The Common Good

My Favorite Simple Cooking Recipe Books

As Valerie Weaver- Zercher writes in "Simple Living Becomes Sexy" in the December issue of Sojourners, the book More With Less, first published in 1976, sold "wildly" and taught people how to eat "responsibly in light of global hunger." She then went on to write "Living More with Less, in part, because the oil crisis and stagflation had readers scrounging around for practical tips on how to live with less in all areas of life, not just cooking."

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For those of you inspired to also try and live more with less, particularly in the area of food, here are some books that I've found to be helpful when trying to cook simple, healthy food:

Tassajara Bread Book: Written in the late '60s in a Zen monastery in Monterey, California, this has been called "the bible for breadmaking." It is also full of other baking recipes, from muffins to cinnamon rolls and scones, with a healthier, purer twist than most baking books.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman: With its 1,000 pages and more than 2,000 recipes of meatless meals, if anything will inspire you to eat more vegetables -- it is this book. But what makes How to Cook Everything Vegetarian standout from previously published encyclopedia-esque cookbooks is that with each recipe, Bittman includes alternative ingredients and methods to inspire flexibility. This way you can use the vegetables that are in season or already in your refrigerator, while feeling inspired to put some of your own creative energies into the process.

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, by Alice Waters: As the founder of Chez Panisse -- which opened in 1971 in Berkeley, California, and is often called the most influential restaurant in American -- Waters defines what it meant to be a food activist. She promoted local and healthy eating before almost anyone else. I've heard The Art of Simple Food been called the Joy of Cooking or the Silver Palate of this generation. But this is more than a cookbook -- Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, and The Art of Simple food has started what many believe will go down in history as a successful food revolution.

Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual, by Klutz Press: I accredit my first feelings of independence to this book. With its illustrated ingredients and measurements, I learned what baking soda and cocoa powder looked like without asking my parents -- and thus felt like a very independent 10-year-old when I presented my family with a tray of brownies. While it was my first, I still find myself going back to it, looking up recipes for "disgustingly rich brownies," "berry good banana smoothie," or "non-yucky vegetables."

portrait-claire-lorentzenClaire Lorentzen is the online editorial assistant at Sojourners.

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