The New Vegetarian Epicure

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Cooks who were young in the 1970’s can now prepare up-to-date Anna Thomas recipes for their children. This cookbook presents 325 new recipes, arranged by season and menu, by the woman whose first cookbook, THE VEGETARIAN EPICURE (1972) showed the more sophisticated of the 1970’s counterculture crowd that vegetarian cooking could be more than soybean mush.

Everything that was wonderful about THE VEGETARIAN EPICURE is still present in THE NEW VEGETARIAN EPICURE: Thomas’s view of food as a celebration of life, the enthusiasm with which she approaches her ingredients, the pleasure she finds in thoughtful menu planning, and the friendly, chatty style that makes readers feel she wrote the book just for them. Yet the book is as much a reflection of the 1990’s as Thomas’s first book was of the 1970’s. The fare is lighter (you can turn page after page without running into cheese), the influences are diverse (from the American Southwest to the Mediterranean), and much consideration is given to time-pressured families (for example, there are “Five Easy Pasta Dinners” and “Four Easy Soup Dinners”). Interspersed among the recipes are essays on ingredients increasingly familiar to everyday cooks, such as nopalitos, chillies, and wild mushrooms, as well as commentary on modern culinary life, such as “The California Tea” and “What Do Children Eat?”

The book’s physical characteristics extend the charm of the original: the type and the drawings by Rodica Prato are the colors of eggplant and pumpkin, and the paper is the color of garlic skin. Thus the book is as pleasant to handle as the vegetables it suggests. In fact, when one compares the experiences of slicing a carrot and slicing a slab of raw beef, one can begin to understand the basis for Thomas’s vegetarianism: it is no longer dogma as much as sensibility. Indeed, she demonstrates a mature respect for the omnivorous nature of her species by including, in her Thanksgiving menu, a recipe borrowed from her husband for spit-roasted turkey.