Jude's culinary journey

Will do, won’t do

Posted 2/21/23

When the raw food movement gained popularity a couple of decades ago, I was not sold. Who finds comfort in the midst of a bitter-cold winter eating uncooked kale?

We had a friend who plunged …

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Jude's culinary journey

Will do, won’t do


When the raw food movement gained popularity a couple of decades ago, I was not sold. Who finds comfort in the midst of a bitter-cold winter eating uncooked kale?

We had a friend who plunged head-first into this fad. To dine with us, I told him, “I have lettuce, endive and arugula. Bring a carrot and some radishes from your garden and I’ll whip you up a nice vinaigrette.”

I soon tired of catering to his strict dietary rules and needs, as did he.

I won’t entertain vegans. Bravo to those who are hypersensitive to the idea of being mindful of any living entity. I don’t pretend to understand the concept fully, and have no idea or interest in refraining from cooking with butter, eggs and cheese—to name a few. I don’t care to try cheese made from cashews, or drink a glass of milk derived from rice, oats or hemp seeds. That’s me, but each to their own. I just can’t have you over for supper.

I will cook for vegetarians, though I have to admit I can’t understand why a substantial number of them feel it’s okay to consume fish. Why is it all right to believe that sea creatures, who are mostly caught by having a metal hook embedded in their cheeks, are less sensitive than other creatures?

Whatever. Fish is tasty, and maybe that’s the end of it. Who doesn’t like a creamy, chunky lobster roll on a hot summer day?

Cooking for vegetarians is easy enough, though it poses some challenges. A meal composed solely of raw and cooked vegetables doesn’t strike me as solid or filling enough. A typical addition to a meatless meal is some kind of carb, whether it be grains or bread. Thankfully, vegetarians are open to cheese as a component in their meals. I always have at least five or six types of cheese in my fridge, and often use it in my cooking.

So, when I plan meals for vegetarian friends, I feel I have a broader scope. I have an extensive repertoire of recipes that I’ve developed over a writing and cooking career spanning more than 20 years. And I have hundreds of choices in my files and dozens of cookbooks I can flip through for new ideas. I also have at least a half-dozen cookbooks devoted to vegetables, including four solely on their use in Italian recipes.  

As some of you might know, when I was in my teens I was deeply interested in leading a healthful life, and changed my diet accordingly. I followed this way of thinking and eating for over 30 years. I cut out beef, lamb, pork and veal (the last I still won’t eat).

Nowadays, I’m lucky that there is an abundance of free-range, antibiotic-free, healthily raised and mindfully slaughtered meat and fowl out there.

Back when I attended the High School of Art and Design, a group of us interested in experimenting with removing meat from our diets—as well as preservative-laden foods, white sugar and white flour—began bringing dishes, as if it were a potluck, to the cafeteria daily. We sampled each other’s offerings and consumed vast amounts of beans in every guise and multiple types of grains, as well as silken, soft, firm and extra-firm tofu—a sponge for myriad seasonings and sauces.

Fast forward to the present. Company is coming at the end of the month. I have known Lisa since high school. Over the years, we forged a strong bond, are in touch often, and see each other whenever we can. Our outlooks on life sometimes differ, and our experiences growing up could not have been more disparate. Yet when Lisa and I are together, the flow of conversation moves like an endless stream. I don’t recall any topic being verboten—none too intimate, strange, appalling, moving or depressing.

Lisa and I both still maintain healthful diets, but she has remained a vegetarian whereas I have not. Eating out with my dear friend (who is willing to eat fish but will only eat certain types) is more complicated than with, say, my longtime friend, Cindy, who is like me in that she loves trying new foods, including those with unusual textures and unique preparations.

Lisa’s vegetarianism isn’t, for the most part, what gets in the way of our dining together. She, like Cindy, prefers to share the food we order, but I am often just a little frustrated by her limited diet and disinterest in experimenting with foods she’s never tried.

When I was growing up, my parents insisted we try whatever was put before us at the dining table. If we didn’t like it, we needn’t finish it. But we had to give it a chance. We were taken to restaurants specializing in a variety of ethnicities and learned to revel in Spanish, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Turkish, Chinese and Italian food.

Lisa’s family did not own a car, so they ate out rarely. Her mom was of Hungarian heritage, but mostly cooked Italian to please her Sicilian husband. Though they lived only a few short blocks from hundreds of Asian restaurants, the whole family seemed reticent to explore the foods out there.

So today, when I plan for a visit with Lisa, I think long and hard about what I’ll prepare while she’s at our place.  Recently, I typed out a list of foods for me to choose from that I believe she will be willing to eat. Here it is:

  • Avocado toast topped with cherry tomatoes on good whole-grain toast
  • Black bean, corn, tomato, scallion and cilantro salad with lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salmon with citrus brown-sugar glaze
  • Swordfish with tomato compote
  • Watermelon salad with cucumber curls, feta and mint
  • Cheese quesadillas
  • Savory bread pudding  (strata) with kale or spinach, and mushrooms
  • Thai coleslaw on glass (cellophane) noodles
  • Cherry tomato clafouti
  • Grilled or broiled tofu with miso

That should cover it, I think. None of the above sound too bizarre or use ingredients foreign to most folks. I’ve made them all before, so it won’t be a challenge for me to try to please her. Let’s just hope my guest enjoys her visit and isn’t scared away by some item I imagined, incorrectly, she’d be delighted to try.

raw food, diets, vegetarian, vegan


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