Vintage Veg

‘The Vegetarian Compass’ Is a Timeless Cookbook

Chef Karen Hubert Allison’s legacy has been lost to time, but her 1998 cookbook is transcendent

Alicia Kennedy
Tenderly
Published in
3 min readNov 5, 2019

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Photo: Alicia Kennedy

“People become vegetarians for spiritual, nutritional, political, and ecological reasons,” writes chef Karen Hubert Allison in the introduction to her 1998 cookbook The Vegetarian Compass. “Whether we are saving our bodies, our planet, or our place in heaven we are putting more vegetables on our plates than ever before.”

I found this book while working on a piece about rutabagas — how through a complicated sous-vide process, they could replicate the flavor of pork belly, like a dish I’d had from the vegan tasting menu at Chicago restaurant Alinea. Somewhere deep on the internet, on a message board that had grown virtually dusty, someone mentioned a recipe for rutabaga steaks found in this book. Immediately, I ordered it for research; that its cover was so simple and striking, a cabbage leaf presented with the lighting and care of a couture gown or a nude body, helped, of course. Like most people, I’m accustomed to vegetarian cookbooks that insist on their right to exist in a carnivorous world and wouldn’t dare come out of the gate with so striking and vague a cover. (It’s a 1931 photo by Edward Weston, titled Cabbage Leaf.)

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Alicia Kennedy
Tenderly

I’m a food writer from Long Island based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter on food issues: aliciakennedy.substack.com