Monday, March 29, 2010

The Betty Crocker Project

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I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia - being an armchair chef myself - it was actually surprising it had taken me so long to see a movie about a book about Julia Childs and a normal person finding her way through a classic cookbook in a normal kitchen. . . I love food - movies - books - eating. I was charmed at first. I mean here was a devoted vintage clothing wearing amateur foodie - who wore pearls in the kitchen ( one of my own personal dreams - though my dream pearls would be fake ). I admit I was charmed by finding someone so like myself in so many ways. . . but as you can imagine - she lost me at the Lobster Killer scene. . . and I never really bounced back. But that didn't stop me from picking up her new book Cleaving at the secondhand book store for $1 this weekend. It is all about her love of meat and butchery and how she ruins her marriage by being selfish. I'm 10 pages in. Needless to say -  she has lost her "charm" but I will read it. You can't just fill your life with things you relate to and like. That isn't healthy.

But that's a tangent for another day.
SEE - The Lobster Killer scene planted a little seed in my brain. I kept waiting for her to have a change of heart and save them . . . but she never did. . . and that is just not OK.
Yes - After years of meeting and knowing literally 1,000s of vegans from all over the world and working at the largest animal advocacy agencies on the planet - I can say with complete confidence - that no one in the world loves food the way a vegan does. We think it about food constantly - we read labels with a Christmas Morning eagerness - searching for those deal breaker words - Whey, Egg Whites, Skim Milk Protein, Casein and sit around talking about food like the gals in Sex in The City talk about orgasms. We send emails to all our friends and family telling them about new products to buy and use with a loyalty and eagerness that can only be compared to Beatle Mania. When I pitched to my dashing husband that we should cook our way through The Joy of Cooking ( considered by many universal eaters to be the bible of cooking) - making every recipe vegan - I might have teared up a little with his overwhelming eagerness to eat my experiments and maybe try out a few himself. He is the best thing to ever happen to me.

He patiently drove me to every secondhand book store in town to find it. See, I had a copy once. My mother had given it to me on my 16th birthday. I think it has taken me 18 years to realize that this is how Sicilian mothers usher their daughters into womanhood. . . making sure they have the skills and resources to feed others. I may have lost it in a roommate divide once or maybe a moving purge. I never used it much and until last week - didn't miss it much. After 4 stores, we both found ourselves wishing I had been more sentimental.

We gave in and went to Barnes and Noble. . . and that's when it happened. . . We looked through The Joy of Cooking. After seeing multiple recipes for "Liver Mousse" and "Lamb Shoulders" - Seriously people out there eat that - apparently - I found myself drawn to a bright red binder decorated like some Bavarian gingerbread. It was the reprinting of the original 1950s edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. It was laminated. This book that had been reprinted for someone like me - in saddle-shoes and thick black rimmed glasses. . . had been sealed up so I guess less ethical versions of myself wouldn't steal pages from it. After some debate over if we would really feel any "Joy" eating vegan "Oyster Cakes" and what could possibly be inside this MARVELOUS cookbook that had been reprinted just for us - as well as the Top Chef cookbooks and various other amazing journeys through the art of mastering food art book things. . . you know the ones. . . we agreed on The Betty Crocker Cookbook . . . it is in a binder so we can add pages, large margins to write in and a wide variety of recipes to make vegan over this next year. Going off nothing besides my vast knowledge of Better Housekeeping circa 1950s - we decided to go for the one that we could look though and we suspected had more than just Pork Chops and Meatloafs.

For as long as it takes - Dan & I will be veganizing every recipe in The Betty Crocker Cookbook and sharing our tips and secrets with you - our lurking readers who never officially "follow" for whatever reason. We have been searching for a project we could share but have struggled coming up with something we could prioritize with the Los Angeles Exodus and all these weddings and babies. . . but we have always said we can make ANYTHING Vegan and Fat . . . now we are putting this claim to the test! Thank you Lobster Killer for inspiring a project that I suspect you would hate. . .


  1. What a great idea! I'll be following along.

  2. I love this!! I saw Julia and Julia and cringed at the lobster scene and was waiting for her change of heart to everyone raved about the movie I had a hard time enjoying it with all the animal cruelty that was involved. Furthermore I remember the Betty Crocker cookbook as being the only cookbook in the house as I grew up. I'm totally following your blog, this rocks :)

  3. Oh my goodness! I am SO bookmarking you!!!

  4. I always dreamed of veganizing the Joy of Cooking too, but gave up for the same reasons :P This sounds like a brilliant compromise. (I do have a fabulous recipe I call "The Joy of Vegan Pancakes," though.... :)

  5. The "vegan Joy of Cooking" is VEGANOMICON; this seriously what Isa and Terry planned for it to be.

    Seriously, the original Joy of Cooking even has a recipe for bear in it; the copy I used for years is stained and sticky, but I gradually had to adapt all the recipes I normally used, and began buying vegan cookbooks.

  6. Scuba Diva - That's pretty rude. Seriously this is a great project. Don't fucking steal thunder.

  7. I love this idea, too. I had the same reaction to Julie & Julia, and lost all compassion for her when she comically put that lobster in the pot. I didn't feel bad at all that Julia Child wanted nothing to do with her. I'm excited to see how everything turns out--pretty sure Joy of Cooking was the only cookbook my mom had when I was growing up, too! Oh, and I can't wait to make your mac & cheese!

  8. Wow I'm impressed, that's gonna be a hard task. I wonder how 'meat' recipes are gonna come out :)

  9. I'm so glad I found this!!! Thank you!