Monday, December 22, 2008

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love.


Rose said...

This sounds like a great cookbook, Joyce, and to think it was published in the 70's! I learned frugal cooking from the best teacher in the world--my mother. Things did not go to waste in our household! I'm sorry to say I haven't always followed her teachings--convenience foods are just too easy when you're a busy working mom. Now that I have more time I find myself looking for ways to economize and to be less wasteful.

My mother gave me a cookbook a few years ago compiled by a German group she belongs to. The recipes weren't always that useful--blood sausage and head cheese, for example! But the stories that accompanied them were a wonderful insight into the lives of my grandparents and great-grandparents.

I haven't been reading too many blogs this past week--Christmas preparations taking up so much of time. I can't believe you didn't get out for your Sunday stroll yesterday:)

Stay warm, and have a wonderful Christmas, Joyce.

fullfreezer said...

I love this cookbook! I have had it and used it for years it is so informational to just read. I also like the 'Extending the Table' cookbook, also from the MCC. It features lots of global recipes but is still in the 'more with less' frame of mind.

Green Bean said...

Before you, Joyce, I'd never heard of this cookbook. Thank you for introducing it to a new generation of wannabe frugal cookers at a time we all really need it. It sounds wonderful.

Joyce said...

Rose- it will possibly conjure up memories of avacado appliances and orange shag carpet, but the recipes are great!

My husband would love to tell you all a few stories of my complete incompetence as a cook when we first married. My mom was not an enthusiastic cook herself, and did not teach me. Nor were we vegetable gardeners. This book really turned it around for me. Thanks goodness!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I'm reading The Tightwad Gazette, and the author mentions this cookbook there also. What's that word for these kinds of coincidences? Like when you learn the definition of a word you've never heard before and then suddenly you hear the word everywhere?...Anyway, funny coincidence, and I'm going to have to check out this cookbook.

Ten Thousand Villages U.S. said...

Dear Joyce,

Thank you for the kind words about Living More with Less. For your readers who may be interested in purchasing the book, while supporting a worthwhile cause, can find it as well as Extending the Table, More with Less, Simply in Season, and Simply in Season Children's Version at their nearest Ten Thousand Villages store.

As a project of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and as one of the oldest and largest nonprofit fair trade retailers, we strive to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries by establishing a sustainable market for handmade products in North America.

As a nonprofit, we achieve this mission by building long term buying relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.

Our commitment to support artisans around the globe is strengthened through fair trade compensation practices including cash advances and prompt payments.

More than 60 years later, and as the company continues to grow, Ten Thousand Villages has become increasingly conscious of the need to marry the concept of fair trade with healthy and environmentally sustainable business practices.

Today, Ten Thousand Villages continues to carry out a conscious approach toward minimizing an environmental impact. From store operations to product selection to marketing practices, Ten Thousand Villages strives to meet the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

Check out to locate a store near you, and to you and your readers, we wish you the happiest in the coming year!

~Ten Thousand Villages U.S.