My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I recall one of Julia’s cooking segments which was a nod to vegetarian cuisine. In this program, she acknowledged that some folks don’t eat meat, so she acquiesced and offered a vegetarian option. It consisted of crepes, sautéed vegetables and grated cheese all layered in a mold which was then filled with a cream and egg mixture and baked.

Cheese, crepes, eggs, and cream. That was Julia’s foray into vegetarianism.

During the program, she acknowledged that there were vegetarians who don’t eat any animal products such as her beloved cream, eggs and cheese. She said, “In that case, I suppose you could serve them something like -- oh, I don't know -- maybe granola with tomato sauce.  A better option would be not to invite these people to dinner at all.”

Doncha just love her?

I have to admit that I eat a do vegan diet much of the time and even enjoy it. Eating a healthy, plant-based diet at my age makes me feel good and enables me to enjoy Julia’s boeuf Bourguignon without any guilt, so there you go.

Awhile back, my friend Diane had heard about the Raw Food diet and wanted to try it. Diane loves just about anything New-Agey and enthusiastically wants to try it. (We love that about her.) From reincarnation to Reiki, from crystals to colonics, our Diane is "in on it."

The Raw Food restaurants in Chicago were awfully expensive and trendy. Here's a menu example.  So, I decided to prepare and serve an entire Raw Food meal for our Diane and friends. Everything was plant-based. Nothing was cooked.

Julia wholly disdained a “fear of food”. Can you imagine what she would think of the Raw Food movement in which there’s not only a fear of any animal products, but also a fear of cooking food? 

Oh my gosh!

So, from Julia's boeuf Bourguignon to a complete Raw Food meal, here we go.

Appetizers: Portobello mushrooms stuffed with macadamia nuts and a sauce from dried tomatoes, dates and fresh basil, then dehydrated a bit. These were awfully appealing and very rich. They could have been an entree.

Tomatoes stuffed with raw peanuts, parsley and mint. Very light, but packed with flavor.

Not pictured: Lettuce wraps stuffed with mashed avocado, raw corn and cilantro. (From here on out, I will always add raw corn to my guacamole. It’s fantastic that way.)

Main course: “Fettuccini” and “meatballs”.

The “fettuccini” was comprised of shaved yellow squash that had been marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. The sauce was the aforementioned sun dried tomato-date-basil concoction but with the addition of garlic. The “meatballs” were made from ground cashews, a bit of the sauce, and then dehydrated. It was all served on baby spinach. Again, this was very, very rich and tasty.

That was one recipe that I got off the internet. It was for Salsa Finta and Almond Polpetta, but I adapted it for cashews to make it richer. Also, I'm not fond of the texture or taste of almonds.

Dessert: Ice cream made from pureed macadamia nuts and mango served with fresh raspberries and pomegranate. It was a big hit.

I was pretty proud if this meal. A meat-lover enjoyed it. Everyone did. 

Yes, I admire the Raw Food diet but, my goodness, it is time consuming. A lot of recipes call for beans and grains, all of which have to be sprouted since you’re not cooking them. (If you're wanting to make flat-breads or tortillas out of those grains, they have to be sprouted, ground, pureed with sprouted beans and then dehydrated for 24-36 hours. Whew!)

What I do like about Raw Food is that everything in the recipes is something one should be eating. Take a look at the menu above. Every ingredient is good for you. That’s pretty remarkable.

Yes, it’s tasty. Yes, it’s all good for you. But one bite of Julia’s steak au poivre and you realize what food should truly be about. I would never find myself ecstatic over a raw, vegan meal. Appreciative, yes; enthusiastic, perhaps; delirious? hardly.

However, I am continually astounded whenever I prepare Julia's recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Not to mention appreciative, enthusiastic and delirious.)

On that note, if you’re serving steak au poivre and you have friends who are strict vegans, take Julia’s sage advice: Simply don’t invite them.

Problem solved.

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