The Original Moosewood Cookbook

by Mary on March 23, 2012

a very beat-up copy of the original Moosewood Cookbook

Our very beat-up copy of the original Moosewood Cookbook

Before my husband and I met, we both began cooking in our respective housing co-ops. Each of us owned a copy of the original Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. When we became one household, I gave my copy to my mom and we kept his. Ours is battered but still in service.

It’s interesting to look back at old cookbooks and see how our ideas about food and cooking have changed. The ’70’s and ’80’s vegetarian cookbooks were not just about the food, but about the ideal of co-operative and collective workplaces where work would be equitable and satisfying.

Moosewood itself is and was a collective, worker-managed restaurant. The cookbook’s preface states that “there is no specific dogma attached to the Moosewood cuisine” but that their customers were “drawn to the restaurant for the experience of a meal cooked with skill and care.”

The original Moosewood cookbook is quite different from the leaner revised version. Moosewood, and other cookbooks I have from the same time period, predate the trend toward low-fat cooking and show no concern about saturated fat. The recipes call for quite a bit of butter and cream and include dishes like Ricotta Cheesecake. The recipes call for whole grains only occasionally, with many of them calling for white flour or a mixture of whole wheat and white flour.

Another cooking trend of the time was to use carob as a substitute for chocolate. I’m not sure why chocolate was suspect. This was way before anyone thought about the potential beneficial effects of the flavonoids in dark chocolate on such things as heart and brain health.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but at the time you couldn’t walk into your average neighborhood grocery store and find hummus on the shelf. If you brought something like tabouli to a potluck people would think you were strange and start talking about ‘rabbit food.’ So the Moosewood Cookbook was a great way to get to know some basic vegetarian dishes from around the world.

Some of the recipes I first learned from the Moosewood Cookbook: falafel, hummus, Kristina’s Potato Salad, lentil soup, raita, pesto, rice pudding, samosas, Solyanka, tabouli, and Vegetable Stroganoff. Most of these recipes I cook quite differently now, as I’m sure she does, too. But the cookbook itself still has a special place in my heart, wrapped up as it is with the time and the kitchen where I first learned vegetarian cooking. I’m sure it fills that place for many people, which is why it was named to the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

TastefullyJulie March 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

That’s even more tattered than my Moosewood cookbooks. I haven’t met a Moosewood recipe I didn’t like.


mary March 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm

The wear is pretty impressive. It’s like the old teddy bear of the cookbook shelf. I think the copy that went to my mom had an easier life, but perhaps less love.


Will March 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Mine is an original copy but not quite as tattered as your copy! I love it and also own “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest”. Thing is that using these cookbooks now always makes me feel old since many of the memories I have from the recipes are from so long ago.
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mary March 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Yes! At the time I was cooking for thirty in a restaurant-scale kitchen. I remember making yogurt in a pot so big I could barely get it off the stove and covering it with a sleeping bag to keep it warm so it would turn into yogurt overnight. Besides the huge pots and pans, I remember the music, plants, the big mural in the dining room, all the people gathering for dinner. Lots of memories!


OneMommy March 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

It definitely looks like a well-loved book!
I had heard of carob being used – not sure why it was chosen over chocolate either… It’s interesting how cooking changes through the years!
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mary March 27, 2012 at 1:25 am

Maybe it was the caffeine in chocolate that was in question. It is interesting to see the fads come and go. Yesterday whole wheat was the thing, today it’s gluten-free. Actually carob can be good if you aren’t thinking of it as fake chocolate. We had a recipe for St. John’s bread with carob and dates that was quite good. I’ll have to dig for that sometime.


Claudia Garcia May 4, 2014 at 8:46 pm

When i first went to live in London my boyfriend had a copy like yours (although a bit less banged up!) and we cooked a lot of things from there. Two things i remember was the potatoes with tarragon and a date and walnut cake. Would you be so kind as to share the potato recipe with me. Non of the ones i find in the net seem to be quite the same as i remember. Perhaps it is just mzy memory.


mary May 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

I don’t see a potato dish like that from the Moosewood, but I think you are remembering Potatoes Tarragon from Laurel’s Kitchen. I will email you something about that.


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