As soon as we heard her name—Crescent Dragonwagon—we knew: Here’s a person who’s a lot of fun. But this poet, novelist and children’s book author, who answers the phone at her Vermont home, “Hello, this is Dragon,” has always been serious about her food.
Crescent and her late husband Ned Shank opened Dairy Hollow House, a bed and breakfast in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, in 1980. In the inn’s kitchen, she combined chanterelles from local foragers and fresh produce from local growers to create meals for more than 11,000 guests. And while she cooked meats for her guests, she herself was “a closet vegetarian,” who was not comfortable as a food professional “confessing such heresy as vegetarianism.”
Beginning in 1992, though, she was ready to come out of the closet. And she did so with a bang. She spent 10 years working on Passionate Vegetarian, appropriately subtitled More Than 1,000 Robust Recipes with Notes on Cooking, Eating, Loving and Living Fearlessly. In supreme Crescent style, she sports a bowl of vegetables on her head in the cover photograph.
Also Crescent-esque, she dishes out the story of how she and Ned met, the meals they shared during their travels and at home, and her culinary beliefs: “Eating was never utilitarian to us. Rather, eating well—not just healthfully but satisfyingly, sensually and socially—was a consistent, constantly changing daily pleasure,” she writes. Though Crescent and Ned closed the inn to guests in 1998 and she completed Passionate Vegetarian in 2002, she continues to create new vegetarian dishes, such as these fashioned specially for Relish.
“If the ‘V’ word puts you off, just think of these plant-centered entrées as what they are: a rich mushroom ragout and an irresistible layered casserole of tortillas,” she says. Full of flavor and brimming with creativity—we’d expect nothing less from the Dragon.
By Candace Floyd, Relish Managing Editor