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On any given day, you can flip the TV on and find a slice of modern glamour. It’s called a cooking show. Cooking? Glamourous? Yes. It’s the exact parallel to that four-inch pair of heels most of us don’t need and can’t walk in—”a bridge to an ideal self,” as Virginia Postrel describes glamour’s essence in her book, The Power of Glamour. Here’s the rub: we’re ready to unhook from glamour almost as soon as we experience it, according to Colin Campbell in The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism.  We love the idea of cooking. We don’t always love the reality of it.

Intellectually, we know that eating scratch-cooked meals made in our own homes is healthier, cheaper and provides endless social benefits for families, couples and communities. That’s what makes it aspirational. Here’s the reality: scratch cooking has given way to boxed, frozen and other partially-ready foods made in some unknown factory. We don’t have time to pack lunches, so we eat out. That’s the default.

Some of us blame it on time constraints. Author Michael Pollan implies a lack of time isn’t the barrier—it’s that Americans devalue cooking. Or at least we value it less than we do our leisure time. (How, he asks, did we find the extra two hours we now spend each day online?)

Growing up in the 1960s, my family rarely dined in a restaurant. It was a frivolous expense—not a necessity. Part of what made it glamourous was the idea that our mother—the source of every domestic gift in our life—was NOT involved in the service of this meal. There she was, just like us—being served. We hardly recognized her this way!

What’s funny is that I’m the one who cooks now. Poor health and a lifetime of meal preparation have extinguished her kitchen ambition, but we still trade recipes. I can’t wait to share a few from the fabulous vegetarian cookbook I received as a gift this Christmas. The author is Mollie Katzen, an artist, musician and writer who cooked and ate vegetarian meals before it was cool.

The New Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen’s Classic Cooking) is truly aspirational. I soon found myself wanting to cook my way through the whole book. Two weeks into the year and I’ve already used it to make a lemon pound cake, minestrone soup plus a spinach-rice casserole my husband called “worth a re-run.” Wow. I was expecting to hear, “Where’s the meat?”

The Moosewood is a collection of recipes gathered and created over a lifetime. Many are a direct result of Katzen’s involvement in The Moosewood, a vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York. The book was first published in the 1970s by popular demand for Katzen’s vegetarian recipes, which she often scribbled on napkins at the request of restaurant patrons. Katzen also has a more recent book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, published in 2013.

Other thoughtful books about food

Christ Kitchen: Loving Women Out of Poverty,  which explores the complexities of poverty and offers practical ways out for individuals and groups who want to do something about it.

I’ve read and loved all but one of Michael Pollan’s books. His latest, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, looks like a must read for people who are fired up to cook in 2014.

How often do you eat out? What are your secrets for preparing home cooked meals on the fly?

Remember how Leave it to Beaver’s June Cleaver would fly out of the kitchen, wearing high-heels and a crisp shirtwaist dress covered by an apron? That’s exactly how I dress in the kitchen! ☺

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.