Chicago Diner Cookbook: A Review and Loveletter

Ever tried a recipe and it tastes so good that you can’t believe you made it yourself?

Dear Jo,

I received your cookbook with no pictures on loan from a girlfriend from Chicago. The only vegan cookbook I had used up until that point was Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I had no culinary training whatsoever….well….one day free cooking class at Mother’s in Newport Beach ten years earlier, but that hardly counts.

As a completely inexperienced chef, every single recipe I made turned out so well, I felt like someone had broken into my kitchen and planted new food in my oven: impossibly good food. I was outraged at how amazingly easy it was. Why didn’t I start sooner?

I made heart shaped pot pies. I made polenta which I’d never seen even in a picture, which somehow turned out magically good as well. Your diner gravy is so good, I could drink it, but self restraint dictates it must go on mashed potatoes or my little pot pies.

Your vegan quiche is so convincing, I tricked many of my non-vegan neighbors into trying it. One neighbor didn’t even realize I was vegan until she bumped into me at Whole Foods. I mentioned to an aproned, fundraising, mousy-brown haired girl selling “Save the Earth” cookies that if she really wants to save the earth, she should be vegan. My neighbor overheard my lecture to the non-vegan cookie salesperson and said, “But you’re not vegan! You made me that quiche the other day!” Sorry Tauna; I tricked you good.

Ratatouille Provençal, a real crowd pleaser, knocks out guests with delight with a little over 15 minutes prep time. Strogonaff made from tempeh fills me with ecstasy, I ate Ex-Benedict every day for almost two weeks, and I made both Leslie’s Mushroom Spread and the Artichoke Dip for vegetable dip for my recent wedding.

Not only did your cookbook open my eyes to the possibilities of expanding my world from baking to cooking, but I have since bought twelve more vegan cookbooks, all of which I use everyday. Well, I don’t use ALL of them everyday, but I use at least one or two a day.

My only beef is that the recipes are too huge! I’d been a single mom for eight years, and recipes yielded enough for me to open my own Chicago Diner in my tiny studio apartment in Los Angeles. Now I’m married and I feed three people, including myself, but it’s still a little bit of an awkward amount of food.

Thanks for inspiring me to love cooking and facilitating the feeling of being an artist at least three times a day.

Love,

O.

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