Originally posted on Huffington Postfor
I’m a believer in soup, but Love Soup author Anna Thomas is its high priestess. Her book offers 160 different meatless recipes organized according to seasons, so you taste the benefit of what’s fresh — lighter vegcentric soups for spring and summer, lush, squashy or beany things for fall and winte (check out her Fasolia Gigante soup recipe below).
Making a pot of soup gives you dinner but also accesses “an enormous part of our history and our ability to connect with people around our own table,” she says.”That can’t happen in a restaurant. I love going out to restaurants, but there’s something about hospitality, our connection with our culture, our family, our tribe. When we lose home cooking, we lose something tremendously important.” That sense of devotion and connection enriches what Thomas cooks and earned Love Soup a James Beard Award in 2009.
Thomas learned the value of home cooking early. Growing up in a Polish immigrant community in California,”there was a very strong sense of people cooking in their homes. Home cooking was normal, it’s what you do.” And it wasn’t fussy, just “good fresh food.“
It’s true — nourishing, seasonal, cheap, local, meatless, delicious and easy can all be ladled up from the same pot. And you don’t need exotic ingredients or a designer kitchen. Thomas backs me up on this. She created the recipes after downsizing from her too-big house to glorified studio space with an 81-inch kitchen.
Thomas has been setting the bar for hedonistic meatless eats since the ’70s, when she was “a poor film student on bad jobs and student loans. But I like to eat well. I needed to learn how to cook, to take care of myself.” So she set about teaching herself and serving up dinner to her friends. They kept encouraging her to write a book.
“I was very young, and when you’re young, you plunge ahead and do things without thinking,” she says. “I look back now and they’d have said that to anyone who gave them a home cooked meal. They were just starving students like I was.“
Yeah, but not every starving student writes a seminal cookbook. Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure was the veggie bible of its day, redefining meatless food. “There was not much in good, tasty, fun vegetarian food,” she recalls. “It was very earnest, well-meaning. What Mollie Katzen calls crunchy. I had this strange relation to food. I really wanted it to be everything it could be, a lot of fun and delicious.” Out with brown rice and sprouts, in with pea soup with dumplings and German apple pancake.
The Vegetarian Epicure spawned sequels, including The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two and The New Vegetarian Epicure, but then life got in the way. For a time, Thomas put the cookbooks on hold to focus on family and write screenplays including the script for the Academy Award-winning biopic, “Frida.”
Hollywood has its moments, but for Thomas, who teaches screenwriting at the American Film Institute, home cooking has more. “I’ve been working on a film project for two years, but you go into the kitchen, you enjoy the fruits of your labor immediately and you have a good time doing it. There’s a a wonderful sense of immediacy and earthiness about it.“
Love Soup was born of that belief. The recipes are seasonal and meatless, but deeply pleasurable, as well, and that, Thomas believes, is what matters most. “I always felt trying to force a battle about food could only have a bad result. I never tried to force things, I kept offering good choices, fresh food, delicious things. Everybody has to figure it out for themselves. You cannot force people, you can only offer them great opportunities.“