Mollie Katzen has made vegetarian food mainstream

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Mollie Katzen is one of the pioneers of the lifestyle that we now & # 39; wellness & # 39; to mention. In 1974 Katzen wrote and illustrated a collection of vegetarian recipes. She was trained as an artist and did all the pen-and-ink letters, line drawings and erratic borders around each recipe. She ensured that 5,000 copies were printed, spiral bound and published in Ithaca, New York. From that first, truly handmade project, Katzen became one of the best selling cookbook writers of all time, with more than six million copies in print. Yet her name is not nearly as well known as the title of the book, which shares its name with a café that she helped to set up as part of a collective: Moosewood. Over the past four decades, the name Moosewood itself has been synonymous with American vegetarian dishes from the 70s and 80s. "" Was not the first book with vegetarian recipes (the "Diet for a small planet" by Frances Moore Lappe and the "Vegetarian" Epicure "by Anna Thomas, preceded it, among other things). However, it was demonstrably the most attractive. Moosewood became a manual for vegetarian cuisine, the most consulted manual for meat free meal planning. In the decades after his publication, Katzen's book was the most used cookbook that you would find in an apartment outside the campus, a student greenhouse, a health shop or a bookstore. The ingredient lists were never too long, never too many steps, or techniques that reached too far – nothing more than a student or novice cook could handle.

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Cats & # 39; s recipes borrow from the world's kitchens: Brazilian black bean soup, eggplant parmesan cheese, hummus, Chinese peanut sauce on noodles, Russian cabbage borscht, spanakopita, lemon mousse and hundreds more. Her books are full of dishes that we now take for granted on restaurant menus – favorites such as cereals, smoothies, soba noodle salads and veggie burgers – and many that are worth a visit. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who loves to see that zuccanoes make a comeback!) A lot of Katzen's kitchen looked exotic at the time, but today it feels just as reassuring and familiar as 1950's favorites such as meatloaf and chicken pot pie. She found a way to replace the meat in famous favorites such as lasagne, chili, even hamburgers, and along the way she created a new comfort food, with all the features of hippie from the 70s: think of spinach lasagna, mushroom moussaka, chili of three beans and hamburgers with lentils and walnuts. Cats & # 39; s first book and the others who followed were friendly, warm, approachable and affordable. (Alice Waters called her "unpretentious and homely at the same time.") They appeared at a time when people were confused about preparing tasty meals without meat, poultry or fish. Over the years they have helped shift the idea of ​​what a complete meal might look like and taste, while vegetables and noodles went from the side to the center of the plate and the awareness of a plant-based diet came from the edge removed to the mainstream. As Katzen has told you Good Cookery in 1989, "My attitude in writing Moosewood had to assume that the reader knew little or nothing about vegetarian cooking, making it as user-friendly as possible and appealing to the reader as if talking to a friend. & # 39;

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At the beginning of 1977, the original Moosewood book was printed and distributed by Ten Speed ​​Press. Katzen published 11 cookbooks, plus three recipe books for children. Among the best-selling (and most beloved) are "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and "Still Life with Menu." Katzen left the Moosewood Collective in 1978. (After a legal battle, the members of the collective retained the rights to the Moosewood name and published several bestseller cookbooks, without involvement of Katzen.) She lived in Berkeley, California, for decades, is a of the founders of the Leadership Council of the Harvard School of Public Health, and remains at the faculty of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives project. Katzen was admitted to the Cookbook Hall of Fame of the James Beard Foundation in 2007 and included in it Health magazine & # 39; s list of "Five women who changed the way we eat." The books and recipes of Mollie Katzen are rooted in a changing period of American history, supported by the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. They encouraged so many of us to deliberately choose the food that we put on our plate, to create a Better health and a long life for ourselves and our planet. Certainly, that is a message that never goes out of fashion.