Unlike the pictures of vegetables in her new book, “Vegetable Literacy” which are bright and beautiful, I couldn’t get a clear and close picture of Deborah Madison at “A Conversation with Deborah Madison” sponsored by SlowFood Santa Fe. She speaks softly and uses her hands to illustrate her point, often times holding a leek, bulb and all or a stalk of purple amaranth. A little shy, I think, it seemed whenever I pointed the camera at her, she would move a Jerusalem artichoke (which looks like a sunflower) in front of her face. It’s not about me, she seemed to say, but about these big beautiful vegetables.
Deborah Madison loves her vegetables and whether we were hearing about a familiar favorite or learning about an heirloom or how to use greens we never thought of using, Ms. Madison made us want to grow and prepare and eat vegetables and herbs in new and wonderful ways. The recipes we tried from her book were delicately flavored with unusual combinations of herbs and spices. A lemon pound cake with caraway seeds? Perfect. Lemonade with sage and mint? Divine. And her take on ordinary ingredients was inspiring. An simple onion tart was a thing of delicate beauty.
I will be cooking from “Vegetable Literacy” for a long time. The only drawback? As someone said, “it’s a coffee table book with gorgeous pictures. I just didn’t want to get the pages dirty.”