COOKBOOK CONFIDENTIAL COOKBOOK CLUB – Joanne Tracey reviews Gado Gado

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Hi there,

One of the fun things about this Cookbook Club is when 2 members cook the same recipe. It is always interesting to read how two different cooks approach a recipe. So, itt is my pleasure to share with you Joanne Tracey’s delightful review of the Moosewood Cookbook. Joanne is a talented and amusing writer, and she can be found at: www.https://joannetracey.com.

One of the reasons I write novels is so I can take alternate lifestyles for a spin through the eyes of my characters. Through them, I get to try out careers I’d never have, open businesses I never would, and live in places I never could. In my novels, I’ve even taken up running – and enjoyed it.

One of these alternate lifestyle fantasies is the one where I have a little cottage somewhere in the English countryside with a large potager-style kitchen garden, fruit trees, and maybe a few chooks. I’d swap surplus produce, and make preserves and chutneys and whatever else from the excess to sell at the farmer’s market and bake loaves of bread for the village cafe.

It’s what I call the HFW dream – based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage – and, as my daughter says, would last until the first time I ran out of wine on a rainy night.

It’s not a fantasy that dropped fully formed into my head – over the years, it has developed and grown and did, in fact, start life as a type of 1970s sun-bleached Californian hippie commune sort of image where the cyan and magenta had faded and only the yellow remains. In this hippie fantasy, everyone grew and cooked food together, and the sun shone and I drove around in a vintage VW with faded blue paint and daisies on the side. That one lasted until I realized I didn’t like other people enough – and the luxuries of life too much – to be able to successfully live on a multiple occupancy, especially if there was no air-conditioning.

Where am I going with this? To the Moosewood Cookbook, of course – because if ever there was a hippie commune fantasy in a cookbook, it’s this one.

Named for the Moosewood Restaurant, a natural foods farm-to-table restaurant in Ithaca, New York, this book was originally self-published by members of the restaurant in 1974. The first trade edition was published in 1977 and stayed true to the original hand-lettered, hand-illustrated version, and thirty years later, still, in the same format, it won the James Beard Hall of Fame Award.

I didn’t expect to like it – firstly because it’s entirely plant-based, and secondly, because many of the recipes are ones that I have in other books, but mostly because I like a cookbook with a story – I read the introductions to recipes as if they’re scenes in a novel. The thing is, though, there is a story here, and it’s not in the words as much as in the ingredients. Because that’s what this book is at its heart – as well as a dream of a lifestyle, it’s a collection of ingredients. 

While plenty of people might be put off by the hand-lettered, simply illustrated, no-photo style of this cookbook, I love how, when you open it, it truly feels as though you’ve come across your mother’s old recipe book in a trunk in the attic. In my opinion, the simple pencil illustrations – a saucepan here, a duck there, a fancy border, and a curly flower around a heading – add rather than detract from the charm of this cookbook.

Does it deserve space on my bookshelf? Given there wasn’t a copy of Moosewood in any public library here or on the shelves of bookshops in my region, I had no choice but to buy a digital copy via iBooks for the purpose of completing this review. It is, however, a book that benefits from being able to turn (and turn down) real pages, to scribble changes and additions and suggestions in the margins. Would I have bought it if I didn’t need to? Probably not, but I’m glad I did. I’m also glad iBooks had it on special for $5.99.

As to what I cooked? I made the Gado Gado and the Rarebit, but have marked the Balkan Cucumber Salad, Wicked Garlic Dip, and (Famous) Cauliflower Curry to try – as well as a few of the sauces and dressings.

In true Moosewood spirit, I served it over a jumble of veg – some blanched green beans, steamed broccolini (sprouting broccoli), raw capsicum – and added a boiled egg, and the turmeric rice the cookbook suggested. You can use any combo of veggies and, perhaps, some tofu. You don’t need a recipe for that, but the sauce is below. This amount will serve 4 people. 

  • 1 cup peanut butter (I use pure unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter)
  • 1 heaped tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 heaped tbsp grated garlic
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (I used 2 tbsp and it was way sweet enough)
  • 1 ½ cups hot water
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (or more to season if you don’t use salt)
  • salt to taste
  • a good pinch of chilli flakes (optional, but I find necessary)

Pop it all in the blender and whoosh. Done.

You need this book if:

  • You’ve ever had a fantasy of living in a hippie commune or a similar alternative lifestyle
  • You don’t need photos to accompany your recipes but rather like a little hand-drawn duck or a shower of stars
  • You need ideas for simple, tasty things to do with or go with veggies or for veggies to dip into.

Don’t buy it if:

  • You can’t imagine a recipe without a photo or
  • You need precise measurements
  • You like your cookbooks to look more polished
  • you don’t like little hand-drawn ducks or showers of stars.

Jo Tracey

Joanne Tracey is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction and cozy culinary mysteries inspired by her travels, a love of baking and happy endings. 

Based on the Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland, Jo is an unapologetic daydreamer, eternal optimist, and confirmed morning person. 

When she isn’t writing or day-jobbing, Jo loves baking, reading, long walks along the beach and posting way too many photos of sunrises on Instagram. 

Jo’s life goals (apart from being a world-famous author) are to be an extra on Midsomer Murders and to cook her way through Nigella’s books. 

You’ll find her foodie blog at Brookford Kitchen Diaries (BKD).

My website: www.joannetracey.com

Facebook: joannetraceyauthor

Twitter: @jotracey_

Instagram: @jotracey

Thank you, Jo, for taking the time to share your review. It is written with what I have come to expect from your writing, a wry sense of humor and a great deal of panache.

18 responses to “COOKBOOK CONFIDENTIAL COOKBOOK CLUB – Joanne Tracey reviews Gado Gado”

  1. Darlene – British Columbia, Canada – Writer of children's stories, short stories and travel articles. https://twitter.com/#!/supermegawoman http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=201634059868404&id=631897250&ref=notif&notif_t=like#!/pages/Darlene-Foster-Writer/362236842733
    Darlene says:

    I love your review, Jo. Very entertaining!

  2. a hippie commune fantasy :-)) This is a fun review and gado gado looks delicious, Joanne.

  3. sue clancy – I create visual stories: fine art and artist books – in the genres of "animals in art" and "books in art". I tell my stories on walls, in books and even on "nontraditional" surfaces like coffee mugs. My fine art is represented by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and by Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – Thank you for letting me tell you a story!
    sue clancy says:

    What a fun post!! I have all of the moosewood cookbooks in print form and use them often!!

    • If I had it in print form I expect I’d scribble all over it – it’s that kind of book.

      • sue clancy – I create visual stories: fine art and artist books – in the genres of "animals in art" and "books in art". I tell my stories on walls, in books and even on "nontraditional" surfaces like coffee mugs. My fine art is represented by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and by Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – Thank you for letting me tell you a story!
        sue clancy says:

        That’s exactly how my copy is – full of scribbling and sticky notes!!

      • sue clancy – I create visual stories: fine art and artist books – in the genres of "animals in art" and "books in art". I tell my stories on walls, in books and even on "nontraditional" surfaces like coffee mugs. My fine art is represented by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and by Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – Thank you for letting me tell you a story!
        sue clancy says:

        You might find a print copy on thriftbooks.com

      • sue clancy – I create visual stories: fine art and artist books – in the genres of "animals in art" and "books in art". I tell my stories on walls, in books and even on "nontraditional" surfaces like coffee mugs. My fine art is represented by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and by Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – Thank you for letting me tell you a story!
        sue clancy says:

        Probably!

  4. sue clancy – I create visual stories: fine art and artist books – in the genres of "animals in art" and "books in art". I tell my stories on walls, in books and even on "nontraditional" surfaces like coffee mugs. My fine art is represented by Caplan Art Designs www.caplanartdesigns.com and by Joseph Gierek Fine Art www.gierek.com – Thank you for letting me tell you a story!
    sue clancy says:

    I enjoyed the review! Thank you!!

  5. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. After many years of daily serving up of our local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class as the spirit moves me. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies! I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy. I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all! XXXOOO Dorothy
    Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen says:

    Love your review, and cautions!

  6. Awakening Wonders – Everyday life is filled with wondrous things and embraceable moments, but only if we allow ourselves to be fully awakened. I invite you to join me as I share passionate life adventures and ramblings that awaken my spirit. I look forward to awakening your senses to the simple, joyous wonders that are all around us. I feel that we are destined to become soulful adventurers!
    Awakening Wonders says:

    A great review and as always filled with much entertainment!

  7. Hi Bernadette, this recipe sounds very interesting. A lovely post and review.

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