The Book: Laurel Robertston, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, LAUREL'S KITCHEN: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition. Bantam mass market paperback, 13th printing, 1982. Book is in good condition; spine is seriously creased, cover is creased and chipped but intact, pages are age-darkened and food-stained in spots.
First read: 1983
Owned since: 1983
This is the first cookbook I owned, aside from some Betty Crocker kids' cookbook my sister and I had as children. I asked for it as a Christmas gift in 1983, when I was sharing an apartment with a committed vegetarian. My own flirtation with vegetarianism didn't last past college, but I still go back to this cookbook.
As with any well-used cookbook, this copy falls open to my favorite recipes: Potato-Cheese Soup. Basic Whole-Grain Bread, whose pages have ancient scraps of dough crusted on them. Corn Chowder -- ooh, which I haven't made in way too long -- and Asparagus Soup.
I like soups. I like making them, I like eating them, and I like having them in the freezer in case of unexpected catastrophe. (And aren't catastrophes always unexpected?)
Laurel's Kitchen is more than a cookbook; it's a manual for a vegetarian way of life, and it's also something of a cultural artifact. I assume it's been updated for the 21st century, but I hope the latest edition didn't sacrifice any of its earnestness. Besides being the source of my easiest bread recipe, it is also the symbol of my first effort to live a mindful, irony-free life -- something I'm still working on.