As usual, Michael Ruhlman has a thoughtful review of Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone in the Wall Street Journal. Ruhlman is a fan and reminds us (as he does in his books) about the importance of technique versus recipe memorization—Madison is similarly inclined toward vegetables, putting much thought into their histories.
“A carrot in her garden had overgrown and gone to flower,” he writes. “She regarded the flower, appreciated its lacy umbrella form, allowed it, she said, to enchant her. Her eyes and mind wandered to similar flowers of food plants on their way to seed: parsley, fennel, cilantro, anise, even the Queen Anne’s Lace along the roadside. When aesthetic enchantment gave way to intellectual study, she discovered that these plants that fascinated her were all part of the same botanical family.”
There was a particular passage that struck me, however:
We have created a complicated food world where even plant foods come at a cost. As Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, in Manhattan, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., wrote in this newspaper, vegetables are “actually more costly than a cow grazing on grass. Vegetables deplete soil. They’re extractive. If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the largest withdrawals. . . . Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. . . . There is no such thing as guilt-free eating.”
More food for thought.