The Times They Are A-Changin’
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” ~ Henri Bergson
I fool myself, and then something happens and I’m reminded that nothing remains the same. Everything is constantly evolving into something else.
My aunt recently sent me a vegetarian cookbook she picked up at a garage sale. It is a gem: An Apple A Day… Vegetarian Cookery by Doctors’ Wives
Published in 1967, this book does not offer a plethora of delicious, mouthwatering, vegetarian recipes. (In fact, many of them are disgusting.) However, it does offer a peak into some social constructs as well as food trends.
Food is so personal. It’s something we put inside of our bodies! What we decide to eat or not eat is our own decision. Yet, we fill that decision with so much judgment.
- “I only eat organic.”
- “Meat is murder.”
- “Carbs are the devil.”
- “I abhor dairy products.”
- “Fat free products must be healthy.”
- “I only eat food that was available when cave men lived.”
We wear our food decisions like a badge of superiority. I fall into this habit too. Then, something happens – like a 47-year-old cookbook falls into my lap – and I’m reminded that food – especially food – is trendy. So, let’s go back in time and see what this cookbook can teach us!
The book was written by doctors’ wives. Obviously, doctors are men. Obviously, their wives do the cooking. Implicit is that the recipes must be healthy because this is the food doctors are eating! Not so. Many of the recipes are completely devoid of nutrition. Plus, not only is there a chapter on desserts, but also separate chapters on pies and cakes.
All of the specific contributors do not have their own names. They are Mrs. Charles B. Witt, Mrs. Gordon P. Griggs, Mrs. Patrick Lawrence, and so on. This tradition of a wife not having any identity but her husband’s is one tradition I’m thankful has changed. Uhg.
Let’s be clear. NOT VEGETARIAN. Gelatin is made up of animal proteins, usually bones, skin, and other leftovers from meat processing. Of the 85 salad recipes in the cookbook, 46 of them (54%!) use gelatin products. This blows my mind. Molded salads were clearly trendy in the 1960s.
Ah, monosodium glutamate. This is used to bring out an umami quality to savory dishes. In 1968, it got a bad rap when a man indicated that he felt weird after eating Chinese food. MSG was blamed on his symptoms and subsequent studies have not been able to prove that MSG causes negative bodily reactions for most people. Yet, when was the last time you picked up a bottle of MSG (brand name Accent) to sprinkle on your eggs? Not me. (Check out the Tofu recipe below!)
Fake Meat Products
There are so many! Most of the entree recipes rely on fake meat to make them work. (Sneak peak – next week I’ll be giving one of these fake meat based entrees a make-over!) Proteena, Nuteena, Primeburger, Redi-burger, Worthington Ham Style Entree (affectionately called WHAM), Tenderbits, Soyameat, and many more.
If written today, these ingredients would be things like Morningstar Farms, Quorn, Gardenburger, and Field Roast. Fake meat is a great sometimes food. However, the emphasis on commercial products is a little over the top in this cookbook.
Tofu is referred to as Soy Cheese in some recipes, others have an * next to it with a little note explaining what it is and where to find it. Today, tofu is mainstream. You can find it in any grocery store and recipes for it vary from stir fries to sauces to desserts. This cookbook used it three times: in a loaf, scalloped with mayonnaise, and in a roast with cream of mushroom soup.
It’s not always about what is included, but what is excluded!
No mention of tempeh! I love these little fermented bean patties. Alas, commercially produced tempeh didn’t become widely available in the U.S. in the late 1970s.
The vegetable variety was abysmal. The vegetables that were used were often canned or frozen. Fresh vegetables were the exception, not the rule. Kale and collards are super popular right now, but excluded from this cookbook. I found myself craving more vegetables in this vegetarian cookbook…
While I won’t be cooking many recipes from this book (not without serious modifications), I did find it fascinating and illuminating to read. It reminded me that my cooking has evolved of the years too. As I continue to have cooking adventures, my style and taste will continue to change. I’m looking forward to discovering how!