This Vegetarian Feminist Cookbook Changed My Life
How ‘The Second Seasonal Political Palate’ helped me find a different way to write about food
When I found The Second Seasonal Political Palate at Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York City many years back, it felt like a treasure. I had only recently begun to collect and research vintage vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, seeking a political through line, and I knew the out-of-print early texts from the Bloodroot Collective were key to my understanding. A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook, it announces on the top of the cover.
When I opened it up, the dedication was “For Alicia.” A sign, absolutely. Never mind that this was the second book, not the first. It was for me.
I have the second printing, released in 1990, but the original came out in 1984. Before one gets to the recipes in this book, there is a long list of “prefatory material.” Of the cookbooks, they write, “Both books are more than collections of recipes. They document our interest in ethnic and ethical cooking, our commitment to feminism, our growth as individual women living and working collectively.” The changes that occurred between The Political Palate and The Second Seasonal Political Palate are documented, such as the removal of fish from the menu.
One especially fascinating note, is that the writers — Betsey Beaven, Noel Furie, and Selma Miriam — discuss why a “health-oriented” approach to vegetarianism is, to them, problematic. “No one seems to ask about stress suffered by poverty and starvation, by rape, by torture and murder, by the death of one’s children, by twelve hours a day working on computer chips,” they say. “‘Stress Management’ is a luxury of the privileged.”
Where else will one see Adrienne Rich’s essay ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’ quoted beneath a recipe for wild rice and nut butter?
The authors also explain why their vegetarianism is rooted specifically in feminism, citing the work of Carol J. Adams, author of the ever-relevant The Sexual Politics of Meat.