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.