Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: Laurel’s Kitchen

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 14, 1998

Review of Laurel’s Kitchen, with a recipe for Homemade Ketchup.

AuthorsLaurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, Bronwen Godfrey
PublisherBantam Books
Year1976
Length641 pages
Book Rating5

Laurel’s Kitchen is a classic in the natural cooking arena. You can find it in just about every vegetarian and ecologically aware kitchen. Unfortunately, it hasn’t aged very well and is a bit pretentious. I can hope that they have since dropped the tagline “The first and only guide to whole foods and whole living”.

A good third of the book covers health concerns: nutrients and weight loss. There is a chapter on vitamins, proteins, minerals, the meatless diet (with a subsection for the vegan diet), carbohydrates, fat, and how to preserve nutrients in the kitchen. All useful information.

The first part is the story of how the authors came to be vegetarian, and how their families came along for the ride. They discuss the need for a vegetarian diet personally, and globally. Removing meat from the diet helps both the person and the people, the people and the planet.

The first chapter is bread. They discuss in detail how quick breads work, how much baking powder you should use, and why. They also mention in passing why milk must be scalded before it is used in yeasted breads: milk contains enzymes that retard the growth of yeast. Their bread recipes include pumpernickel, soy (they often try to “sneak” soy into their families’ diets), black bread, a very nice sourdough-rye bread where the sour flavor comes from yogurt and requires no starter, and many others, including lots of muffins.

Breakfast includes granola, pancakes of many varieties, various fruit sauces (to replace syrup), and Better Butter, a butter blend that is more flavorful and spreads more easily, resulting in the need to use less. There is also a recipe for “breakfast beans”, something I’ve used in other forms many times: get a cheap crockpot, start it in the evening, and in the morning you’ll have a wonderful meal ready to go, its aroma filling the kitchen as soon as you awake.

Lunch is sandwiches, with tasty and nutritious spreads: soy spread, garbanzo spread, peanut spread, even split-pea spread.

Dinner is the spiritual center of the day, when the family comes together. There is a separate section for each part of dinner. Salad can be leaf salads, rice salads, potato salads, and various dressings, from chutneys to cheeses to curries. Soup can be minestrone, or black bean soup, or tomato soup, corn chowder or vegetable gumbo. I found the tomato soup to be a bit bland but certainly good. (I expect my tomato soup, however, to be great!) Vegetables can best be eaten on their own, raw or steamed, but there are many recipes for casseroles (brussels sprouts and squash?). One of the more decadent is chard and cheese pie, with its eggs and cottage cheese. Lots of things to do with green beans, bell peppers, potatoes, and squashes. It ends with some interesting curries. A number of sauces are presented in their own chapter for use on vegetables and sandwiches. Soy gravy, cashew gravy, yeast gravy, and a number of cheese sauces. See below for the homemade ketchup.

Heartier dishes for dinner include some surprisingly hearty recipes for a book like this: canneloni and spanakopita loaded with cheese. Also, stuffed cabbage rolls, stuffed chard. For more vegetably authentic recipes, there is Vegetable Bean Noodle Bake. There is also Zucchini and Green Rice, Vegetable Rice Soufflé, Shepherd’s Pie, and, for the leftovers, Vegetable Cobbler.

Grains and Beans come with detailed instructions on how to prepare them in general, and then goes into recipes ranging all the way from Tennessee Corn Pone to Arab Falafel. I found the New England Baked Beans to be a good but not great cross between chili and baked beans. It didn’t cut it as baked beans and it wasn’t flavorful enough for chili. I finished it off, however! There are Soy Burgers and Tofu Patties to satisfy the craving for hamburger.

Desserts tries to wean us from our craving for sugar. The authors claim that we each eat, on average, a hundred pounds of sugar a year. And then Apple Crisp, Carrot Fruitcake, and Banana Bread start out the chapter. A number of cookies, puddings, and pies finish off the chapter.

And there is a final chapter on how to feed your dog, with a single recipe for a vegetarian dog food made from eggs, vegetables, milk, and leftovers.

The book’s strength is also its weakness. It seems most of the time to be a collection of recipes used to convert a standard seventies family from their normal diet to a vegetarian diet: many of the recipes look to be attempts to vegetably duplicate the meat and high-fat/high-sugar dishes common then, whether it be a Bulgar Loaf to counter Meat Loaf, or homemade ketchup. If that appeals to you, you’ll probably find the book useful. If you’re looking for recipes that really take advantage of vegetarian cooking for its own merits, you’ll probably want to get one of the many other vegetarian cookbooks available on the market today.

Homemade Ketchup

  • 12 oz tomato paste,
  • ½ cup cider vinegar,
  • ½ cup water,
  • ½ tsp salt,
  • 1 tsp oregano,
  • ⅛ tsp cumin,
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg,
  • ⅛ tsp pepper,
  • ½ tsp mustard powder,
  • dash garlic powder.
  1. Mix all the ingredients together very well.

Laurel’s Kitchen

Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, Bronwen Godfrey

My cost: $0.25

Recommendation: Interesting, but dated

If you enjoyed Laurel’s Kitchen…

If you enjoy Bantam Books, you might also be interested in Crockery Cookery.

If you enjoy natural food, you might also be interested in Whole Earth Cookbook.