Our expectation of food writing is that it will be about food, but the ancient Chinese wrote about food in terms of medicine, agriculture and ecology, rarely as food to eat. Greeks and Romans wrote about food but also wrote in terms of medicine and agriculture.
Medieval cookbooks were rolled parchments, and the recipes were only a few sentences long. Taillevent’s recipe from the 1300s reads,“Peacocks should be blown into and inflated like swans and roasted and glazed in the same way.”
In the late 1800s, a young woman named Fannie Farmer relentlessly tested recipes, listed ingredients, specified measurements and provided cooking times. Her Boston cookbook sold 4 million copies and is still in print.
Which brings us to our newest reprint, Lily Chuang and Cathy McNease’s 101 Vegetarian Delights (see “Wellness Shop”). This classic was first printed in 1992, and is brought back with its creative spelling and cheery drawings. Lily Chuang is Drs. Dao and Mao’s mother who happens to be a fabulous cook. Cathy McNease is a masterful herbologist and nutritional counselor.
Miso Soup for Winter
- 2 lbs. kabocha squash, cut into bite-size cubes
- 2 cups skinless peanuts, soaked in 7 – 10 cups water overnight or in hot water a few hours
- 1/8 cup – 1/4 cup miso (any kind), dissolved in a little water
- 2 T. ginger, finely grated
- Cilantro for garnish
- 1 sheet nori seaweed, torn into small pieces
- 1/2 lb. plain tofu, cut into bite-size cubes (optional)
In a soup pot, bring peanuts and soaking water to boil, then turn to low and simmer until tender (about 1 hour). Add kabocha squash, turn flame to medium and cook until squash gets tender (about 15 minutes). Add tofu, ginger and miso, and stir for 1 minute. Turn heat off, garnish with pieces of nori and cilantro. Serve hot.