Mark Gravel is a boss of beans, a leader of legumes, a pioneer of plant-based eating. His new book, “Kill the Recipe: A Cookbook & Visual Guidebook on the Basics of Radical Beanmaking & Plant-based Eating,” introduces beans to at-home chefs while championing the benefits of the food group. Rife with practical information, the book is also gorgeously designed, with hand-written text and hand-drawn images by Lucy Engelman to guide readers through methods for dressed beans, soup beans and sauced beans, and even more ambitious projects like bean fritters, patties and bean flour pancakes.
For the book, Gravel pulls from his experience as founder of Good Farm, which he explains as an “art and agriculture blog turned foraging collective.” He also ran Bean-In, an educational series that culminated in a bean-based art installation and free pop-up restaurant at the California College of the Arts.
Economical, ecological, local, healthful—a legume-rich diet has no shortage of benefits. “Eating local, organic food can be expensive,” explains Gravel. “Beans can balance the price of eating local and organic.” As for legumes’ gaseous stigma, Gravel attributes the unfortunate side-effect to undercooked beans.
“Kill the Recipe” is presented as more of a how-to than a recipe book. It opens with a quote from Edgar Allen Poe that reads, “I present the composition as an Art-Product alone,” which speaks to the design-mindedness of Gravel’s unconventional food guide. Surprisingly, the book’s first recipe is for canned beans. Sensitive to the bean-fearing cook, Gravel explains that a bit of salted water, crushed pepper, garlic and oil can completely change the “weeknight beans” experience.
The playfulness of the book is owed mostly to Engelman, who was already a fan of Gravel’s work when she reached out to see if he needed an illustrator. The layout centers around templates that give cooks the basics of timing and ingredients while encouraging experimentation. “It gives you the framework of how to make a dish and it encourages you to get creative and plug in you own ingredients based on what’s available,” says Gravel. The layout resembles a journal, and Gravel notes that the book is meant to be completed by the cook with personal notes.
While he’s built a career out of promoting veggie consumption, Gravel doesn’t condemn carnivores. “I’m not saying, ‘Don’t eat meat,'” he explains. “Eat meat, but eat more beans.” To Gravel, a change in the way people see beans could eventually lead to a societal shift toward more sustainable, protein-rich diets.
Book images by James Thorne