The Greens Cookbook, The Savory Way, and Fields of Greens are technically not a trilogy, although I often think of them in that way. All three are vegetarian cookbooks published in the late 80s and early 90s with beautiful green and orange covers, and all three were either written by — or linked very closely to — a favorite cookbook author, Deborah Madison. You can usually find them nestled together on my bookshelf, unless one is splayed open on my kitchen counter, opened to a favorite recipe that I've made so often, I hardly need the book anymore. Except that I do.
I still need these books, the actual, original books, because they bear testimony to my years as a cook. Splattered and dog-eared and riddled with notes, they hold within them memories of over 25 years of cooking, relationships, celebrations, and discoveries. These books introduced me to grinding fresh cumin and cooking with handfuls of herbs and the importance of a having a bottle of good olive oil on hand. I learned how to make chutney and raita and discovered the secret shortcut to making ravioli with wonton skins. I cooked from The Greens Cookbook for my first dinner party.
While it's not uncommon to fault them for being high in dairy (a common practice with earlier books on vegetarian cooking), I don't have so much of a problem with that. What's more notable for me is how many of the recipes have stood the test of time and have become staples in my kitchen: Black Bean Chili and Banana Yogurt Raita from The Greens Cookbook; Rhubarb Chutney and the orange-walnut cake made with a whole, unpeeled orange from The Savory Way; Fettuccine with Swiss Chard, Currants, Walnuts, and Brown Butter from Fields of Greens. Oh, I could go on!
While the recipes are the practical backbone of The Trilogy, the deeper lessons come from the writing, both the recipes themselves as well as the headnotes and additional material. These books teach by encouraging us to cook with all of our senses and set a good example through the careful attention demonstrated in the accurate, well tested recipes. All three books encourage presence and awareness in the kitchen, which is perhaps the most important piece of cooking advice I've ever received. Thank you Deborah, Ed, and Annie!
(Image credits: Dana Velden)