I haven’t always been a vegetarian and in fact I grew up in the meatiest place around — Alberta (a place known for their beef). My mom was a “housewife” (what she always answered when we asked her what her job was when we were little) and home-cooked meals were the norm in our house. Those meals looked exactly like how you’d expect — meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Sometimes we had salads but there was something vegetal on the plate. So in my mind that seems like the iconic (and correct) way of eating. Since becoming a vegetarian and then with the birth of my daughter I’ve really struggled with what I would serve us (thankfully my husband is a vegetarian too so there’s only one meal to focus on). It’s hard to change a mindset. I think the hardest thing for my friends and family is that I must be missing out on holidays or other occasions when food is front and centre. I tell people that for my daughter, she has nothing to compare to so that whatever we make will be special and memorable. That said, I do focus much energy on ensuring that her food mindset is full of iconic meals and foods for special (and not-so-special) occasions. (A long lead-in to this week’s review but I’m getting there — promise!)
I never really considered bowl food or bowl eating very much until one day while I was watching the cookbook mail being opened at Food52 during a Facebook Live session (if you’re not familiar, someone sits and opens the mail and presents all the upcoming/new titles from publishers). A couple titles were related to bowl cooking and the person opening the envelopes and showing the books made a comment about how bowl-foods were trending/having a moment. But these comments really got me thinking — is this really a trend or a bigger shift in our collective food mindset?
I think that this is what Nina Olsson really taps into in her book Bowls of Goodness. Early in the introduction she talks about being a child in the 70s when she ate home-cooked meals and how when the ’80s arrived so did the convenience food and microwave dinners. She talks about moving into her first home and feeling the need to move back towards home-cooked and home-baked foods. Olsson does point out that there is an ancient “human tradition of eating from bowls” so while this movement seems very modern it’s rooted in history.
It’s hard not to love her recipes. If you’ve ever visited her website, Nourish Atelier, you’ll find beautifully styled photos of the most gorgeous looking food. I’ve always found that her recipes look to create a moment with the eater in which they become more connected with the wholefood way of cooking and eating. Life is complex but this cookbook is not — I’ve found it to be full of easy, satisfying recipes that anyone can enjoy.
Case in point, on a recent family road trip we spent a couple weeks with my mother-in-law who isn’t into cooking but is really adventurous when it comes to trying different foods. It was during this trip that I brought Bowls of Goodness with me — my MIL kindly let me take over her kitchen so I could try out some recipes. It was her first time eating Farro or Burrata and she discovered that she enjoyed them! So while it may be that you’ll pick up a cookbook and feel that the ingredients are too different remember that you might find food you really enjoy. I even got to try out a recipe that takes my husband’s favourite meal (roasted tomatoes on spaghetti) and completely elevates it — the Slutty Pasta! (pictured below) combines roasted tomato puttanesca with wholegrain pasta which I served topped with crushed fresh nuts and herbs. The whole bowl was bright, lively, and delicious af.
Her book is organized by chapters — Good Morning Sunshine, Soups, Salads, Grain Bowls, Noodles, Zoodles, and Pasta, Hearty Meals, Sharing and Sides, It’s Sweet — there are recipes to suit any time of day or occasion. Her book is vegetarian — eggs and dairy are used but in a way so that if they were omitted the integrity of the recipe would remain intact (there are a few exceptions — like her beetroot pasta which requires eggs for the dough). All of the recipes are inspired by ingredients from around the world. If you’re living in a bigger city you should have no problem sourcing ingredients — I live in a city of less than half a million and I successfully procured all components of the recipes I tried ( if you’re curious to see what else I’ve been cooking visit my custom IG hashtag #eatworthybowlsofgoodness or my dedicated Facebook post here).
One of the biggest food experiences when I was younger was when my sister and I got invited to a “grown-up dinner” at the house of friends of my parents. It was really special because it was the first time I had ever eaten fondue! At the time, this woman didn’t have any children but I’m sure when she’d invited us she tried to think of the most kid-friendly but dinner party acceptable food. It was a big success so when I saw the recipe for Butternut Squash “Cheese” Fondue I was so excited to make it for my daughter. She loved being able to choose her own crudites and what child wouldn’t love skewering their food and dunking it in sauce?? And, I might add, while having fondue seems very special-occasiony this version is very simple and took no time to make. Aside from roasting the squash, plating the raw veg was easy like Sunday morning (and clean-up was almost nil!!).
While all of Olsson’s food is extremely nourishing and comforting she makes sure to include some sweet treats at the end. Doesn’t this Nice Cream and Caramel Sauce w/ Coconut & Peanut Shred look utterly decadent? Not only is this dessert bowl super decadent and lush but it’s also full of wholefood ingredients. The ice cream is really blended frozen bananas which is a perfect stand-in for the dairy-based variety and at only one ingredient makes those multi-ingredient, store-bought kinds look very unappealing.
After trying many of her recipes, I think that what any type of bowl-foods offer is a change in mindset rather than just a passing trend. Slowly what I think of as being a “proper” dinner (on a plate!) is being replaced by these amazing combinations of raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, and grains served in a bowl. Funny enough the feeling is still there when a meal is home-cooked — nourishment, comfort, love, connectedness. So while the meal of my childhood looks different than my daughter’s childhood meals the feelings remained the same. What Bowls of Goodness offers is a way to enjoy the simple art of vegetarian cooking while using the very best whole-ingredients.
I used my own personal copy to write this review.