I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never eaten at Moosewood Restaurant, operated by a 19-person collective in Ithaca, N.Y.
The place has been waving the flag of vegetarianism – in all its tofu-and-brown-rice glory – for some 40 years now. It was advocating for local and organic food long before either idea was fashionable.
Like so many other places with a penchant for natural cooking, Moosewood has felt familiar, though, thanks to the group’s many cookbooks, starting with Mollie Katzen’s 1977 classic, “The Moosewood Cookbook.”
I was 12 when it came out, and in those days I was mostly cooking up chicken-fried steak, so I didn’t pay much attention to what became one of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks of all time.
It was “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant,” the 1990 cookbook that focused on the restaurant’s weekly ethnic meals, that made its way into my repertoire and introduced me to Sichuan peppercorns, tahini, roti and the like.
Who’d ever heard of peanut butter in soup? West Africans, that’s who. “Sundays at Moosewood” was a primer in global cuisine from a vegetarian (or pescatarian, to be more accurate) perspective.
Now that the collective has another book, “Moosewood Restaurant Favorites” (St. Martin’s Griffin), I paged through to see whether some of my favorites are there.
Sure enough, there was the West African Peanut Soup, slightly simplified. With its layers of spicy, earthy and bright flavors, it’s nostalgic and modern, all in one.
Kind of like Moosewood itself, I realized.
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