on “voluntary deprivation”. Its just not a lifestyle that is attractive to enough people that it can foment change.

Life, and food, should be celebrated and savored! The trick is to find ways that don’t destroy the rest of the community in the process.



P.S. For my thoughts on vegetarianism you can look at http://www.robertsroostecofarm.com/2008/01/meat-headed-farmboys-thoughts-on.html

Thanks, Alan!!! You make some great points.

5. VP - August 7, 2008

Try the River Cafe cookbooks – a lovely celebration of Italian influenced veggie food from a very famous restaurant in London – yum!

Yum is right, VP!!! I’ll head over to Amazon and check ’em out. Thanks!

6. Comfortable Jeans » Blog Archive » Take Me Away To: La Zucca Magica in Nice, France - August 13, 2008

[…] Could we please just eat?! […]

7. ceecee - August 13, 2008

I’m very late to this party, as I was out of town, but I have a suggestion that might cool poor Ben back to 98.6. My daughter, as many young girls, was in love with stuffed animals. So much so, that I’m sure her collection had exceeded 100 animals. To curb her adding any more and making sure she had room in her bedroom for things like dressers and bed, we made a deal. If she wanted to add any more to her collection, she needed to pass a current one off to a friend or to Goodwill.

Maybe, Silence, you could make such a deal with Ben? Add a lovely new book and give one that isn’t quite as wonderful as you thought to a friend or your local library. If not, then more power to you! You’re a grown up. You aren’t adding cats to your family or breaking any federal laws. Goodness knows you could be adding dust-gathering figurines of nuns or something equally as questionable.
Just sayin’.

I call that the “one in, one out” rule, and I agree, it’s a good one. But in the case of my cookbooks, Ben would doubtless suggest one in, ten out! Sigh…

8. ceecee - August 13, 2008

Okay, I’m sleep deprived from my trip. The post above was meant to go in your Cookbook Wars post. Please forgive me.

No worries! Hope you had fun!!!

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