Deborah Madison: “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” | Food at Google

Deborah Madison: “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” | Food at Google


JASON CRANE: Good afternoon,
and welcome to Talks at Google. My name is Jason Crane. I’m proud to welcome
Deborah Madison here today. For over three decades,
Deborah Madison has been at the vanguard
of the vegetarian cooking movement,
authoring classic cookbooks in the subject and emboldening
millions of readers to cook simple, elegant,
plant-based foods. Deborah Madison is the
author of 14 cookbooks now, and is well known for her
simple, seasonal, festival-base cooking. She got her start at San
Francisco’s Bay Area, Chez Panisse, before
opening Greens, and has lived in New Mexico
for the last 20 years. In addition to
writing and teaching, she has served on the boards
of Slow Food International, Biodiversity Committee,
the Seed Savers Exchange, and the Southwest Grassfed
Livestock Alliance, among others. She is actively
involved in issues of biodiversity, gardening,
sustainable agriculture. It is my great pleasure to
welcome Deborah Madison today. Thank you very
much coming again. DEBORAH MADISON: Thank
you so very much. It’s really a treat to be here. I know, you who work
here, it’s every day. But those of us who
just Google at home, it’s amazing to actually
be on the campus, and see what you do,
and how fabulous it is. I thought I would
talk a little bit about– because this is such
a useful audience– about how things used to be, and
where we came from. And if there’s anything that
you want me in particular to talk about, I’d be
happy to do that too. So I started cooking
a long time ago. When I started cooking
for other people, it was in the ’70s, early
’70s, actually late ’60s, and in San Francisco, at the
San Francisco Zen Center. So this is probably before
most of you were born. And at that time,
our mothers we’re being seduced by companies who
wanted them to make TV dinners, and Stouffers’ souffles,
and chicken pot pie. And it was the beginning
of big food really, and ease in the kitchen, which
in part was easy to understand. It was just after
World War II, and it was a stressful time
for women and they liked to be relieved of that. And as a kid, my mom didn’t
buy into this at all, because she didn’t want to
spend the money on food. But occasionally, there’d
be sales on pot pies. And this was a big moment
that they’d go out, and we could have those. But by the time I got to
move from Davis, California to San Francisco, and was
living at the Zen Center, and I decided I
wanted to cook there. Because I knew I was going
to be there and be working and it looks like the most
interesting thing to do. And so when we had a
house meeting one night– there were about
60 of us who lived in a beautiful old
building on Page street. We needed a cook,
and my hand shot up. And I didn’t even really
know I wanted to do that. I guess I did want to do it. So nobody else did,
so the job was mine. And what I inherited in
this kitchen on Page Street, was a store room filled
with grains, and groats, and grits, whole grains. And nobody knew how to cook
them, or what to do with them. But there was a prevailing
idea that what our parents were doing was not so good, and
we could make it better. We should make it better. You know how kids
know everything, and especially what’s
wrong with your parents, and the way they’re living. Except that we really
didn’t know how to cook. We didn’t know a
grain from a grit. We didn’t know their properties. Nobody knew how to
cook anything really, because it’s not what
we were being taught, or what we were learning
at school or at home. And there were no cooking
schools I might add. So we just plunged in, and the
resulting vegetarian, usually food was extremely
heavy and dark and gray and brown and green. And there were restaurants
like the Good karma Cafe over on Valencia Street, or the
Minimum Daily Requirement, the MDR, that were
the vegetarian restaurants at the time. And it just wasn’t– you’d have
to have a very strong ethical profile to really
enjoy eating this food, because it really
was not very good. So this is what I
inherited, and I don’t know how to
cook it either. But we did buy a grain mill. We ground some of
these whole grains into flour for making bread. That was good. We could make
muffins and pancakes. But the cook who had
preceded me was macrobiotic, and he was really a good cook. But he stayed true to a lot
of macrobiotic principles. We had no sugar. We had no butter. We had no eggs. It sounds vegan, doesn’t it? And modern. So pancakes, if you
could call them that, were these flat rubbery
things like the soles of your shoes, nothing had
any lift, nothing was light, especially when he tried to
make the Western style food. So I did the backwards thing. It looks backwards from today. I introduced butter,
and baking powder, and baking soda, and
eggs, and cheese. Because I was really
cooking for a community. And a community, like a
family is strengthened when it eats together, when
it shares food together, talks over meals,
being nourished by the same ingredients. And the way it was then,
people didn’t really want to eat miso soup
for breakfast, and tofu, and soy beans, and
things like that. So they’d go down to a cafe on
the corner called Lums Cafe, and they would have pancakes
and eggs, and toast, and smoke a cigarette, drink
coffee, read the newspaper, like most people do. So my job was really to bring
the cooking more in line with the taste of the
students who were there, and what they would stay around
and be comfortable eating, and that’s what I did. I really went from miso
soup and tofu and stuff like that for breakfast, which I
actually happen to really like, but went from that to
more familiar foods, to pancakes that looked like
pancakes that we were used to, to maple syrup, to put
a little butter on them. I don’t know what Zen
Center is like nowadays, but I bet it has a really
heavy vegan component, and I bet a lot of those foods
are pushed way to the side. I may be wrong. But in any case,
being a zen student was not being about food, it
was about zen practice and zen study. So it’s not like we were
cooking school or trying to do something with food,
but I took my job seriously. How you get people to the table? You serve something
that they recognize. Oh, it’s lasagna. It may be vegetarian
lasagna, but it looked right. It’s very different than
having something on the plate, and you go, what is that? You don’t know what it is. You’re a little
nervous about it. You’re not really relaxed. It’s hard to dig in. It’s real hard to explain
it to a guest who’s there. Like if we came to Google, and
everything was so just utterly strange, and so just
utterly wonderful, we’d be saying, what
is this you’re eating? What is it you’re doing? Human beings get nervous
if they don’t understand. So anyway that’s how
I got started cooking. And I did that for about
18 years at Zen Center. I cooked in a lot of
different capacities. I cooked for students
in every day situations at the Zen Center
in San Francisco. I cooked for sesshins, which
are seven-day intensive periods of meditation where
nobody is talking. And you really have
to think it out, because the meals are
served in the zen though. They’re served formally. You want to feel light and
nourished at the same time, not heavy. You don’t want to fall asleep
afterwards during meditation. I was a private chef for
the Abbott and his friends. And my motto was always tea
for two, and six for tea. It was like, oh, well we can
add six more, or ten more. I’d be running down to
the field at Green Gulch, and harvesting a little
bit more food to cook. That was really
hard, but it gave me a chance to do cooking that
was more elaborate, and more adventurous really, and more
interesting, and more the kind of foods that eventually
showed up at green. So you’re asking about
greens, and how that started? Is that what you wanted to know? So Zen Center owns a property
near Big Sur, called Tassajara, or Zen Mountain Center,
and it’s our monastery. And during the year, it’s
for 100-day long periods of intense practice, two
of them back to back. And then in the summer,
we’re opened to guests. And guests can come down,
and they can just be guests, and they can relax and so forth. So we cooked our food. Originally, it
wasn’t vegetarian, because it was owned by a
family that wasn’t vegetarian. And so Ed Brown would be
in there making lamb chops and things, and the rest of
us would be hanging around like hungry dogs, going,
can I have some of that? Would there be any leftover? Actually, we weren’t really
very good at vegetarian cooking. People were hungry. They just wanted,
lusted for something more sustaining,
especially meat. So that wasn’t going to work. So we decided to
scratch that menu, and just do vegetarian food. And because Tassajara is so
isolated– have any of you ever been there? You have? OK. So you know. It’s like this 18-mile road
that goes up, and it goes down, and it winds, and there’s like
a 10,000 foot drop on one side. It’s not a road you’re going
to take casually to go to town and find something to
eat that you’d prefer. So basically, we had
a captive audience. And we got better at cooking
the food over the years. I also cooked there,
did the guest season. And people would say–
because a lot of our guests were from the Bay
Area– do you think you could open a restaurant
in San Francisco? And you begin to
hear that enough, and then you begin to
think, well, maybe. And then Fort Mason opened,
when the GGNRA started. And they were looking for
a restaurant as a tenant, but it had to be a non-profit. Now most restaurants
are non-profit, but not by intention. This had to be an organization
that was non-profit. And the Zen Center
was, and it just seemed like the perfect fit. So we got this building. It’s the same space where it is
today, and it was a disaster. It was filled with old
big pieces of machinery that reeked of oil. And the windows were about
five feet above the ground, above the floor. So we had to build a false
floor, because you’re not going to have windows you can’t
look out and see the Golden Gate Bridge, and the
San Francisco Bay. That would be really cruel. So it took about a year
to build out this space. And during that year I actually
worked at Chez Panisse, or maybe the year
before I started working at Chez Panisse,
I had met Alice Waters, and her pastry
chef, Lindsay Shere. They came to Green Gulch
to look at our farm, and I was asked to
show them around. And as I did I was
saying things like, have you ever heard
of Richard Olney? Do you make tarte tatin? Do you do this? Do you do that? And finally, Alice
said, haven’t you ever been to the restaurant? Well, on $50 a month
stipend, no I hadn’t. So she said, I’d
like to invite you. Bring somebody. So the next night, I went with
a friend, and we were smitten. And it’s like I had had this
long quest for what I thought French food was, or should
be, and never found it. And there I found it. And I can still remember
everything that we ate, and how amazing it was. I just came back, and told my
abbot, I have to work there. That’s what I’m going to do. I have to work there. And I started the next day. And it was an amazing
experience to work there. It was a lot of fun. Two years later, I didn’t know
that there was this restaurant idea. Of course, that’s why
I got to work there, because I was going to be the
Chef, but I didn’t know that. So I thought I was just
learning a little bit about how to cook
at Chez Panisse. Then one day, it
was like, well, you going to open this
restaurant, and so I did. Chez Panisse is a very
special restaurant. It’s not like any place else. So if that’s your only
experience of a restaurant, and it happens to fit
your own vision perfectly. To open a big restaurant, and
do things in a conventional way, is really hard. I didn’t want things
like rolling racks, which you absolutely have to
have in a restaurant. I mean there are these
big industrial racks that you put sheet pans on. I said, oh no. I don’t want those. We’re going to do
everything by hand. It’s just going to
be really soulful. Well, actually it was a
pretty soulful kitchen. But we did get rolling racks. And thank heavens
we did, because you have to wake up, and
be smart at some point or you’re going to hate it. It was really hard
doing that restaurant. We suddenly had
a big restaurant. We got a great review within
the first three weeks, which meant we were serving
300 plus lunches a day. None of my staff were cooks. So I had to teach
them all how to cook. I’m learning myself how
to run a restaurant. The learning curve was
pretty much like that. And it was just breathtaking. It was so difficult. But we had to figure
out how to do things. We had lots of failures. We had some successes. We focused on the successes,
and then we began to build, and eventually
opened for dinner. In the beginning, our menus
were written five minutes before dinner time, and xeroxed,
and there were misspellings. Nobody understood that it’s
espresso, not expresso, and all those kind
of nightmare things. But actually the
restaurant really worked. And I would say that most of our
customers were not vegetarian. They were coming, because
I had a little reputation. They were curious. There was lots of parking, and
there was a view of the bay. I mean, what more
could you want? And so it was mainly women
coming to try it out, and then they’d come back on the
weekends with their husbands. And you could see these
men being dragged in. They didn’t want to go to
a vegetarian restaurant on Saturday night. They wanted a steak. And so I had to really make food
that would put them at ease, and would offer
them something that would take the
place of that meat in the center of the plate. So I did food that
was complicated. I did, like dulse,
the little crepes, and folded, and stacked, and
rolled, and things that had form and shape in the
middle of the plate that the eye could go
to, a sauce or whatever. It was complicated
cooking, which is why the greens cookbook is my
most complicated book probably. But it had to be that. I had to offer something
to take the place. Now I think it’s
very different times. I don’t think we need
to do that so much. I think vegetarian food
can be and is much simpler. People understand now, just
because you’re having it on one Saturday
night, it doesn’t mean you’re signing up for a
lifestyle, unless you want to. You can take a break. Lots of people might
order vegetarian food in a restaurant, because it’s
just different from having salmon, lamb, beef, and chicken,
the same thing over and over again. It’s just another way of eating. For some people, it’s
the only way of eating. Some people are pescetarians,
or porketarians, or they have their exceptions. And it’s not for me to say
what’s right, what’s wrong. In my experience as
a cooking teacher, I think we change a
lot through our lives. I do know a man, a
political cartoonist, who’s rather well known. He’s Australian, and
he has been vegetarian for three generations
in his family. And he’s perfectly
fine with that. He doesn’t like meat. He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t know it. It’s not on his horizon. It’s just not there,
and he’s comfortable. On the other hand,
I’ve I taught classes where somebody will say, I’ve
been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I keep dreaming of Turkey. What’s wrong with me? And I said, why don’t you have
some turkey, and find out? Maybe it has something
that you need. Maybe you can get
it another way, if you don’t want to eat it. But find out what it’s about. We all move around and
shift a lot of times. So do books. So didn’t this use to
be orange, the spine? I think it did. So after I left Greens– I’ll
backtrack just a little bit– at one point, I was
invited to go to Esalen and teach for a week. And teach everything about
vegetarian food from soup to nuts. And it was exhausting,
because I had to gather all this information. None of it was in one place. And after I left,
I thought, oh I wish there were a
Vegetarian Joy of Cooking. It would make my
life so much easier. And you have one of
those aha moments. You’re pumping gas in your
car, and you’re thinking, I guess I’m the one that’s
going to write that. Seven years later, I came out. It was a huge, huge project. But soy milk, for
example, if you were interested in
soy milk, you had to get a little pamphlet
at a health food store. It was something exotic,
and kind of dreadful actually, and over there. Of course, hemp milk,
and almond milk, and rice milk, and
all these other milks, didn’t even exist then. But I thought, why not
put this all together, instead of having
something be in a corner? Just put it all
under the same cover. So I wrote this book,
and for many years I was the vegetarian doma matrix
on the cover with the spoons, and this was really orange. And yesterday, I
was at Ten Speed, and I noticed that
somebody was using this under their computer
to lift it up. And I have traveled not
just once with this book, and now with the new Vegetarian
Cooking for Everyone, I can tell you can use
it in more than one way. You can use it to
lift things up with. But this came out, and it
was exactly what I wanted. It was called Vegetarian
Joy of Cooking originally. But Joy of Cooking came
out with their new version the same year, so they asked
me to change the title. I really love the feeling
of opening the door , expanding the table,
not closing it. And that’s why it
says for everyone. I didn’t even want
to say vegetarian, but my publisher would
not go for that at all. And Plant Foods
for Everyone just doesn’t have the right ring. This is really
about plant foods. It’s not just vegetables. It’s just the other side. It’s the rest of the plate, or
it could be the whole plate. But that’s always been my
feeling about vegetarian food is, it’s bringing
everyone to the table. Don’t say no. For me, that’s important. I recently came
out, just in March, with this new version of it. This is basically the same book,
but it has quite a few changes in it, including a beautiful
new cover without spoons on it. And it’s already faded
to a lovely yellow. So this is probably
going to look– and it’s not quite
the golden bears, but it almost was, for a minute. And the reason, I
re-did this book is because our
culture has changed. We have new foods
now that we didn’t have before, all those
alternative plant milks I mentioned are some,
coconut oil, coconut butter, ghee. It’s not that these
are new foods, they’re just new to our culture. I made a little
list here, because I was afraid I’d forget. We have new kinds of pepper
like shishitos, and fushimi, and padrons, that are
very, very popular. We have millet that’s
now made into grits, instead of whole millet, which
is like infinitely better. We have all these beautiful
mixtures of seaweed that make gorgeous salads. They’re very nutritious,
beautiful salads. What else? We have these beverages
like coconut beverage. It’s not the coconut
milk in the can, but you can pour it on your
cereal, and make a smoothie. We have smoked paprika. We have these Japanese
chili mixtures like sashimi togarashi. There’s just many,
many foods, farro, an ancient, ancient grain. Well, now we have it. And emmer and einkorn– we have
pastas made out of einkorn. So the landscape of
our food has changed. And of course
vegetable varieties, in particular, have
expanded like crazy. I wanted to put– because when
I wrote this book in the ’90s, people really thought tofu
was going to save you. It was good for Japanese people,
so if we ate a lot of it, it would be really
good for us too. People were doing crazy
things like just pureeing tofu in a Cuisinart and
eating it for breakfast. It’s stuff that just–
just get it in you. And instead of treating it
as an exquisite food, which I think it really
is, but now we know tofu is good food
but not gobs of it. Fermented soy is better. So we want more
miso, and tempeh. So there’s a little bit
more of that in the book. But I kept the tofu recipes,
because they’re good, and they’re great for
vegetarians to turn to. There’s a designation
of vegan recipes, because so many
people are vegan, and I just want to make it
easy for them to find it. This book is often used
maybe if your vegetarian your mother’s
might have used it. They say, oh I have a
kid who is vegetarian, I don’t know what
to cook for them. Well, now I have a kid
who’s vegan or raw vegan or whatever it is. So I thought, I’m
going to help her out, and help you out, and
just label those as well. I took away some recipes that
we’re really rich or just too challenging or didn’t seem
right for our times any more, and put in 150 recipes that are
much different than that, more contemporary. There is that no kneed bread,
which has become so popular, which we didn’t even know
about the first time around. And I also am
considering the fact that now there are
experts in so many kinds of cuisines, south Indian,
Lebanese mountain cooking, some little province in
some section of Italy has somebody who’s
a master of it. Even though International
food is usually the backbone of most
vegetarian collections, I can’t take the role
anymore of being an expert, because I’m not. I am just one person. I come from one country
and only one country, even though I’ve
lived elsewhere I thought there are many, many
voices now that we can turn to. So I kind of pull back a little
bit out of respect for those. But you’ll still find, if
you’ve used this book at all, your good friends
for the most part I’ll tell you a little story. I was talking about the process
of redoing a book, which is very different from
writing a book from scratch. And I mentioned that I had
taken out a risotto gratin. I just felt it was too rich. I don’t think anybody made it. Nobody ever emailed me about it,
and two women in the audience said, you can’t take that out. We make that for each
other for our birthdays. And I thought, it’s staying in. Because it meant
something to someone. It was obviously a celebratory
food, not an everyday food. And of course, we do have
foods that celebrate, and foods that nurture
on a daily basis. So they’re all covered in there. And I’ll just conclude– I want
to mention before this came out last year, I came out with
this book, Vegetable Literacy. This is just the cover
the books under here. Those are walking
onions on the cover, which is really about plant
families, and their members, and what they look like,
and how they behave, and how much they’re
interchangeable in the kitchen. So it’s kind of an
interest– I love this book. I grew all the plants
that are in it, and it was kind of
process I learned so much, and if you read this, you can
walk around your campuses, and suddenly are saying,
oh that’s a walking onion or whatever it is. Or that’s in the grass family. So I’m happy to stop here if
you need to get back to work. Or if you have questions,
I’m happy to entertain them. Yes sir. AUDIENCE: Can you address
the issue supposedly around soy-based foods? I’ve been a vegetarian
for 20 years, and tofu has been a
staple in our family. But recently, people have
been rolling their eyes at me, when I talk about tofu
and soy-based stuff. Do you know anything about it? DEBORAH MADISON: I don’t
know a lot about it. I think, partly, it’s
the estrogen that’s in them has– Some people
think that that’s problematic. I haven’t sat down and actually
read a lot of science on it. I think if they work for you,
you should enjoy eating them. But there is something
about the fermentation that makes them more bio available. So soy foods that are fermented
like tempeh or miso or tamari. There’s a bunch of them. Natto, which I don’t
think will probably become real popular
in this country. I’ve had a hard
time with it myself. I’m pretty open minded. That those are more
beneficial than just relying on soy milk or tofu. My concern with the
soy food, is so much of it is GMO, unless it
is stated USDA organic. And if you feel fine about
eating GMO food, go ahead. I would avoid it myself. I think that that’s
part of the problem. I don’t find soy
oil or soy flour to ever have a fresh taste. They always seem rancid to me. I think they’re
very unstable oils, but we ate a lot of
soybeans at the Zen Center. And if you cook them
in a pressure cooker, they’re really delicious,
and they’re really silky, and they’re really
soft, but they have to become
completely cooked. So it’s like any bean,
if you don’t really cook it– They’re very
high in phytic acids, and so that soaking, draining,
putting fresh water on it, cooking them until their
really, really tender is good. I think you should
enjoy your tofu. I plan to enjoy mine. AUDIENCE: Thank you for
providing the context around the origins of greens. So if greens was
on the forefront of pushing a lot of these
trends, what is it’s role now? I know you’re not involved. But what is the state
of vegetarianism now, and what role does Greens play? DEBORAH MADISON: I live in
a village of 200 people, I don’t get out that much. I think Greens is
probably maintaining. And it’s a fine
dining restaurant. And it’s beautiful. And the presentation
is beautiful. And they no longer xerox their
menus at the last minute. They look really nice. It’s more professional. So I think it’s just
there as a kind of anchor. But we were just in Los
Angeles this weekend and looking for some food. And went into– it
has a funny name. Do you remember? Went into a vegetarian
restaurant that turns out to be a chain, and they
did a lot of Persian food. And it was crazy and mixed up. It was cold tapas, hot tapas. That had nothing to
do with Spain at all. But everything was organic. Everything was really wholesome. It was delicious. And I was very happy to
know that we could just walk in and sit
down and have it. The place were pretty. They weren’t super, super
constructed, but the fact that that’s a chain,
and there’s a lot of it, and its experimental is
very encouraging to me. I think vegetarian food is
just a whole lot better. It’s so much broader. And people are better cooks. They’re better eaters. They’ve been exposed to more. Every now and then,
a restaurant crops up as an example of new vegetarian
cooking, that’s not a big deal. It’s not expensive. It’s not a big date, night. I think it’s gotten better. I think we’re more relaxed
about it, which is good. AUDIENCE: What’s it like
to introduce a new menu or to try out a new dish? Because I imagine if you’re
running the restaurant you might have certain
quality to uphold, and if you’re trying
out something new, it might be hard to uphold that. DEBORAH MADISON: Yes. What’s it like trying
out a new dish? It’s a little like
a roller coaster flag ride in the wind at
Six Flags or something. Yes. I tried new dishes all the time. I didn’t know any other way. That was my model
at Chez Panisse. And it was breathtakingly
frightening. Sometimes you weren’t
sure if that’s how they were supposed to
be, or if it was right, and the menu is printed. Sometimes my husband, when I’m
trying a new dish will say, you know this isn’t
your best effort. And I’d say, I know. It didn’t work. But I think with more
experience cooking, you start to know
what does really work, and what you can do, and
how foods work together. So you can eliminate
a lot of false steps, because you’ve already
had experience with them. When I’m working on a recipe,
three times is my limit. If I can’t get it the third
time, I set way aside. There’s something that’s just
inherently not right or not working. Later, I might figure
out what that is or I might find a new approach. But generally, I can see
what works and what wont, and what the result will be. But yeah, it had
its scary moments, when you’re doing
it for other people. AUDIENCE: Are you associated
with a restaurant now? I’m just curious, how you decide
to be in a restaurant or not? Is it just too intense. DEBORAH MADISON: Well I’m not
associated with a restaurant now. It’s a young person’s game. You all ought to go to it. I did it, but it’s
very hard work. And when I moved to
Santa Fe, I did open a restaurant with David Tanis. It had a great run
for about six years, and it was a real
farm driven menu, as was Greens, as was
Chez Panisse as well. And that was my last
restaurant experience. It’s hard. It’s hard to be in your
feet for 12, 14 hour days. I’m not exactly
young so I really don’t want to spend my
time being that exhausted when I’m not at the restaurant. But I have to say,
I think once you’ve done it, you always
sort of miss it. And I’m always looking for–
I will see a space, I’ll say, that’s what I want. I want that for my restaurant. And I mean come on. But when you’re
working hard, and when you’re under pressure, and
as they say in the weeds, and everyone’s cooperating, and
you’re getting that food out, it’s the best
feeling in the world. It’s just a rush. But part of what
makes a good I think is really because you’re
working with others. You’re not just by yourself. You’re working as one body. You’re getting
through that night, and that is a real thrill. And I think that
there are other ways to realize that quality
of community in our lives, and we have to find
out what those are. It might be your
workspace at Google. Maybe it’s not, but
it seems like you have a lot of ways of
meeting and talking and being together and working together,
which I think is the best. But like I say,
physically, it’s a bruiser. At my age, I should be
sitting down in the corner the dining room having
drinks with customers. But I do miss it. AUDIENCE: Thank you
for your other books. I really especially love
the introduction chapters, about tools, and
foods in general, and all the great recipes. But I was wondering about what
was it like to start up Greens? You were just
starting a restaurant, but also just it was with a
bunch of Zen students and stuff on it. DEBORAH MADISON: It was hard. It was an adventure. It was an adventure every
single day to start greens. What are we going to eat? What could possibly
be a main dish? How do you teach 10
people, your lunch crew, to not make silly
little garnishes. I had to be very exacting,
and I had to really lean hard on the crew to get
that food right, and that was not
always appreciated. So I was a little bit
battered between you’ve got to do this right,
and you have to be nice. Now I’m so nice to,
people whatever they do is find, because I
really didn’t like the experience of saying
no, you can’t do that. It has to be like this. But that’s what I
was there to do. I had to make that
restaurant work. And that’s what it takes. But it was a difficult ride. Starting any restaurant is hard. It’s just so hard Alice waters told me she
said you won’t go anywhere for six months,
and she was right. And practically
on the day, I got to go to Graffeo’s in
North Beach to buy coffee. I got to leave the restaurant
in the middle of the day. And I went to the
bohemian Cafe, and I had a beer and an
anchovy sandwich. And I went to Graffeo’s
and got the coffee. Oh my gosh, the feeling of
being outdoors in the sun. I could eat something different
that didn’t– you smell like your food, and your
clothes are saturated. It’s like you can’t
every get away from it. So to have that
experience– it shows you how much you’re really
wed to your work. It’s 24/7, because there’s
no time when you’re awake after you– you come down
at the end of the night. You’re wired. You may be exhausted. It takes two or three hours to
calm down, so you go to sleep. And then I was a Zen student, so
I’m up at 4:30 the next morning for a Zen meditation, for zazen. I was tired. It was hard. But once you get it started,
then it has its own life, and it goes. AUDIENCE: For someone
who is learning to cook, are there any techniques,
practices, or tips that you think are
especially useful very transforming cooking,
taking it to the next level? DEBORAH MADISON: How
do you transform food to bring it to the next level
when you’re learning to cook? Use a good knife that’s sharp. You don’t need a lot of them. But you need a
knife that’s sharp, and you need the
knife for the job. If you’re cooking a
lot of vegetables, you want to have a
long flat surface you don’t want to boning
knife that curves, because you’re only going to
have that much of it that’s in contact with your food. Choose a good vegetable knife,
give yourself a lot of room to work. So many people work
on a little tiny board that they got as
a wedding present for a cheese board or
something, and that’s they’re cutting board. Get a big board. Give yourself lots of room. Have a sharp knife,
a tool to sharpen it. It doesn’t have to be a steel. There are lots of cool little
tools that are magnetized. You can pull your knife through. It makes it all so much easier. It really does. I can’t remember if you
mentioned you had this book or if it was somebody else, but
there’s a lot about the steps to make things easier. You have to remember that
cooking isn’t a linear process. Food TV makes it
seem very linear. Everything’s prepped. You’re going like that. That’s not how it is. When you get home, nobody
left you a mise en place. I’ll bet. Maybe someday. But not today. So you have to know. OK. While the onions are
cooking down for your soup, that’s when you’re
going to chops this, or you’re going to do
that, or grind your spices. But to think about it as a much
more organic way of approaching what you’re doing
will help you a lot. There are suggestions. There’s 10 suggestions
for making it easier. I always tell people, if
you’re just learning to cook, but you know something
about what you like to eat, start with those dishes. If you love stir fries,
which I don’t but if you do, make stir fries, until
you get really good at it. If it’s gratins, make gratins. If it’s pizza, you can make
lots and lots of pizzas. Kind of focus, and until you
have that– it’s in your body, and you can just do it. And then you might
look at a recipe and say, oh I didn’t know
you could use cold rabe, and it’s great with
mustard, because their in the same family, and
a little– whatever. But I think people who are
starting are very ambitious. They’re exposed to so
many tastes in food. Ask yourself first,
what do I like to eat? Look for those recipes. Work on those. This book has a lot of
the fundamental kinds of instructions, because I
taught people how to cook. I taught my crew cook. so I can’t get away from it. I’m always wanting to
make it easier for people. So does that help? Sharp knife, big cutting boards,
lots of bowls to put things in. Start there. AUDIENCE: It was mentioned
in the introduction that you had been involved
with the slow food movement. And I was hoping you could
talk a bit about what that is, and what impact, if any, it’s
had on your cookbook writing? DEBORAH MADISON: I don’t
know what kind of impact Slow Food has had on my writing. Slow Food started,
actually when I was living in Rome
in the mid ’80s, as a response to McDonald’s
opening on the Spanish steps. And that was very
painful to a lot of Italians, the Spanish steps? McDonald’s? And so a group got
together, and they made pasta bolognese,
or some kind of pasta. And they stood in front
of McDonald’s, and they said, don’t eat that. Have some of this. It really started because so
many of the little trattorias or cafes were closing. They no longer existed. People were going for fast food. And they didn’t want to lose
that part of their culture. The same thing has
happened here by the way. It’s very hard to find a good
family a Cafe, very hard. It’s mostly just awful. And so the movement
started with that, and then it grew to,
well what about our foods and other customs,
and not just Italy, but Europe, the U.S., China,
all kinds of countries have lost many of their
foods, and how can they be brought back and appreciated? It was about slowing down. Anyway, it’s hard to find an
elevator talk, speech for it, but I always used to say–
people say, what’s slow food? And I say, you’ve heard
of fast food, right. And then something clicks. They’ve heard of fast
food, so slow food is saying something to them. I have been involved with Slow
Food for a really long time. I used to wear a lot of
hats in that organization, but the most
important one to me, was the Ark and
Presidia committee, which was very involved with
identifying those foods that had historical and
gustatory significance. And in America, we
have lots of them. We have lots of apples, and
plums, and fruits, and grains, and all animal breeds,
all kinds of foods that have disappeared for
just something bigger, faster, cheaper, whatever. So it’s been very involved
in bringing these foods back. They’re a part of my pantry
to the degree that I can. So I would say has it has
introduced me to food. Because I’ve used them in these
books, and talk about them. Anybody can buy real wild rice. You just Google
it, and go online, and you can buy it, if you
don’t live in Minnesota, and it’s completely different
from California Pati wild rice. It’s totally
different, and yet it comes out of a culture
that’s still alive. So you could choose
to support that. So I do. And I do incorporate
those things in my books. Thank you all very much.

7 thoughts on “Deborah Madison: “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” | Food at Google”

  1. this woman is really confusing to me, she talks about Zen as a practice, but yet her practice was to bring animal products into the diet. why her sharp jab at veganism? my major question is why are people still talking about this woman? I guess she was some kind of stepping stone on a path, but we are way down the road from there now. her comment about being there for the practice and the practice was not about the food so she decided to add eggs etc, I just said to myself, why wouldn't you try to find an alternative, instead she just reintroduces animal products…

  2. Funny how she failed in copying from the internet. While offering a recipe of the traditional Tunisian chickpea soup Lablabi, she not only misspells it as Leblebi but completely confuses it with a traditional Turkish chickpea snack (called indeed Leblebi). So above the soup recipe you read about it being “a hearty Turkish breakfast dish that’s sold at little stands”, which is true for the (Turkish) snack but not the (Tunisian) soup.

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