Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One toke over the line Sweet Jesus...

"If you have passed a joint around before dinner to sharpen gustatory perceptions, you most likely will pass another one after dinner, and everyone knows what that will do=the blind munchies can strike at any time." So ends the chapter on entertaining in The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, published by Vintage Books in 1972.

I have to confess that I was of a certain age in 1972 and we had no intentions of sharpening gustatory perceptions when we passed around those oh so many joints. The gustatory results of passing them around were usually not well thought out-large amounts of buttered popcorn or wavy chips with sour cream and onion dip, lots of chocolate ice cream. The recipes and advice seem rather antiquated now but it remains one my favorite cookbooks. And, I have a LOT of cookbooks. I acquired my mother's passion for reading recipes and eventually embarked on a short lived culinary career. I have been cooking ever since I can remember although I have gotten lazy over the years. And, it is much easier for me to cook for ten than it is for two. Becoming vegetarian has made me have to think more about planning meals and this one day a week experiment with veganism makes it even more so. You cannot just hop to the grocery store without at least some idea of what you will prepare that will be nutritious and filling. Or at least I can't.

So, this wonderful vegetarian recipe book that I have been hauling around for years has a few of my favorite recipes including a whole wheat and oatmeal bread and a corn and potato chowder that is great on a cold winter's night. I got to thinking about the evolution of vegetarian cookbooks over the years. Vegetarianism is not all that uncommon in the states anymore and if you are vegan, no one looks at you like you are a freak. It is not assumed that you will pass around a joint to heighten gustatory perceptions. And while it may present a problem to your host or hostess at a dinner party you have been invited to, no one calls you disparaging names or thinks you are some sort of whack job. And I got to wondering how the vegetarian cookbooks of more current times differed than those from the early seventies.

I did a quick survey and found that I had nine cookbooks devoted to vegetarian cooking including one specifically to beans (it has bean based deserts too-pinto bean pie with whole wheat crust, yum), one devoted to high protein meals and one to raw cuisine. The raw cuisine book was a gift and I must keep it for just a bit longer before I can give it away, smacks of fanaticism to me. As far as I can tell, there is no mention of passing around a joint in any of them Vegetarianism has become much more mainstream. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop I think is one of the more interesting and creative cookbooks. It seems to modernize vegetarian meals without adding all the other worldly qualities, what my friend Pam calls "woo woo". But I keep going back to The Vegetarian Epicure not so much as a nostalgic exercise but because of it's straightforward and simple recipes at a time when it was not so cool to be vegetarian. And tonight I made Eggplant Pasta Sauce from that book. Hold the cheese if you are vegan.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves
1 medium eggplant
2 green bell peppers
3 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4 cup black olives
3 to 4 tbs capers
1 tsp crushed oregano
1/2 tsp crushed basil
salt to taste
lots of fresh-ground black pepper
12 oz tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine, more if needed

Saute minced garlic in olive oil in large skillet. Chop eggplant thoroughly without peeling. Seed and dice the green peppers. Add the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, olives and capers to the oil. Stir well until the oil is evenly coating all the vegetables. Add remaining ingredients, stir and cover. Lower the heat to a very small flame and allow the sauce to simmer gently for about one hour. Stir occasionally to keep from scorching and add more wine or some water if it gets too thick.

2009 Update-Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for some zing. I use fresh basil and oregano, which were seriously unavailable in 1972.

Last night, we tried Domines "The Eggplant People" vegetarian meatballs with Mario Batali's marinara sauce on spaghetti. It was fine but one of those engineered foods trying to mimic meat. Stick with above recipe instead.

Don't bogart that joint my friend....

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