Verdugo Views: Sanitarium chef’s vegetarian cookbook was popular many years ago

Glendale’s history can be discovered in the most unusual places. Even in a collectibles shop.

I spent an interesting couple of hours in one such shop right here in Southern California last fall. As I was browsing through a drawer filled to overflowing with pamphlets, maps, certificates, journals and advertising items, I came across a small booklet.


The beige front cover was totally blank, as was the back cover. Intrigued, I opened it and discovered a recipe book compiled by C. Johnson, chef at the Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital, which from its earliest days promoted natural treatment methods, including a wholesome vegetarian diet.

According to the preface, Johnson first learned to prepare vegetarian dishes at Battle Creek Sanitarium, in Battle Creek, Mich. Later, he came west, working in various restaurants and cafeterias before becoming chef of the Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital, as it was called at the time.


After some 10 years on the job, Johnson assembled the recipe book, “in response to long-term patients who had adapted to the vegetarian diet,” he wrote in the preface. When these patients checked out, they often requested the recipe for a favorite dish.

But nowhere in the preface, or anywhere else in the book, could I find a date of any kind.

Johnson did write that he worked in a new, $1-million plant, so I went back to two Verdugo Views columns written in 2002 that focused on the sanitarium’s early history, and was reminded that, in the 1920s, they moved to a five-story building on nearly 30 acres on East Wilson Avenue, then quite a distance out of town.

A quick visit to the website of Adventist Health Glendale, as it is now known, confirmed that the then-new facility “opened in the mid-1920s with accommodations for 225 beds, a solarium and rooftop deck, a golf green and spacious parlor for 150 patients and guests.”

“Johnson’s Vegetarian Cook Book,” included 40-plus pages of recipes. The index began with soups and salad dressings, moved on to entrees and vegetables and then to pastries and pies, before concluding with cooked fruits and toasts.

Cream of potato soup called for rich milk, butter, chopped onions, two cups of sliced raw potatoes and water.

All but the milk were combined in a kettle and boiled until the potatoes were well done. At which point, the milk was added and the soup was beaten well to break up the potatoes.

Nine pages of salad recipes ranged from Manhattan Salad (asparagus tips, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, plus cooked lima beans arranged on lettuce leaves with French dressing) to Tutti Frutti Salad (red and white cherries, pecans, diced oranges and candied pineapple mixed with cream dressing and served on a decorated plate).

The entree section led with breaded egg plant: sliced eggplant soaked in salted water, drained, dipped in a thin batter, rolled in bread or cracker crumbs, placed in a baking pan and sprinkled with melted butter, then baked until golden brown.

Desserts included pumpkin, lemon, apple, strawberry and prune pies — plus vegetarian mince pie. The many cake recipes ranged from both devil’s food and angel food cakes to stewed raisin cake.

The last page promoted a variety of toasts — from cream toast to French toast — that were “specially nice for breakfast and supper.”

Adventist congregations built churches, hospitals and missions throughout the world. Because of their extensive outreach, the sanitarium — and its vegetarian dishes — were known throughout the United States and in many foreign countries.

KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.