Not your standard “natural food” cookbook! I have a variety of other cookbooks focusing on “natural” food, and they’re typically vegetarian (though some have a few fish recipes). Shepherd’s cookbook contains vegetarian forms (see next paragraph) of most of the recipes, but also tells you how to cook chicken and beef and pork and lamb. But this is a very early example of the category, copyright 1975. Maybe people have become more restrictive over the years. This would fit with the fairly recent growth of vegan cookbooks – it seems as if some vegetarians have decided that milk products and eggs just aren’t pure enough, even if they used to eat them.
The way the recipes are presented is unusual, and I think the easiest way to explain it is to give an example from the first chapter (Chinese cooking). First, we get a list of ingredients and cooking instructions for “Broccoli and Onions with Nuts”, a vegetarian dish. Next, “Broccoli and Onions with Bean Curd”; replace the nuts with bean curd. After that, on the next page, broccoli and onions with chicken, green beans and onions with bean curd, green beans and onions with nuts, green beans and onions with meat (pork or beef), and so on. The variations aren’t written out in full – you’re just told what to do with the new ingredient and otherwise told to follow the first recipe in the series.
But how does the food taste? So far, so good. I tried a shishkabob recipe that sounded as if it might be too simple to be interesting: Marinate meat in onion, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice. Grill. Sprinkle with a little cumin. And it was delicious. (And tastier than the plain grilled meat would have been. Though I don’t think the cumin added much – I like cumin, but I’ll probably leave it out next time. It was the lemon juice, parsley, and onion that made the dish.)
There are a lot of recipes in Natural Food Feasts that I haven’t tried yet. And by today’s strenuous standards for authentic food, this book may be much too Westernized. But some days, cooking a meal that’s somewhat unusual but doesn’t require a two-week search for ingredients has a lot of charm. Another keeper.