About the Author
Celia Brooks Brown left Colorado in 1989 for England where she began her culinary career. She has cooked for director Stanley Kubrick and now runs a vegetarian cooking company popular with celebrities such as Stella McCartney.
Jan Baldwin is a leading food photographer and works for magazines such as World of Interiors and House and Garden.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"A vegetarian is not a person who lives on vegetables, any more than a Catholic is a person who lives on cats." George Bernard Shaw
There are all sorts of reasons for giving up or cutting down on meat. For me, meat is something that has just never been appealing. I was nineteen when I moved to Britain from the U.S. in 1989, and back then I ate chicken occasionally, but I'd never eaten much other meat. I was no gourmet -- I lived on canned soup, salads, and fast food. Boiling water and opening cans was the extent of my culinary skills. Not long after I arrived, there was a food scare in Britain. It put me off chicken, and I gave up meat for good.
Soon after giving up meat, I started to develop an interest in cooking. This is no coincidence. I knew I couldn't live on cans of beans and lumps of fatty cheese. As my mental perception of food became more acute -- I started to see food as something other than just fuel -- my sensory perception improved too. I was desperate to learn how to cook, so I could explore the creative process of using ingredients, tools, and all five senses to make something delicious. The greatest satisfaction of all, I found, was giving other people pleasure through eating what I prepared. I soon discovered that food that is cooked with passion evokes passion in the person eating it.
The whole realm of food is a healthy obsession for me, and it's not limited to cooking. So much of the fun and fascination lies in shopping for fresh, high-quality ingredients in specialty food stores. It also includes poring through books about food and filling my head with recipes, folklore, and culinary and social history. I'm also rather partial to stuffing my face.
My passion became a career in vegetarian cooking through catering, teaching and writing. I'm certainly no vegetarian "evangelist." I merely hope to show people how easy and fun it can be to cook, and meat is simply not part of my repertoire. You must have what I call a "sensory relationship" with what you cook. If you can't engage every sense with your ingredients, what you cook just won't taste right. Even if I were to go through the mechanics of cooking a piece of meat, it would probably taste horrible.
My approach, in a nutshell, is this: Vegetarian cooking is more complex than simply throwing something under the broiler. It requires more thought, more construction. If you're not used to vegetarian cooking, try to think beyond the "meat and two vegetables" convention, in which vegetables play second fiddle. Try to create a balance of textures, colors, and flavors, and no one will notice the absence of meat.
Finally, when I tell people I'm vegetarian, the question that often follows is, "Do you eat fish?" OK, so vegetarians who eat fish are not technically vegetarians, but since when is the enjoyment of food been a technical business? I don't see it as hypocrisy to eat a bit of fish. People should be allowed to make their own decisions about what they put in their bodies and why. (That includes meat-eaters.) This modern breed of "pescetarians" are not rare, so I've included some fish recipes here for them, having done my best to recommend fish that is as eco-friendly as possible. This book is for every food lover, vegetarian or not. I hope you savor every page.
Celia Brooks Brown --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.