A long time ago, I volunteered at Outermost Community Radio, WOMR-FM, in Provincetown. My friend Kathy Shorr gave me her show, Monday First Light, and I rose at dawn, dragged a bunch of LP’s to the station, and played music from 6am-9am. I was very, very happy. Then, Denya LeVine suggested we do a show called Veggie Bites. Or was it Veggie Bits? Denya and I produced, wrote, and directed three minute segments on food. Among other things, I learned how to splice together tape, a skill that probably has gone the way of, well, vinyl records.
One of our features was on tofu. It was Denya who taught me to press tofu, to take a cutting board, balance it on the block of tofu, then weigh that down with a five-pound jar of beans. Every time I press tofu, I think of Denya.
These days, the recipes I see for tofu don’t call for pressing. Why is that? Does anyone know?
The best tofu dish I ever had was served when I was a guest of my student John Parbst and his wife out in Long Island. John made this tofu barbeque that was amazing.
The best tofu dish I’ve made comes straight out of Annie Sommerville’s Fields of Green cookbook, p.273. She credits it to Tassajara. It involves ginger, garlic, and soy. I leave out the dry mustard–never a staple on my cupboard–and I’m sure I must leave out the sake (I haven’t made this in years) but the result, properly marinated, is utterly delicious.
Back in Provincetown, I had three cookbooks: Mosewood; Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East; and Anna Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two. Book One, I’m told had recipes paired with marijuana, but Book Two did not. Mostly, I used Moosewood. Every Saturday, we had a potluck, those of us at the Fine Arts Work Center, and mostly, we came up with variations of pasta. Though I can’t really recall any of those potlucks now, I think they were important to our creative souls and sense of community. Even today, I wish I had a regular potluck to attend.
I’ve cooked my way through the usual suspects in vegetarian cooking: Julie Sahni’s exquisite Classic Indian Vegetarian & Grain Cooking, Laurel’s Kitchen (who did not want to be Laurel,overseeing the beans in her philadendron filled, cat friendly communal kitchen?) and The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. Then I discovered The Inspired Vegatarian, with inspired photographs and recipes featuring syllabubs; The Vegetarian Table: France with equally inspired photographs of, oh, fig and arugula salad and vegetable ragout; From an Italian Garden by Judith Barrett; Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking by John Penza; How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigela Lawson( which makes for heavenly bedtime reading and really good recipes); Lord Krishna’s Cuisine by Yamuna Devi, a diciple of Srila Prabhupada; Anna Pump’s scrumptious Country Weekend Entertaining and The Loaves & Fishes Cookbook. These days, I most often consult Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day.
I still don’t eat enough vegetables or tofu. Become addicted to vegetables, a massage therapist once suggested. Words of wisdom to one addicted to sweets.
Another reading suggestion: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. It has good recipes, too.
Maybe next Tuesday, I’ll pen some thoughts on M.F.K.Fisher, Ruth Reichl, Amanda Hesser, Alice Waters, and other queens of the literary kitchen.
I received a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen from my then boyfriend, an artist. He drew little cartoon bubbles in the photographs of Laurel and her long-skirted women friends saying sweet things like, now M. can cook all these wonderful dishes for D. I tried…but they came out bland. The relationship eventually ended, but not because of the cookbook.I think. In fact, that same boyfriend also gave me a copy of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking. That’s when things really got cooking.
Indira, It’s so lovely to read this and be reminded of our forays into quick and healthy cooking LONG before it was considered important to eat “green”. Our show was mostly about eating low on the food chain and eating simply prepared vegetarian food. I look forward to reading all your musings…