Cornucopia, Ch 3
The secret bookshelf in my life’s secret room is stuffed with cookbooks. My kitchen bookshelves, on the other hand, hold a more manageable 70 or 80 volumes. Of those, I reliably pull three. Planning for this season’s weekly CSA produce box, I turn without question or fail to Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Like canned tomatoes, dried pasta or a big bag of rice, Madison’s work is a staple. It’s always there, ready for consultation. She’s passionate, practical and insightful. My children think that my pancake recipe is brilliant. What they really mean is that Madison’s pancake recipe is brilliant. Someday, I’ll correct their misperception.
Madison is a product of the San Francisco culinary scene, although she now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She cooked at Chez Panisse and launched Greens, a vegetarian restaurant birthed through San Francisco’s Zen Center. Madison was and is part of a cooking movement that elevated vegetarian cuisine way beyond mushy zucchini and undercooked brown rice.
VCE guides readers to understand food’s elemental role. It can be as simple or as complicated as circumstance permits or dictates. While Madison easily conveys a recipe, she’s more concerned with teaching sustenance and nurturing family and community. That’s why I continue to read her. Barley, for example, is revealed for the whole grain kitchen backbone that it is. Here’s how to cook barley, Madison writes. Now, here’s what else you can do.
After awhile, Madison’s recipes fade into the background as her faith in strong and fresh ingredients claims the conversation.
I don’t need many, if any, excuses to pull out my copy of VCE. But, now that I have a better sense of my CSA provider, Norm-the-Grower, I’m anticipating the season’s bounty and the CSA box’s opportunity. Buying and eating local is my choice. If we make it a state public policy-supported option, Minnesota moves forward. Then, we all win even bigger.