Fifteen years

Fifteen years ago this month, I decided to become a vegetarian. My reasons then and now are varied and rooted in ethical, environmental, social, and health concerns. I had been thinking about vegetarianism for a while at that point, and the proverbial straw for me was an article in the January 1993 issue of Outside about an athlete and fitness trainer named Steve Ilg (and later I read his book, The Outdoor Athlete, which is somewhere in the book storage room in my basement).

He advocated vegetarianism partly out of compassion for animals but also out of the belief that eating meat negatively affects your body and makes it hard to reach your fullest potential when rock climbing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, etc. (In the early 1990s he also advocated—well, for himself, at least—wearing a Kajagoogoo-esque hairstyle. Fortunately, he no longer seems to be riding that trend.)

Aside from infrequent longings for seafood (for which vegetarian substitutes are few and far between), I haven’t missed meat. I never was a steak lover, pork chops didn’t thrill me, and even Thanksgiving turkey never appealed to me much. I’m still pleased with my decision—and delighted to have married a vegetarian (Jan’s coming up on twenty years this fall, I believe) and happy to be raising a vegetarian daughter.

So it seems only fitting that I recently had an urge to return to an old culinary favorite. Yes, I love Deborah Madison’s cookbooks (and Madhur Jaffrey’s and lots of other people’s), but when I am looking for vegetarian food that can be described as “homestyle” or “down home” or “comforting” or “basic,” I turn to something like Laurel’s Kitchen or the Moosewood cookbooks—both the ones by the Moosewood Collective and the ones by Mollie Katzen.

p1269103broccoli126.jpgOne of the first cookbooks I ever bought was Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I bought it during my first semester of graduate school, when I was responsible for cooking all of my own food (since I no longer lived in campus housing) and worked in a local health-food store.

I loved this book—I still do. My copy is food stained and well worn, and my favorite recipe in it is the one that give the book its title. Rooted in a bed of herbed brown rice held together with eggs and cheese is a forest made up of broccoli trees. I hadn’t made this dish in at least nine years, and I’d forgotten just how good it is. So had Jan, who remarked, “I didn’t remember that this dish was so good.” Sylvia wasn’t terribly impressed (she’s in a food phase now, and it seems there are only about three or four things she’ll deign to eat these days), though she did love the “magic broccoli forest.”

3 Responses to “Fifteen years”

  1. Katie Jon 30 Jan 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I have that cookbook but have never made that recipe, but I have a forest in my fridge, so perhaps I’ll make it soon.

  2. Ruthon 31 Jan 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Congratulations on fifteen years of vegetarianism! My husband has been one for about that long, and I’ve been a vegetarian for about five years. Enchanted Broccoli Forest was also the first vegetarian cookbook I ever bought (even before I was a vegetarian), but I’ve never made the title dish. I’ll have to give it a try! My favorite vegetarian cookbooks are Jeanne Lemlin’s.

  3. Marshaon 03 Feb 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Katie and Ruth: You both have that cookbook and haven’t made the enchanted broccoli forest yet? Hop to it! It’s such a fun and delicious recipe—I think you’ll love it! Let me know when you give it a try. :)

    Ruth: Another friend also recommended some of Lemlin’s books. I managed to find them at my local library, and they are pretty good!