Six Seasons: Final Thoughts
It’s the last week of June, and we have to talk about my adventures in vegetables through the book Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden. Before we even talk about the food, I have to gush poetic about all that I learned from this man and his book. This isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a tome of knowledge. The cover of the book says it best: “Joshua McFadden has the soul of a farmer.”
A farmer and a chef made one is a dangerous thing -- for the vegetables. This kind of person knows just what to do, and Joshua McFadden shared his skills with us through this book. For every season and every vegetable, there is a section dedicated to that vegetable. He talks all about how to clean it, what to look for when you’re at the market. For a novice, this is a perfect guide. He teaches you how to store the vegetable once you bring it home and advises how long it’ll generally keep in the fridge. I know next to nothing about how long a squash is going to survive in my fridge, but he does. Thanks, Joshua.
That said, I have never bookmarked this many recipes from a single book. I save twenty-four different recipes that range from butters to casseroles (yes, casseroles. Apparently they aren't as dead as I thought, but more on that later). Each is inspiring and flexible, broken down by seasonality of the star vegetable. I love this approach to a cookbook.
You’re going to laugh, but I may as well have bookmarked the entire ‘corn’ section of the book. I come from corn country. His approach to this dietary staple brought life to the bowl of canned corn or the traditional corn on the cob that I grew up with in Illinois. I started my approach to his corn centric recipes with his recipe ‘Corn, Tomatoes, and Clams on Grilled Bread, Knife-and-Fork-Style’.
As I started my preparations, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My husband is very anti-tomato, and it felt like a big risk for me to try to make him a recipe that featured both cherry tomatoes and tomato paste. I hoped that the inclusion of clams would more than make up for the ingredients that my husband hates. I said a little prayer over my stock pot as I poured the clams in over the broth. I put the lid on and sealed in clam and prayer alike.
It paid off. When I served that thick cut piece of bread covered in clams, broth, corn, and the occasional piece of tomato, I was not greeted with declarations of how I should know he doesn’t like tomato. He ate it gladly, declared it ‘pretty good, babe’, and I couldn’t expect much more than that. Speaking as the person who really enjoys tomatoes, the pop of acidity that the cherry tomatoes added in the mouth to help back up the lemon made them a worthwhile addition. Too bad my husband didn’t get to enjoy that.
The recipes are sometimes not feasible for a weekday, but there are plenty of project cooks in here for me to have fun with on the weekend. He’s driven me to figure out how the hell to make creme fraiche since its not sold in stores here in rural Delaware. He’s given me a new appreciation for vegetables that has helped me through my new pescetarian diet. That said, this is not a beginner's cookbook.
He does a lot to teach the reader about the product, but some of the techniques called for in his recipes were new and challenging even for me (I’ve been at this since I was twelve). Clams and certain other types of seafood are a little scary for anyone to cook, especially when you pick up the bag of clams at the grocery store and they all start to open and close at you. Some fruits and veggies just don't appear at the store when you want them, even peak season.
Six Seasons can be challenging,but I will continue to recommend it going forward. I have vegetarian and pescetarian family that would surely enjoy some of the recipes. For this reason, June’s cookbook of the month earns a prime spot in my reference materials. Thanks, Joshua. For real this time.
My opinion on Vegan cooking remains largely unchanged after cooking a handful of recipes out of Thug Kitchen. I do, however, feel more knowledgeable about it. That’s the best I can say, given I did not enjoy some of the flavors from the recipes I sampled this month. I even neglected doing the last recipe this week because I just wasn’t sure it would live up to my expectations after two of three disappointments.
The book is packed with recipes and information usable in at least understanding vegan cooking, which is definitely their mission. They explain the more unusual ingredients such as ‘nooch’ that are not typically seen in other diets, how to use them, and where you can look for them. For this reason, it is an excellent introduction. For someone like me, however, who has no actual desire to become Vegan, there isn’t much here to drag me into the lifestyle.
For that reason, I am not sure I’d recommend it going forward. The one recipe I really enjoyed was the tofu scramble. At the very least, the book introduced me to their online community and podcast which I do still enjoy despite it being vegan based. They do their best not to use the ‘cursed word’, which definitely helps them online.
If you are considering a vegan diet, this may be a good place to start if you want to understand what you might be getting into. If you’re a curious cook, like me, maybe look elsewhere.
May Week 3: Vegan Pad Thai
This was probably the most disappointing dish to come out of Thug Kitchen’s cookbook so far. The scramble gave me higher hopes, but they were struck down by the sweet sauce for this recipe. That said, I think there are some things about this recipe that are redeeming qualities, namely techniques that can be learned when you follow through.
Dry frying and pressing tofu are discussed as part of this recipe, so it is a good guide for treatment of the product. Tofu is absolutely intimidating the first time you unwrap that block of soybean curd. Thug Kitchen has a good way of disarming the vegan jargon into something the average person can understand and feel comfortable working with. It also helped me clean out my fridge of vegetables I use in other recipes throughout the week, and that’s something I find that almost every recipe in this book is good for doing.
Still, the sauce itself remains a problem for me. I am wary of the brown sugar whenever it comes up in a savory meal, and I will hold it at fault for my feelings on this recipe. The sweet sauce just was not tasty on the noodles or the vegetables. My husband really liked it, all but the thin rice noodles I choose at the grocery store. The choice of maifun probably did not help my chances of enjoying this recipe, to be honest.
Oh well. At least it was pretty.
*Translation: He thinks he’s chef now too
Due to ingredient availability, the schedule got shifted around a bit. Rather than discussing that promising vegetable noodle soup, tofu scramble tacos have been moved up the roster. Amazon has to send me some miso before I can accurately create the noodle soup, but tofu and every veggie in the crisper drawer is easy enough to com by.
And let me begin by saying: holy shit, ya’ll. I did not expect to hit a recipe out of this book that would go over so well with both me and my husband. Entirely vegan recipes are daunting and in my experience often not flavorful. These tacos defied this stereotype for me and my husband. I’m glad it got moved up the schedule, because I was beginning to worry I wouldn’t find a recipe that I genuinely liked.
I didn’t have everything necessary according to the recipe, but the authors of this book state several times that recipes are just a guideline. For example, I used sweet miniature peppers rather than bell peppers and a poblano rather than a jalapeno based solely on the fact that I had them already. They fulfilled the same purposes as the ingredients I didn’t have, and it helped me make sure nothing went to waste.
Best of all, my husband didn’t go picking veggies out of it. I didn’t have to scrape away and discard bits of carrot, pepper, or broccoli when it came time to clean the dishes. This helps me know I stumbled on something special. He’ll eat tofu any way I make it, but sometimes veggies are neglected. These tacos are a vehicle of goodness.
The fact that this vegan recipe can clean out my fridge and get my husband to eat all of the veggies makes this a fun, special recipe that may actually find a permanent spot on our menu. Good job, Thug Kitchen.
*no translation needed
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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