A Crash Course in Vegetarian Cooking

Cooking Vegetarian


“Hey, I won’t say I’m a bad cook, but all the flies chipped in to fix the screen door.”
(after Rodney Dangerfield)


 It is only because I get asked for cooking advice so often that I dare to share my favorite kitchen hints. Remember, you are getting these suggestions from a guy who, as a college graduate, still thought "allspice" was a mixture of all the spices together in one convenient jar. 

1. If there is one secret of vegetarian cooking, it is salt. Grains and legumes (peas, beans and lentils) really need it for good taste.  Now don't go off worrying that you are getting too much sodium. Homemade foods have less salt than most store-bought processed foods, and certainly are less salty than restaurant or fast foods. Use enough salt to get a good taste, or no one will want to eat your good food, including you. 

 If you overdo it:  Too much salt can be removed by cooking a halved raw potato into your mistake and then removing the potato before serving.  Adding more water, or more of all the other ingredients will effectively reduce the salt concentration, too. 

2. Taste your cooking as you go. If you like it, others probably will.  Learning from mistakes is less costly if you own a nice, hungry, tolerant doggie. Such animals are readily available from your local pound or humane society.  Believe me, anything you were previously thinking of tossing out is far better than the stuff that goes into most commercial pet foods. 

3. Consult easy vegetarian cookbooks.  I especially like Deaf Smith Country Cookbook (M.  W. Ford et al, Collier Books, 1973) and Laurel's Kitchen (L. Robertson et al, Bantam, 1978). Health food stores tend to have a good selection of cookbooks, and often have free recipes for the asking. 

4. If you are not sure whether to put in an ingredient or not: when in doubt, leave it out. I've made bread with just whole wheat flour, water and salt.  Period.  It yields a flatbread or Johnnycake, but it tastes great. I never add shortening or oil to my raised breads, and you really do not miss it. 

5. Over the years, you will save a fortune cooking vegetarian. My family of four spends only about one third as much on food as any of my neighbors do. Maybe you didn't get that raise, and we know that taxes never go down. We have here a way to make money getting healthy. In my 18 year marriage, my son conservatively estimated that simple eating saved us over $35,000. 

6. Start small, but when you get experienced try to cook in quantity. A big pot of soup will feed you all week. Keep it in smaller, meal-sized containers in your refrigerator.  Open one of those instead of a can of something. 

7. Be sure to cook beans and dry legumes thoroughly. They taste dreadful if you don't. After checking to remove any little stowaway stones, soak your legumes tonight to reduce cooking time tomorrow. Change the soaking water twice before cooking to remove dirt or soap residues. 

8.  If you are not used to baking with whole wheat flour, work it in gradually. Start with 2/3 white (unbleached) flour and 1/3 whole wheat.  Then try half and half.  Over time, you can increase the fraction of whole wheat so subtly that no one will hardly notice. 

9. Baking with 100% whole wheat (or any other whole grain) generally requires more leavening and more cooking time. Pull up a chair by the oven and check from time to time. 

10. Baking with honey requires less liquid, because honey is one. Honey tastes sweeter than sugar, so 2/3 to one-half as much honey is enough. 

11. To stimulate your cooking, I submit that you should keep LESS food in the house. The more convenience-crutches we have, the less we work at self-reliance.  Stock up on grains and legumes. Being dry, they keep a long time in glass jars or plastic bags. With salt, oil, some herbs and spices, and of course fruits and vegetables, you are 90% set. Butter and yogurt are part of our menu, but need not be for some.  Tofu (bean curd), tempeh, sprouts or seed for sprouting, honey, molasses and fruit juice fill out our cheap diet.  We are most creative in the kitchen when the pickings are slim. 

12. The above statement is more subversive than it looks. Food stamps and other well-meant programs encourage spending. That may be good for the economy, but it is not good for the body. My First Law of Nutrition: The best foods in the supermarket are the cheapest; the worst foods cost the most. Take along a copy of the Supermarket Handbook (N. and  D. Goldbeck, Signet,1976) to help you shop, and always eat first. 

13. Do not fret if you succumb to a "Big Mac" Attack or wolf down the occasional box of chocolates. To me, it is not a matter of life or death if you have turkey at the holidays (though it is to the turkey).  What matters is not what you did on any one day but on the other 364. In total, are you doing it right? Check your debts; check your medicine cabinet; check the bathroom scales: if they are all going down, you are doing fine. 

14. Your spouse or children may not necessarily go for all of this. The rest of the world should be so lucky, but they are not. You know, the reason the Chinese eat lots of grains, legumes and vegetables is not because they are seeking health. It is because they can't afford to eat any other way. Their lower rates of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis are a by-product of frugality.

Copyright  C  2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )

For ordering information, Click Here .



Andrew W. Saul


AN IMPORTANT NOTE:  This page is not in any way offered as prescription, diagnosis nor treatment for any disease, illness, infirmity or physical condition.  Any form of self-treatment or alternative health program necessarily must involve an individual's acceptance of some risk, and no one should assume otherwise.  Persons needing medical care should obtain it from a physician.  Consult your doctor before making any health decision. 

Neither the author nor the webmaster has authorized the use of their names or the use of any material contained within in connection with the sale, promotion or advertising of any product or apparatus. Single-copy reproduction for individual, non-commercial use is permitted providing no alterations of content are made, and credit is given.



| Home | Order my Books | About the Author | Contact Us | Webmaster |