Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Laurel's Kitchen

(Blogjob tags: 1970’sCalifornia health foodrecipe for homemade soy milkvegetarian catvegetarian cookbookvegetarian dog foodvegetarian nutritionvegetarian recipes.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: Laurel's Kitchen 
Author: Laurel Robertson et al.
Date: 1976 (Nilgiri), 1978 (Bantam)
Publisher: Nilgiri (1976), Bantam (1978)
ISBN: 0-553-12278-9
Length: 596 pages plus index
Quote: "Laurel's Kitchen is meant to be the book we wish we had had five or six years ago: good, practical recipes that hold up well over time."
And the consensus of public opinion is that that's what it's been.
It's also a guide to basic vegetarian nutrition. However, vegetarian nutrition--as distinct from vegan nutrition--is easy. All the animal fat and protein a body really needs can be obtained from milk and egg products. Nobody becomes malnourished just by deciding to stop eating animals' dead bodies. Other complications, like inabilities to use milk and eggs, would have to set in. There's a lot of scientific information about nutrition in Laurel's Kitchen--and that's pretty much what it boils down to, although the nutrient tables, lists of vegetarian sources of specific nutrients, and references to nutritionists' and doctors' work can be useful.
The part of this book people read, mark up, and wear out, will be the approximately 250 pages of recipes. They're classified into breads, breakfast foods, basic foods, sandwiches, salads, soups, single vegetables, mixed vegetables, sauces, "Heartier Dishes," grains, beans, desserts, "Vegetarian Cooking with an International Flavor," and dog food.
Vegetarian pets? Absolutely. People who can use milk, egg, and wheat products don't have to eat flesh to share food with their pets. Dogs and cats can't live on a vegan diet, but they can live on a vegetarian diet. I've known vegetarian cats who seemed happy and healthy. One of them, the boardinghouse cat with whom I lived as a young college student, was seventeen years old, not fat but solid, and still able to do active cat feats such as leaping from the floor straight onto my sleeping body, then landing on his feet when he was tossed back onto the floor. Of course, the commitment to his eating a vegetarian diet was his humans', not his own, and he had been quietly supplementing his eggs, milk products, and whole grains with all the mice and crickets he'd caught over the years; he was a free-range cat. He wasn't really social, but coexisted peaceably with the junior boardinghouse cat and her total of nine healthy, promptly adopted kittens, while I was there. They were likewise vegetarians--when their humans were around. A cat who is not able to hunt may not thrive on a vegetarian diet, but a successful hunter will.
That probably wasn't what you really wanted to know about Laurel's Kitchen though. If you were asking me, you probably wanted to know what this book has to offer to people who have to eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, casein-free, or otherwise restricted diet. The answer is, enough that people following a restricted diet can work with the recipes. Laurel Robertson explains the secret of making soy milk at home (invest in the more expensive blender) and all sorts of bean, seed, nut, and vegetable protein dishes. There are tips and encouragement for growing vegetables and sprouting beans. There are lots of casserole-type dishes where brown rice will be a perfectly adequate substitute for whole wheat, and some "burger" and "Neatball" recipes, where it won't.
Many editions of this beloved book have been printed. What I physically have for sale, at the time of writing, looks on the outside like the edition shown above, only in slightly better condition, and it's older--the seventh rather than the eleventh printing of the Bantam paperback. This edition is available at this site's standard low price, $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, for a total of $10 or $11; you could squeeze at least four copies into a package, for a total of $25, if you wanted to share this book with three friends. You might find lower prices elsewhere online but, if you buy it here, I'll send $1 per copy to Robertson or a charity of her choice.