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More-with-Less (Herald Press, 1976, 2000) is a simple classic cookbook that you may never heard of, but if you’re concerned about making wholesome food economically, it’s one to check out. First written in 1976 by Doris Janzen Longacre in association with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as a response to the odd, yet continuing quandary of how to nourish oneself when much of the world starves, yet North Americans consume too much.

Longacre was much more than a talented home cook. A trained nutritionist with a degree in home economics, she traveled through Vietnam and Indonesia as part of her service to the MCC. As a result, this is not just a collection of favorite recipes. More than two-thirds feature those that call for low-cost low-sugar and less expensive protein (think: more beans, less meat). Longacre was ahead of her time in warning of the perils of a diet filled with processed foods, notably highlighting sugar as a key villain to the health of children.

She offered deeply practical advice on shopping, buying in bulk, setting up menus and saving money –points still relevant in tough economic times. Most of the recipes are simple honest food, from a wide variety of breads, beans, casseroles and the likes of chicken pie. Others reveal surprisingly forward thinking; long before the “no knead” phenomenon, the book included a no knead whole wheat bread recipe supplied by a reader from Longacre’s hometown of Akron, Pa. Her experience with the flavors of Asia can be seen in many recipes, such as Pia Pia, Indonesian shrimp fritters. She offers variations on many standard boxed convenience foods, such as condensed soups and casserole “helpers.”

Why It’s Important: Longacre’s work apparently resonated with many; the proof of the efficacy of Longacre’s message is her low-sugar “company pudding.” The original book went into 47 printings, selling 847,000 copies around the world until the 25th Anniversary edition was released in 2000. I first stumbled across it when researching Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline), an effort aimed to teach cooking and nutrition to low-income families. The book was often referenced for its insight and inspiration on eating well on tight budgets. Longacre advocated her readers to “eat with joy,” and to become nurturers, rather than consumers, a message which I believe is as important today as ever.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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