I consider myself pretty handy in the kitchen. These last weeks though, when it comes time to fix dinner and I face a cupboard full of whole grains and dried beans and a fridge with a few jars of goat milk and muslin sacks of in-season veggies like turnips and kale, I find myself at a bit of a loss.
It was instinct as much as luck that, looking for help, I found the old hardback copy of Laurel’s Kitchen my mama gave me when I left home. Over the years, this classic made its way to the bottom of my stack of cookbooks. No more. All my efforts to reinvent the wheel of simplicity and zero waste have circled me back round to the original movement to do just that. These women figured it out before I was even born.
While modern food politics have rendered some of their glowing recommendations obsolete (soy spread? better butter? wheat germ? yogurt from milk powder? no, no, no, no!) the heart of their approach is timeless. They cover everything from crackers to sprouts to pudding in the simplest way possible, and their ingredients call for fresh, whole foods. Just like the ones that had recently taken over my kitchen.
But lots of cookbooks do this. Some of them with much better recipes. What sets this one apart is that what those ladies were cooking up in Laurel’s Kitchen circa 1976 was a revolution. They speak out about excessive consumption, poor nutrition, the power of the homemaker to transform society, and the extent to which we waste the world’s resources at the cost of our humanity, not to mention the ecological balance of the planet. We have the power to impact all of this, they reminded me, from our humble kitchens.
And then I had to stop reading, because the beans really needed to get soaking.