ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARGARET V. PUTMAN
If Sigrid Shepard's Great-aunt Myra hadn't gone to China as
a missionary, Sigrid might never have written The Thursday
Night Feast and Good Plain Meals Cookbook. And if that had
happened, the English-speaking world would have been
deprived of an exceptionally good culinary book.
Feast (as Sigrid refers to it) is a hefty
natural foods how-to manual that features the cuisines of
China, Japan, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East. And
not just "features" those cuisines ... but tells you how to
use common or easy-too-btain ingredients to produce over
800 of the most mouthwatering dishes imaginable (none of
which you could call plain, by the way).
But—to get back to Aunt Myra—it was she who
first brought the Orient to young Sigrid's attention with
the intriguing gifts she sent home from the other side of
the world. In later years, Sigrid expanded on her Aunt
Myra—inspired early fascination for the East by
becoming expert in first Chinese, then Japanese cuisines
... and she didn't stop till she'd mastered many of the
best kitchen techniques of the whole Eastern Hemisphere!
In her introduction to the book, Sigrid explains how and
why Feast came to be: "Like many people at
the beginning of the 70's, I became interested in natural
foods, and I found that Eastern dishes were a "natural" for
this type of food preparation ... the cardinal rule for
both being not to cook out the vitality.
"Eastern food is a feast for the eye, the palate, and the
body. The short cooking time and inexpensive ingredients
make it a quick, economical cuisine for busy people who
don't want to live on denatured, prepackaged,
Feast resulted from the urging of friends
and neighbors who kept asking for recipes and finally
talked me into teaching them for a year of Thursday nights.
The class came to be called the Thursday Night Feast
because we prepared 15 to 20 dishes each meeting and then
feasted on them. Thanks to Margaret Putman's illustrations,
each technique that was demonstrated in class is shown step
by step in the book.
"Recipes have been tested repeatedly, so they're easy to
follow and will produce a uniform result ... no matter what
the experience of the cook. Every step-how to saute onions,
how to soak mushrooms, how to deep-fry—is fully
explained each time it's used. All terms are translated or
explained as they occur ... no referring to page 370 when
you're on page 216. The same goes for variations: They're
always directly opposite the main recipe on a two-page
Feast , however, is not a culinary
dictator. Many different substitutes are suggested, so that
when you're out of this or low on that there are always
alternate ingredients easy to find in North America.
Elaborate kitchens and equipment are not a must for
preparing Eastern dishes, either. Old-fashioned cast-iron
pots and frying pans and improvised steamers work as well
as woks, karhais, and bamboo steamers, and many of the
feasts have been prepared over Yukon campfires as well as
in fancy urban kitchens.
"For both philosophical and economic reasons, the peoples
of the countries covered in this book have subsisted on
lowmeat and vegetarian diets for centuries. Beans, bean
curd, sprouts, lentils, nuts, and seeds are used as a
protein source in place of—or to enhance the limited
use of—expensive meat. So Feast is
designed for both vegetarians and meat-eaters. It's low on
the use of eggs and dairy products, and calls for no
monosodium glutamate (MSG).
"The major substitutions (to make it a natural foods
cookbook) are honey for sugar, brown rice and whole wheat
for white processed varieties, cold-pressed unsaturated
vegetable oils for animal fat, and sea salt for processed
salt. Cooking methods haven't been changed, because these
cultures are already into a healthful way of cooking.
"The recipes feature many herbs and spices—as well as
beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts—but
prepackaged and prepared foods are never used in this
economical, nutritious cuisine. Most of the dishes can be
served hot or cold the next day for lunch or dinner, so
nothing is wasted. In fact, one of the beauties of Eastern
food is that a leftover dinner—with just one or two
dishes added—can turn into a feast.
"Sauteing, steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, and grilling
are the main methods of cooking. Low fuel use and small
stoves with no ovens have dictated these methods,
which-translated to Western kitchens-make for low energy
use. Much time is spent in preparation: grating, slicing,
julienning, chopping, and marinating ... all steps where
others can lend a hand to make the process go faster.
Although many dishes in Feast are long on
preparation time, there are also many quick meals that can
be put together in 20 to 30 minutes.
"Here in North America, we have one of the richest harvests
the world has ever enjoyed, yet we turn that harvest into a
tasteless nutritional wasteland. Feast was
put together to help you discover the simple methods and
fine foods which millions of people for thousands of years
have used to provide themselves with a delicious and
nourishing diet. Whether you eat to live or live to eat,
make it a feast!"
Sounds good, and it is! Here, to give you just a
tantalizing sample of the kind of fare Sigrid's kitchen
manual has to offer, are two recipes selected from the
Indian section of her book.
BAKED CHICKEN WITH SPICES AND STUFFING
1 large roasting chicken or 1 large chicken cut into
1teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Wash chicken well. Rub with salt and pepper inside and out.
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup almonds, chopped fine or slivered
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon saffron or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
3 to 4 cups cooked rice
Heat a small cost-iron skillet over medium heat. Add and
melt butter. Add almonds, stirring and trying them for two
to three minutes until they're just brown. Remove from
heat. Add spices (which should be fresh ground, if
possible), raisins, and honey ... and mix well. Then stir
into rice in a large bowl. Stuff chicken with rice, bind
for easy turning, and place on a rack. (Or, if working with
a cut-up bird, place stuffing in a baking dish and cover
with chicken pieces.) Bake at 3250 for 20 to 30 minutes
(until partly done).
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom, slightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
4 or 5 black peppercorns, parched and crushed
While chicken is roasting, mix masala spices well (again,
they should be fresh ground it possible). Set aside.
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, minced
3 thin slices ginger, minced
Heat a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add
oil, and heat it until a small piece of onion sizzles in
it. Add onions and ginger, stirring and frying them five to
ten minutes until just tender. Mix with spices and spread
paste over partly baked chicken. Continue to bake for 40 to
50 minutes until done (if you're roasting your chicken
whole, baste it occasionally with drippings), and serve
hot. Serves six.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1/4-inch fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped or coriander leaves,
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil,
and heat until a piece of onion sizzles in it. Add onion,
ginger, and parsley or coriander. Stir and fry five to ten
minutes until onions are soft and transparent but not
2 medium potatoes, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
Add to onion mixture, and stir and try five to ten minutes
until potatoes are half done.
2 medium tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch cubes, or I cup stewed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder
Add to potatoes. Mix well, cover, and simmer five to ten
minutes until potatoes are almost done.
1/4 to 1/2 pound small shrimp, shelled, deveined, and
steamed five to ten minutes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add to potatoes and tomatoes, mixing well. Cook three to
five minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the
shrimp are well coated with sauce. Serve hot, with a rice
dish. Serves four to six.
Reprinted by permission from The Thursday Night Feast
and Good Plain Meals Cookbook, a $9,95 paperback
by Sigrid M. Shepard, copyright© 1976 by the
author Distributed to bookstores in the U.S. by BOOKPEOPLE,
Berkeley, Calif. and in Canada by J.J. Douglas Ltd.,
Vancouver, B.C., and available from Mother's