When it comes to cooking for your palate, you can count on husband-and-wife duo Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Flavor Bible. The tome not only received an award from the James Beard Foundation, but was named one of the 10 best cookbooks of the past century by Forbes. Now Page and Dornenburg are back, but this time they’ve gone vegetarian. Their 554-page reference book, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, uses the same approach to plant-based cooking as their bestseller. In addition to the history of vegetarianism, you can find an A-Z guide to herbs, spices and other seasonings, learn which techniques work best for which veggies and a stock list of flavor affinities for each ingredient. For instance, soba noodles have 16 suggested combinations like marrying them with greens, lime, sesame oil, soy sauce and tofu. Sound good? We think so. Not so much a cookbook as it is a culinary guide, the Bible is an indispensable manual for anyone looking to eat a varied, vegetable-driven diet.
A lot of people might not know that the first vegetarian restaurant opened in Chicago in 1900 (!). Now everywhere you turn, from Michelin-starred chefs to fast-food restaurants, you can find vegetarian options. Why do you think menus have shifted in this direction in recent years?
It’s an interesting intersection of a lot of different trends that are exploding at this point in time. One is the history of vegetarianism (which is in the book) — it is absolutely fascinating how long people have been eating a plant-based diet. The other is a development of gastronomy and seeing how leading French chefs have really embraced this. If you go back to the 1970s and the advent of nouvelle cuisine, when they were looking to lighten-up traditional sauces, stocks, and other parts of the cuisine, this was part of the direction. Or chefs like Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] with his book, Simple Cuisine. He was ahead of the curve in his thinking. The book did really well in the ’90s and there was a lot of adaptation, but didn’t catch on like it did now with the other leading chefs. Though, there are the guys now who are embracing everything meat in large quantities, on the other side you have chefs who really get the haute cuisine, like Daniel Humm who says around 70 percent of his menu is vegetarian. That is really coming out of gastronomy and the aesthetic sensibility and that is trickling down into society.