The notion of plant-based food being meals-minus-meat always rubs me the wrong way. Call me a glass-half-full omnivore. I've had my vegetarian phase and am now happily an eater of most everything. But the resistance of some to "give up meat" strikes me as fundamentally the wrong way to approach it. As a friend once put it "when someone hears I'm a vegetarian, they always frown and think how sad, imagining that I am eating buns without burgers or something."
Listening to my friend Joe Yonan read from his new book Eat Your Vegetables the other night at Trident, I was struck again by how charming and thoughtful and funny he is. "Is it time to stop mocking mock meats?" he asks. And while his book buying fans, vegetarians and veg-curious, (some of whom went home empty handed due to a sold out inventory!) munched on kimchi deviled eggs (p.146) and poblano tapenade (p. 151) and chips, the reading was classic Joe: I had to take notes, I had questions, I was curious, I laughed. And that tapenade, sweetie, is to die for.
Feeding Others, Feeding Ourselves
The past week has been a tough one for us here, work challenges for both of us, sinusitis and migraine for me, anniversary of my late Grandmother's birthday, etc. (you don't want to know about the etc., trust me.) So we're looking forward to the holiday weekend even though I'll have to work. Try taking a day off when you're a loft-dwelling freelancer. Let me know how that works out.
Yesterday evening was an example of why we, Me and Doc, work. How we work. In any relationship, clients, family, partners, you have moments when you are wise to hold your tongue and do the opposite of what you're feeling. Give rather than ask, compliment rather than criticize; after all this person at whom you may feel like lashing out against probably cares for you and probably is not intentionally being difficult.
On good days, we can take a deep breath, a step back, and remind ourselves of that. On days when we've had crushing pain in our head for nearly two weeks, we can find that reservoir of kindness dry. "We" have been having that sort of time lately. Of course, I mean me.
Digging deep, and feeling very sorry for Doc after a night of watching him clean up others' messes, all night, I decided to fill his cookie jar. This is a cookie jar I got for Doc for Christmas. Since I cannot afford the sorts of gifts he'd prefer (a new Land Rover, a Jaeger le Coultre watch) I have to go with more humble gifts. This is one of those. It reminds him that I love him. It reminds me that I don't have to do extravagant expensive things to make him happy. I can, in the simple gesture of filling a cookie jar, show him he is cared for.
Yesterday, I thought he needed that. I made these cookies from Joe's great book. Carl's Chocolate Chunk Cookies comes with a headnote about caring for his then new boyfriend who was under the weather, first by making him soup, then by making him cookies. Who wouldn't feel better after that?
Joe's lovely book is a reminder that food, whether it's meat centered or not, vegetable laden or not, free of mock meat or not, food is something we can use to comfort and value ourselves and others. As he reminds us, the seatbelt warnings on airplanes "place your own mask over your nose and mouth first..." we must care for ourselves first, then we're fortified and able to respond to the needs of others. Fill your own cookie jar!
Doc came home with a surprise for me, too. A giant ciabatta from Panzano's - I immediately tore into it, sliced up a Purple Cherokee tomato and was in heaven. We take care of each other in these small but important ways.
The Book Itself
Because Joe has written "for the single cook", one might think the recipes are only for single cooks. Let me assure you this book is perfect for a couple as well. As many of us have come to find out, at a certain point, our weight does not respond the way it once did to simple interventions. I once used to eat anything I liked, in any quantity I wanted, and never gained an ounce. I have never forgiven my body for the betrayal of losing that capacity.
As a cook, I find it hard to cook in smaller proportions and these recipes help. Make a couple of them for a small plates or tapas style dinner, or double one up for two, or add a salad or a grain. Do we really need two dozen or four dozen cookies all the time? Not always. Here we have ten perfect, giant cookies. A healthy, portion-controlled indulgence.
More good news:
- Recipes that are straightforward, use simple ingredients and they work. They are also delicious.
- Headnotes and longer essays interspersed between recipes will have you nodding, laughing, and thinking.
- Particularly useful are the notes about scaling recipes, about using up ingredients, storing things. His relaxed manner should set even novice cooks at ease.
- Helpful sidebars throughout give even more advice to help you cook once, eat twice and so on.
So I do urge you to Serve Yourself and to Eat Your Vegetables and to remember, if you're single and you don't value yourself enough to feed yourself well, don't you think that others will take their cue from that? Whether you're single or not, pick up one or both of Joe's books and I promise you, your cosmic cookie jar will overflow. Now, go forth and cook!