The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook

Byline: Gillian Kendall

Why The New Laurel’s Kitchen is My Favorite Cookbook

The New Laurel's Kitchen
Writing about why I love The New Laurel’s Kitchen best of my many dear cookbooks reminds me this description from the book, about a favorite vegetable…

“Trying to talk about kale is a little like trying to describe a very dear friend: there are so many nice things to tell, and yet all of them together don’t add up to what is so endearing.”

It’s not just that Laurel Robertson (and her co-writers Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal) write with personality and enthusiasm about every single dish (and many individual ingredients). It’s not just that I use this The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook more than any other, returning so often to old favorites (Soy Spread, Minestrone, Corn Chowder, Tamale Pie, Boston Baked Beans, Banana Bread, Peanut Butter Bars, etc.), that after a few decades, my first copy fell apart at the binding (even though it’s a good binding), and I had to get a new one.

Note: Ten Speed Press, in Berkeley, publishes The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook, and the design is terrific and practical for your kitchen. It’s a chunky book decorated with charming woodcuts that somehow manage to convey a real idea of what the food looks like. The cover is high-gloss so it doesn’t get stained and the 512 pages stay open well (and the binding doesn’t break for at least 20 years of hard use!).

More than recipes in The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook

But it’s not just the excellent recipes that make this my all-time favorite cookbook. In a world of great cookbooks written by thoughtful people, this one stands out because of its the philosophy and – dare I say it? – sense of community that I get from reading this book. Although I never visited the restaurant where this book began, I feel as though Laurel, Carol, and Brian were my friends as I grew up in a communal household, learning how to cook and eat splendid, gorgeous vegetarian meals. The introduction, “The Work at Hand,” reminds me of how I most like to cook – slowly, with full attention to what I’m doing, even if it’s as mundane as sorting beans or sifting flour. I’ve learnt so much from the introduction called “Search for the Optimal Diet” and the other sensible, reasonable suggestions for how we might best fulfill our needs for nutrition and get full pleasure from our food.

I love that The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook carefully and with humor explains things like how to make yogurt cheese, how to make bread, and why we don’t need to worry anymore about “combining” proteins. I’ve learnt all I know about legumes from the fantastic “Who’s Who” of beans, which describes every bean I’ve ever met and tells the simplest and best ways to cook them.

It also offers fantastically detailed, yet clear, information on nutrition, a guide to further reading, and a comprehensive index that’s truly easy to use (note: there is one error in the otherwise excellent index: it doesn’t list the page number for Many Bean Stew, which is 308).

Some people call it the “Vegetarian Bible”

I’m happy to see that it’s not just my friends and I who love The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook. Amazon’s reviewers give it an average of 4.6 out of five stars, and many reviewers mention how it’s so much more than “just” a vegetarian cookbook. Here’s one:

5.0 out of 5 stars August 8, 1999

By A Customer

Format: Paperback

I first learned of Laurel’s Kitchen in the mid-1970s when my parents gave my sister Laurel a copy for Christmas. Being an artist, I really admired the woodcut illustrations. However, I didn’t start to use the book religiously until 1978, when I and all my grad-school friends decided to pursue a vegetarian life style. My copy, which I bought at the food coop where I volunteered is now in pieces, but I still use it regularly. I can count on the book to contain information about vegetables I’m not familiar with, and how best to prepare them, plus providing clear instructions for making such things as yogurt and sushi nori. Though no longer a strict vegetarian, having a husband and two children who like meat far too much to give it up just yet I eat meatless meals at least several times a week. The recipe for Sultana’s Spanakopita (a real winner!) has inspired a family favorite: broccoli pie, in which we’ve substituted broccoli for spinach.

Where to Find More Reviews of the The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook

You can see more reviews – virtually all positive, and some of which use terms like “vegetarian bible” by clicking this link for The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook.

Where to Purchase The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook

On average, I probably use this The New Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook a couple of times a month for specific recipes, and several times a year just for general browsing purposes. I recommend it as a solid basis for all kinds of healthy cooking, not just vegetarian – and I hope that others enjoy it as much as my friends and I do. You can get a sneak peek by using the “Click to Look Inside” feature, near the picture of the book upper left on the Amazon’s page.

Finally, I love it that Amazon can have The New Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook to anyone who orders it in just one day, or 5-8 days with free shipping. So, when my next copy starts to fall apart in 2030 or so, I can get another one quickly.

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About Gillian Kendall

20+ years of professional commercial, academic and technical writing. With a Ph.D (Ohio University) and two MAs (Stanford and U.C. Davis) I'm a former Chair in Writing at Birmingham-Southern College and Cisco technical writer, currently a fulltime freelance writer / editor with three books to my name, a NEW YORK TIMES notable book award, and hundreds of freelance articles, essays, and features.

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