mollie katzen, good gollie

Question: Is a not particularly funny name funny if it is spelled unusually? I have not yet brought this query to the Blog of Funny Names Board (just kidding–no such thing), but I vote yes because it gives me license to write up a woman I admire.

First, a bit of background on why I care. Though a food science graduate, I knew nothing about cooking until post-college. Only after receiving a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas did I realize I wanted to be a food writer. While I’ve yet to publish a cookbook (one day!), I can legitimately claim food writing as part of my profession. (food for fun, anyone?) And I can legitimately say that I’m crazy about cookbooks.

Mollie then (photo credit to)

Mollie then (photo source: Vegetable Heaven)

Mollie now (photo credit: Simple Steps)

Mollie now (photo credit: Simple Steps)

Ms. Mollie Katzen has authored–and illustrated–some of the finest of the genre. With over 5 million books in print, Katzen is considered by The New York Times to be one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. Her focus on whole–and often vegetarian–foods led to Health Magazine naming her one of five “Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.” Her healthy food cred also earned her a position as founding member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Roundtable and one of the first inductees into the Natural Health Hall of Fame.

the first of many

the first of many

Evidence of her talent: Katzen’s first book, Moosewood Cookbook, is a literary and artistic feat. Hand-written, illustrated, and locally published, this spiral-bound notebook was inspired by recipes served at Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. Written in 1974, it went on to great fame: Several iterations and millions of copies later, it has become one of the most influential and beloved cookbooks of all time, earning a place in the James Beard Award Cookbook Hall of Fame as well as being coined a Cookbook Classic by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Enchanted Broccoli ForestIts sequel, Enchanted Broccoli Forest (1982), was as beautiful as its predecessor and went on to sell over a million copies. Other books include Still Life with Menu (1988), Pretend Soup (1994), Vegetable Heaven (1997), and Honest Pretzels (2004).

A New York Times article describes Katzen as “one of those visionaries who have been rendered almost invisible because they succeeded in making the unheard-of commonplace.” Katzen is largely credited with moving healthful gourmet food from the fringe to the center of American dinner plates. Though long associated with vegetarian cuisine, Katzen claims no membership in the veg club. Instead she says,

My vegetarian thing was never about meat or not; it was a massive vegetable obsession.

And that, my friends, is what Blog of Funny Names is all about. We love obsessions and we love to highlight folks who make a career out of them. So while there are no board meetings, there is a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Many thanks for being a part of that today with your visit!   Seal_LLC (2)

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About Liz

Owner of deLizious Food Communications. Projects include recipe development, editing, and formatting; food writing and editing; nutrition analysis; public speaking and cooking instruction. Past and present clients: General Mills, Green Giant Fresh, Hormel, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Pork Producers, Norwood Promotional Products, Pillsbury, Tad Ware, and Weight Watchers Publishing. Mother of two young girls.
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43 Responses to mollie katzen, good gollie

  1. ksbeth says:

    wonderful, i really didn’t know much about the woman behind these books – and i love obsessions and the people who have them too )

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, Beth! There’s way more to Mollie Katzen than I highlighted above. She was a founding member of Moosewood and is still busy writing books and making folks want to cook healthy.

      We do see a lot of obsession here in the blogosphere, don’t we? Who else would be writing about whatever topic in addition to whatever day job people have. We’re all just a teeny tiny but nuts, wouldn’t you say? 😉

  2. wdydfae says:

    “. . . the Katzen the bag with BoFN’s fabulous new post from Liz . . .”

    “. . . always rising to new challenges, this time Liz seriously raises the BoFN bar itself . . .”

    “. . . to BoFN’s endearing resume of quirky thumbnails and oddball antics can now be added a crisp, informative, smoothly written portrait fit for any glossy monthly . . . kudos to the food lady . . .”

    “. . . Liz takes that spatula and slices up a veritable martini of oven baked goodness . . .”

    “. . . Liz pan fries this whole grained melon like a seasoned pro freezing the topping of a freshly picked pot roast . . .”

    “. . . Liz’s spectacular new post is a pitted marshmallow swirling in a freshly grilled ice cream stew, sweet as a pickled pistachio and spicy as a fresh batch of organic lettuce . . .”

    • wdydfae says:

      I’m not one to boast, but I have to say, that new “cooking metaphor” algorithm for the blurb generator is working beautifully, don’t you think?

      • Liz says:

        Boast away, diddy. You’re cookin’ for sure. Especially love “katzen the bag”–mighty fine wordplay! Though there did seem a bit of confusion–mixed metaphors, I’d say–near the end. Spatulas don’t slice and aren’t used with martinis which of course go no where near the oven. Melons are not whole-grain and pot roasts aren’t picked freshly or even unfreshly. And this pitted marshmallow ice-cream stew thing–really, now. Are you mocking me?

        But you’ve used words such as algorithm so I shall forgive you for your culinary and literary sins. Will chalk it up to ignorance, you poor man. 😉

        • wdydfae says:

          I guess you missed all my expert sports metaphors in earlier posts, Liz. I was just applying the same knowledge to matters pertaining to food to celebrate your beautifully written portrait.!

          Anyway, I think you’re being too rigid here. You could theoretically slice a martini with a spatula, and pot roasts might grow on trees, like in Narnia of someplace like that.

          • Liz says:

            um… I think pot roasts only grown on trees in Theodor Seuss Geisel books.

          • wdydfae says:

            The great land of Suess, with pot roasts on trees?
            Where the grass is beef jerky, and the bushes grow cheese?
            Well, I like this great Suess land! I’ll go there right now
            If only some gentle kind soul would say how.

  3. markbialczak says:

    Her book titles are the best. Mollie Katzen my eyes with “Enchanted Broccoli Forest,” “Still Life with Menu,” “Pretend Soup” and “Honest Pretzels.” (Slight twist on the algorithm blurb generator there, OK, wydydfae?) In fact, I want Steely Dan to name the next album “Pretend Soup and Honest Pretzels.”

    Liz, great piece here. You write so well. Yet I must ask how a food science major can graduate knowing “nothing about cooking” as you say? From where did one obtain said degree? Sounds like my kind of college.

    The Moosewood Inn in Ithaca, N.Y. I’d go there but I like meat and have no such vegetable obsession as Madame Mollie Katzen.

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, Mark. Really oughta sign that book deal with you. As my co-manager, can you make it happen? We can bring Kerbey on as photographer, keeping everything in-house. And of course our launch party will be at… where should our launch party be at?

      About the cooking thing: food science can be learned without any cooking, really. Closest we got to actual food prep was measuring the thermal conductivity of a baked potato. As much as I didn’t love the science part (and did love all of my writing electives 🙂 ), I appreciate the knowledge as it helps explain things in the kitchen.

      You’re surprising me by not being a vegetable fan. I still remember the light bulb going off in my head when I was 16 (!) that because I loved to eat, vegetables would be my best friends. Because you can eat those all the time in great quantities and NOT GET FAT. And because I have a massive sweet tooth (and all around carb craving) as well as enjoying cocktails, I need those veggies to balance it all out. I bet Karen makes a pretty mean Brussels sprout.

      • markbialczak says:

        Yes, sign the deal with Kerbey Mark Agency already, Liz. Signing Party at Upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. (See my post today for creds.)

        I am glad you learned the thermal conductivity of a baked potato before you learned how to cook a baked potato. I will sleep well tonight repping your cookbook now!
        There’s the jacket quote right there. 🙂

        I did not say I am not a vegetable fan. I said I am not obsessed. And there you went listing one that I abhor. Brussel’s sprout. Gag.

    • wdydfae says:

      Getting Steely Dan into the mix takes it to a whole new level, Mark! I just got out my (K)aja(n) CD cover to explore the possibilities. “Pecan Blues”? “I Got the Stews”? “Leg”? “Juicy”?

  4. Great post Liz. I’d never heard of Mollie before today. I’ll have to find a few of her cookbooks!

    • Liz says:

      you should totally be cooking from her books, Fannie! For one, they’re gorgeous, but also it’s exactly the stuff you should be eating. But it’s not boring or drab–it’s colorful, inventive, etc. Thanks for coming over 🙂 I finally caught up over at your place.

  5. kerbey says:

    I’ve never heard of this woman before, but (as I am married to a Jimmie), I have a fondness for the “ie” as opposed to the “y,” although it is at fierce odds with my grammar-mindedness. I see that she stepped up her game from Moosewood to Broccoli as far as book covers, but we will have to supersnazz up your books, surpassing moose and broccoli and pretzels as well, while retaining the precious Christmas lights border that she has on the broccoli forest. (I guess that helps to see in the dark). I’ve eaten two of those things, by the way. Have you eaten moose?

    Having been raised eating tofu sandwiches and soy links from the first Whole Foods store on God’s “green” earth, I can say that I ate much more veggies in my childhood than meat. I still gag on gristle, while my husband can plow through last night’s pork chop fat as well as all of the objectionable bitty parts on a chicken wing that I leave for the trash. My mom made many a steamed artichoke meal, and I still love veggies. I just like bacon and wine and chocolate now, too. Each time we go out and I order veggie plates, they think I’m a vegetarian, but I just tell them, “I couldn’t narrow down a meat plate to two sides.” It happens more than you think. So I’m like Mollie; it’s not about hating meat, it’s about liking veggies.

    P.S. I am down for a meal at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que whilst listening to Steely Dan.

    • Liz says:

      I have not eaten moose, but would be willing to give it a go. Are you saying you’ve eaten Christmas tree lights? ’cause maybe they’d help you see in the dark?

      Am with you on loving veggies. We shall have a veggie platter alongside our wine and Jim Beam. Chocolate, too. Perhaps we can change the spelling of your nom de plume to Kerbie? (No disrespect for your beloved doggie.)

      • kerbey says:

        Well, food person that you are, I should let you know that in Austin, there are several Kerbey Lane Cafes, so that is an homage to that spelling as well. They make the most scrumtrilescent gingerbread pancakes, as big as a frying pan, double-tiered and smelling like holidays. And I drink iced hibiscus tea there to wash it down!

        No, I haven’t eaten Christmas tree lights; just pretzels and broccoli. I like Aunt Anne’s jalapeno pretzels!

        • Liz says:

          oh goodness-just googled your namesake cafe and I must go! $3 beer and wine ALL DAY and also, they have Core Values. What’s not to love here? Nothing, I tell you, nothing is not to love. I will be applying for my Rewards Card so that I can take you there when I finally get to Tejas. Do you head to KLC often?

          Yay, Aunt Anne’s! We have a BOGO pretzel coupon from a box of pretzels I bought from a school fundraiser. Should I save it for when you get to MN?

          • kerbey says:

            Yes, do save it. I will eat both pretzels! And KLC is one of those places that is ALWAYS packed, so you have to be up for an hour wait, which I was much more in my younger days. In college, my friend and I would go after clubbing and eat Kerbey Queso w/ guacamole in the middle and iced hibiscus tea and get out of there under $10. But now it’s pricey and busy bc the food is good and all organic. I DO miss those gingerbread pancakes.

    • Dave says:

      That’s awesome! I’m a veggie lover as well (much more than fruit). I recently told a young friend (6 years old) that broccoli was chicken dressed up as a tree. I don’t know if it helped that much, but he did eat his veggies that night!

  6. Dave says:

    Stopping by the night before a gigantic pulmonary exam, and I was delighted to get lost in the “Enchanted Broccoli Forest” for a moment. Those other book titles are pretty awesome too!

    I also love finding out about people who do things I could never dream of, like hand-illustrating a cookbook I wrote myself. The world is a truly beautiful place!

    And as a matter of fact, there is a Blog of Funny Names Board… it’s what happens when Arto and I meet up and have some scotch and talk about funny names, which regrettably hasn’t happened enough recently. The board has no executive power, but it exists in our minds 🙂

    And just for the record, Mollie Katzen is a truly marvelous, wonderful name! Funny spellings definitely add to the awesomeness of a name, no question!!!!! Enjoy your evening, Liz!

    • Liz says:

      so there IS a board, then? I’m going to need a where and when for the next meeting. I’ll bring my bottle of Pappy! (ok, so I won’t bring my bottle of Pappy because I don’t have one, but I do have a handful of lovely bourbons from the Kentucky trip and I’d be glad to bring those)

      Thanks for your enthusiasm and kind words, King Dave. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

      • Dave says:

        Yay Pappy! I don’t care if you don’t have one… isn’t sharing imaginary food items one of our “things” here on the BoFN?

        Thanksgiving was awesome, although seriously lacking the Pappy (or really alcoholic beverages of any type)… that’s what happens when you’ve got a bunch of teetotalers in your family!

  7. Dave says:

    Oh, and I stopped by the Delizious page for the first time in a while, and was delighted to see a fact about a giant pumpkin! Life is good!

    • Liz says:

      lol, thanks Dave. Glad you enjoyed the Giant Pumpkin. Will be needing to switch the quote up again soon. Anything you’d especially like to know?

  8. Liz says:

    Reblogged this on food for fun and commented:

    @ Blog of Funny Names–a woman who loves her some veggies

  9. Sophie33 says:

    A great very interesting post for me but being a Belgian, I have never heard of this woman chef before! But now that has changed! 🙂

  10. KerryCan says:

    I think everyone I know has her Moosewood Cookbook! She was vegetarian before vegetarian was cool!

  11. MamaD1xx4xy says:

    Another fun and entertaining post. Obsessions, I have no idea what you’re talking about! Ok, I may have several, but that’s normal isn’t it?!

  12. Bonnie says:

    I’ve heard of her cookbooks over the years even though I don’t own one. It’s always just cool to learn more about the story of the person behind something so well known!

    • Liz says:

      I especially liked what the NYT article had to say about her being an “invisible” hero. She’s working in the background not for her own glory, but for the glory of the vegetables 😉 Healthy eating, really.

      Appreciate your visits, Bonnie, always. But mostly appreciate you!

  13. I own Molly’s cookbook and love it! I just didn’t know much about her in particular. Thanks Liz for enlightening me as always.

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