The rain yesterday and today allowed me to spend some quality time with a cookbook a friend recently loaned to me. As my friend knew it would be, it’s a cookbook perfectly suited for how I live and eat. The cookbook, Six Seasons, was written by a chef-turned-farmer, Joshua McFadden, who learned through farming the importance of eating seasonally:
Cherish the vegetables when they’re at their best, and then wait until the season rolls around again. The impact will be profound, in your own kitchen and in the community at large.
The Forward of the book, written by the farmers who hired the then chef away from his restaurant job, explains the Six Seasons title.
We like to say that there are 365 seasons of the year, when each day finds certain ingredients in their absolute prime state, but even going from four to six is a sign of enlightenment. -Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman
The book is divided into sections, each dedicated to one of the six seasons as defined by their seasonal cycles in Maine: spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, fall, and winter. Each season’s section showcases veggies special to that time of year, with a page describing each featured vegetable followed by multiple recipes showing different ways of preparing it. Many of the recipes are very simple, combining raw vegetables with ingredients that add complexity in texture and flavor, like croutons, dried fruit, nuts, or vinegar. This cookbook is a great introduction to seasonal eating, as well as letting the best qualities of the vegetables really shine through in each recipe.
Another cookbook I’ve relied on in recent years is the almost encyclopedic Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider. It has a section for every vegetable I’ve ever heard of, and many that I still haven’t. Each section starts with the culinary history of that vegetable, then describes how it’s used, and how to select, store, and prepare it. Following that are recipes that “best present the vegetable’s essence.” It’s always the first place I turn when trying a vegetable I’ve never eaten before.