In this episode of Dishin’ It I spoke with cookbook author Claudia Johnsen about her new book One Hand Cooking. The book explores the world of vegetarian cuisine and culture. Now you may say how is being a vegetarian a cultural thing? Well being a vegetarian can definitely be a cultural experience if you’re willing to endeavor into the world of ethnic vegetarian food. Johnsen says she learned about ethnic cooking from her mother when she was introduced to vegetarian food as a child.
Johnsen grew up in Central Pennsylvania. Her mother always had a deep concern for animal abuse and decided to stop eating meat while Johnsen was in High school. Experimenting with different vegetarian dishes was the way Johnsen’s mother introduced vegetarian food into her family’s diets. From Mexican to Indian, the meals her mom cooked were all meat-less, but presented an exciting rump into the tastes and flavors of international cuisine.
One Hand Cooking contains both vegetarian and vegan recipes. Veganism is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients (such as gelatin) as well as meat of any kind. Johnsen told ‘Dishin’ It’ being a vegetarian has made her more interested in nutrition and healthy eating habits. She decided to get a doctorate and a master’s degree in nutrition from Tufts University. When it comes to misconceptions about vegetarians and their nutrition, Johnsen says many people don’t think they get the same nutrients because they don’t eat meat. But she says this is a misconception. Tofu and beans tend to provide a large amount of fiber and protein in a vegetarian’s diet. People who are interested in becoming a vegetarian should check out vegetarian pot luck groups, where like-minded folks gather to enjoy a diversity of veggie fare.
The title of her cookbook, One Hand Cooking comes from Johnsen’s habit in the kitchen of holding her daughters in one arm, while cooking with the other hand. Johnsen has three spirited beautiful daughters all under the age of nine years old. They help assist her in the kitchen and often prepare fruit garnishes for her baked goods. Speaking of baked goods, One Handed Cooking features an assortment of vegan baked goods. This may sound bizarre to the traditional carnivore because there is no butter or eggs used in the cooking of cakes, cupcakes, or breads. Yet, during our interview the assortment of baked goods Johnsen prepared were surprisingly tasty and moist. She uses oil instead of butter and the wheat flour mix is consistent in most of the baked recipes.
The cakes and breads were decorated with fresh fruit, or filled with yummy cinnamon, apples, and plump raisins. Some of the desserts were drizzled with a type of icing that was non-diary, but used powder sugar and water to create a sweet white frosting. I will be checking back with Claudia Johnsen to check out some of her ethnic vegetarian dishes and will keep you posted on my thoughts. Till next time Bon Appetite and remember food is life, food is love, and food is community.
Written by Alexis Miller