Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

Except for being proficient at a couple types of cookies, I didn't even begin to learn to cook until I was in grad school. I lived in a co-op in which I was assigned to a "cooking team" and the head of our team sourced all our meals from the "More-with-Less Cookbook." When I moved on, I bought a copy of the book because it contained the recipe for my new favorite dinner. It would be a full 12 years before I read beyond that recipe!

My husband and I joke about it, now, but when we got married I was comfortable cooking two thingss: lasagna and boxed macaroni & cheese. And my husband didn't like boxed mac & cheese. I spent the first summer we were married devouring every cookbook I could find, and I started with More-with-Less. The book is a gold mine, but I should quit here and let our guest reviewer tell you the rest. Here's what Joyce from tallgrassworship has to say about it...

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love. I'd give it a 5 out of 5, for sustainable and frugal living.


Joyce said...

Hey, thanks for posting this Donna! I would like your readers to know that this cookbook is also available at any Ten Thousand Villages store across the country. Those stores carry only fair trade goods, and are designed to provide a market for people in developing areas. If you google them, you might find one of their stores in your area.

BerryBird said...

That sounds like a great book, thanks for the review.

Donna said...

Hi Joyce,
Thanks for the review and the tip to find the book! It's hard to describe just how good this cookbook is and you did a great job!

BerryBird: Hope you can find a copy & enjoy it!

Green Bean said...

Joyce, thank you for sharing this review with us. It sounds like a truly wonderful cookbook and one I never would have heard of without your pointing me in the right direction.