Before “VB6” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” came “The Moosewood Cookbook.” And this year, Mollie Katzen, the author of that 1977 classic, is back in the kitchen and back in the limelight with her newest book, “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.”
Before Katzen, vegetarians were regarded as a marginal species — gatherers in a society that valued hunters. Along with her brother, she was one of the early operators of the iconic Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, N.Y., in the mid-1970s. While Katzen left the restaurant after only five years “Moosewood,” which she wrote and illustrated by hand, became an instant classic and forever changed the way many Americans eat. By including in her cookbook recipes and arguments for dairy, grains and vegetables over rich foods and heavy meats, Katzen sparked a conversation about food consciousness and health that did for dinner what Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” did for the environment.
Katzen, 63, started cooking when she was as young as 3, helping out with preparations for Friday night Shabbat dinners. She fell in love with vegetables, and went on to help launch Moosewood, host a series on the Public Broadcasting Service and write 11 cookbooks, including the “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.” While Katzen has become the face of vegetarianism, she eschews the title, opting instead to call herself a “profound vegetablist.” It’s an apt name for someone who has done so much to put veggies on our tables.