The human language has been quite abused lately, especially since technology allows equal time to the literate and illiterate. But my mourning weeds are donned for the fatal assault on the most beautiful and important word we have: LOVE. For centuries, poets have rhymed, playwrights have dramatized and novelists have fantasized, searching for ways to describe that most profound of emotions. And how they, too, would weep to watch its interment by the forces of politics and commerce (alias power and greed). We have witnessed the “politics of love” (and I disagree with many of my hopeful friends that good intentions and pragmatic morality can overcome the temptations and limitations of power) and we are urged daily to partake of the latest love potion offered by our advanced civilization (ranging from cosmetics to automobiles).

Love, as a word, has become as common as a bureaucratic acronym, a vulgar catchall in a shallow and exploitative society.

Is it cynical to believe that this most precious of emotions is constantly being abused by 90% of the population? Am I a purist for deploring the obscene and silly valentines that clutter our mailboxes? Have I lost touch with reality because I shudder to hear an adult declare his or her love for a particular deodorant, hamburger, potato chip or movie star?

I think not. I simply have realized that love is an emotion that inherently requires commitment, that it is the rarest of gems that needs frequent polishing, and that it is the only means to our salvation on this planet. For only through love — of God, of ourselves, of our fellow “earthlings” — can we overcome the disasters that are bound to beset us.

Maybe the time has come to find a new word for that sublime responsibility we call love. But if we cannot do that, at least each of us can be more careful in using the old word — and in our attitude to the emotion itself.

Frequently, I discover valuable books, ideas, music, experiences and people after they have already been acclaimed by everyone else. And so it is with a book which I recently came across, Ellen Buchman Ewald’s Recipes for a Small Planet (Ballantine Books, a companion to Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet). I am a cookbook lover, a recipe collector, a constant experimenter. The kitchen is both my laboratory and my studio where I try one combination, then another, attempting to create a work of culinary and nutritional art. I have toyed with preparing a cookbook of my own. But with Mrs. Ewald’s book I no longer consider that necessary, for this is the most complete and varied collection of vegetarian recipes I have seen. There are many recipes for hot and cold weather, for quick breads, grains and legumes, and — one of my favorites — top of the stove main dishes. And all the necessary information on balancing the diet to provide enough complete protein is included. Mrs. Ewald’s book is an excellent introduction and guide to the gentle art of vegetarian cooking.

Garbanzo Bean Loaf

This is my own version of Garbanzo Bean Loaf — sufficient for three or four servings.

½ cup dry garbanzo beans, cooked until tender
½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
¼ cup cooked brown rice
2 tblspn. soy grits
1 tblspn. brewer’s yeast
½ onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tblspn. dried parsley
1 tspn. marjoram
1 egg beaten
2 tblspn. oil

Mash the beans in some of their cooking liquid. Mix in all ingredients, mashing them together. If too dry, add some more of the bean liquid.

Turn into an oiled loaf pan or small casserole.* Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Very tasty with mushroom gravy.

*Try using a little soy lecithin instead of oil to grease your pans. It’s amazing!