The Vegetarian Cook's Bible
Pat Crocker
(Robert Rose)
This one came out a few years ago, and irritated any number of people. One charge was that the author, Pat Crocker, was not what they call a "vegan" herself. Which doesn't bother me all that much. My favorite movie critic, Anthony Lane, doesn't make films, and my favorite art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, does not, as far as I know, paint pictures. (And for that matter, my favorite religious critic, Mark Morford, does not, we would hope, attend the Church of the Foursquare Gospel.)

Ms. Crocker was roundly smacked for offering some fish recipes, even for using the word "Bible" in the title. I hope that people will forgive "Bike Magazine" for publishing The Bible of Bike Tests, and, as well as the authors of The Bible of British Taste, much less The Bible of Barbecue from Fubiz . . . much less Sylvia Plath for her short story, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"

There are quite a few parts of The Vegetarian Cook's Bible that will be greatly helpful to someone who may wish to get away from big fat steaming pork chops drowned in molasses and apple cider (the way I like them) or even worse, those who have a thing for Oyster Rockefeller . . . or mountain oysters).

For instance, for those with heart problems, there is a whole chapter "Optimizing Cardiovascular Function" which encourages more legumes, rolled oats, fruit, and flaxseed. For those who have endocrine disorders, there is another chapter on the endocrine system, and for "optimizing endocrine function," the best foods being legumes, again, and all vegetables (except white potatoes), whole grains --- including whole wheat and the now vastly overrated quinoa --- along with "nori, arame, kelp, dulse, and kombu." And spelt and kamut. Ah, so.

Spelt and kamut appear in a helpful chapter entitled "Whole and Ancient Grains."

Spelt has nothing to do with Miss Kakensphelt, our dreaded 3rd grade English teacher. But, rather, refers to a grain thought to be a favorite of our ancestors about 10,000 years ago. It is high in mucopolysaccharides, which, because of the very name, I wish to make clear, I want to hear no more of; nor eat.

Kamut, not related in any way to Kaputt! nor Curzio Malaparte, originated in the Fertile Crescent, and sounds so good, with its "mild, sweet, buttery and nutty flavor" that I might step over to Sprouts right now to pick up some to serve with my chops and yellow squash --- halved, laid tender side up in broiler, slathered with butter and ground pepper, burnt some under the flame just before slicing and eating.

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Ms. Crocker, in her notes about rice, suggests that those of us who boil up some simple brown rice from time to time might look for the twenty-five other varieties out there, including black rice, red rice, and Wehani. And on the same page, she lists ten recipes that we might want to try out, including Jambalaya, Lemon Cloud Rice Pudding, and Cajun Dirty Rice

If I am going to fault Ms. Crocker, it is because there are some warnings that need to be stuck in here and there in her Bible. In her chapter on "Nuts and Seeds," she mentions butter made from ground sesame seeds --- tahini --- but she doesn't mention what's going around the geezer world now, besides the flu and a passion for dirty rice.

Tahini, it turns out, might be helpful for those of us running out of our natural inbuilt grease job in the joints we were born with. Because of this lack, in our dotage we experience some exquisite squeeks, screeches, aches and pains when we use arms and legs for what they were originally meant for. I now put tahini in my early day banana/melon/oat fruit shake, and in the late afternoon, I nibble on a corn tortilla smeared with tahini. I'd even put it in my nightcap if Dr. Doctor would permit it, but he's such a stodge. Tahini seems to help the rusty joints.

The author recommends sweet potatoes for their high mineral content, but she ignores the most simple recipe, the one I use with my weekly dose of yams: clean the skins, rub on thick rich butter, wrap in foil, and leave in the oven (350 degrees) for an hour or so. It takes care of my sweet tooth and doesn't screw up my blood sugar that much.

Speaking of diabetes, two of the things that us old diabetics have to avoid are white potatoes and orange juice. Either and certainly both tend to put one's blood sugar into the stratosphere. (And I don't need to use my finger-prick to know this: my feet get quite tingly whenever I indulge in anything like these, or my favorite sweet yum gooey Oreos. You can almost hear the blood-o'meter singing whenever I stick a few of these in my craw.)

By the way, whenever these health food gurus encourage you to load up on your brown rice, remember what Daju Friedman mentioned briefly in her great book, Zen Cancer Wisdom. She said that brown rice, especially for those of us who may be ancient or ill, can be devilishly hard to digest. She has some recipes which show how to make it a more happy food for our tums, including soaking it overnight.

Ms. Crocker seems to downplay the huge slug of caffeine that comes in even a small jolt of black tea, and the excessive sugar rush that turns up in dried fruit like raisins or dried apricots. She does note, and deservedly so, the relaxing properties of linden tea. It's easy to get hold of in other countries, and definitely helps sleep. I have my friends brew up a heavy dose of "té de tila" and "té de siete azares" for me to nibble on during the night.

Finally, I have a complaint with most people like Crocker who tell us that broccoli is the cat's pajamas. They harp on the fact that it may help prevent cancer (which I'm not so sure of) but they don't reveal how to make it appealing for all of us. That's it: appealing! Peel broccoli just as you would a tangerine (or your love) --- and it will cook much faster and be far more tasty.

--- Pamela Wylie
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