Assorted cookery anecdotes and lore--interspersed with vegetarian recipes. Among the former: Shakespeare's Oberon on banks of wild thyme, Ambrose Bierce on the place of sauce in civilized societies, snippets from Renaissance herbalists, a few proverbs (""Bread is better than the song of birds""). With better recipes, and a little more command of the subject, it might have made for a cute picture book: Atlas, however, joshes the shade of Pythagoras for forbidding beans, happily unaware that the Phaseolus beans she is thinking of never got to Europe until after Columbus (the philosopher knew only the sometimes toxic lava bean). But she also finds genuinely charming tidbits like Becky Sharpe's first encounter with a chili, or G. K. Chesterton on booze as the ultimate vegetarian diet. As a cook, she puts tamari or soy sauce in Boston baked beans (made with canned or precooked beans), kasha varnishkes, and Indian curries and smothers the flavor of vegetables with lavish combinations of dried herbs. Still, there are some fairly nice salads and egg dishes. The real heart of the book, her 140-odd black-and-white drawings, offers a large kaleidoscope of styles, all more or less kitschy. An agreeably-intended divertissement, for coffee tables here and there.