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I cannot count the hours I whiled away as a child, curled up in a diminutive olive green beanbag chair during Ohio winters in the early 80s, lost to the world and engrossed in my grandmother’s cookbooks. These were mostly Betty Crocker-type affairs and seem terribly outdated now, what with their faded retro photographs, fruit cakes, tuna molds, and insistence upon a wife having dinner on the table for her husband in a timely fashion. Ugh!
The comfort that comes from flipping through a beautiful cookbook, though, is a habit that has haunted me all my life; I’m not an overly domestic sort and I am certainly no Martha Stewart–neither my house nor my meals or menu planning are perfect, and nor do I wish to spend the time making them so– but I suppose cookbooks appeal to the daydreamer in me. I love to imagine creating these delicious, eye-pleasing meals, to the delight and satisfaction of the guests who consume them. This fantasy in itself is rather ridiculous; I live in a suburb nearly an hour an a half away from the city where most of our friends live, and we don’t get a lot of visitors…but still, I suppose I can dream.
Of course, as I’ve grown older, my interests have changed from those of an 8 year old girl who plotted pastel tea parties for Barbies and picnic lunches for the Scoobie Doo gang. As a woman whose favorite flavors are “darkness” and “damn fine coffee”, I like to think my cookbook collection now reflects my evolved tastes. From a cannibal aesthete’s discerning palate to varied funereal foods, from delights inspired by dreamers of decadence to the humble diners of of a small, mysterious town in the Pacific North West, see below for a sample of the books currently on my kitchen shelves, and which I wholeheartedly recommend for fellow kitchen creepsters and domestigoths.
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook Created by Hannibal‘s world-renowned food stylist Janice Poon, this book brings the dark and delectable elegance of our much beloved show to our tables at home. Boasting such recipes as Roast Suckling Pig or Gallantine of Chicken Stuffed with Rabbit, these dishes are no doubt for the connoisseur rather than the casual cook, although you will find soups, salads, appetizers, and even some vegetarian options (pass the chilled tomato plasma consommé, please!) that should not present too much in the way of technical difficulty. But if you are a fan who is just here for the pretty pictures, oh, you are in for an exquisite treat. A full-color, glossy book bursting with baroque extravagance, a swoony forward written by Mads Mikkelson, and Poon’s clever prose add up to a splendid visual feast, even if you never attempt a single peacock tail or blood sausage. The disclaimer would have you know that the recipes are for Fannibals and foodies–actual cannibals, of both the dandified and the savage varieties, must look elsewhere for ideas on how To Serve Man.
Damn Fine Cherry Pie: And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin Peaks Whether you are a fan of this weird little show from the day it aired, or you discovered it in later years through fans or friends or a heady afternoon of netflixomancy, you were no doubt immediately hooked by the small town where nothing was at it seemed and everyone was asking the same question: Who killed Laura Palmer?
Food played a crucial role in the Twin Peaks universe and Lindsey Bowden’s unofficial cookbook celebrates our favorite Lynchian obsession with crafts, entertainment suggestions, and 80 recipes inspired by the characters, storylines, and locations on Twin Peaks. Food is everywhere in Twin Peaks, and like everything else in the series, it means more than what you think it means. Bowden notes that she “…wanted to play around with the idea of food that is wholesome and American on the surface–tempting, comforting and classic–but also explore darker, more seductive themes in the programme.”
In this book you will find parades of pies to die for, more doughnuts than even Agent Cooper & co. could possibly consume, and yes, before you ask–there is a recipe for Percolator Fish Supper. You can also prepare for yourself other treats referenced in the show, such as The Horne Brother’s Brie and Butter Baguettes and Maples Ham Pancakes; or, should you wish to venture outside the foodie canon of Twin Peaks, you could try moody delicacies from the Black Lodge chapter, such as the Fire Walk Hot Tea Smoked Salmon with Blood Orange, Fennel & Radish Salad, or Leland Palmer’s Buffalo Joint. The show is to be resurrected in May of 2017, so lucky for us, there are tips on throwing a Twin Peaks dinner party as well! Best get your invitations out now.
Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World “When you’re sharing a meal after a funeral, you’re really poking a thumb in the eye of death” writes Lisa Rogak in the introduction of this collection of recipes typically served at funerals, alongside descriptions of rituals and traditions from cultures around the world. To be honest, I purchased a copy of this after my mother died in 2013; I was led to believe from countless wakes in film and literature that, when a loved one passed, a somber procession of friends, relatives, and neighbors would be haunting your doorstep with a veritable medley of sympathy victuals. I was told there would be casserole, dammit. And yet, there was not to be casserole, or any other covered dish, from any quarter. Thanks for nothing, friends. I sought out Death Warmed Over so that I would be able to deliver something nutritious and comforting with a bit of interesting history behind it to a grieving friend in the throes of loss, when that time inevitably arrives (I certainly don’t intend to leave anyone casserole-less); but whether your aim is to please the gods, send the recently deceased to the afterlife with a metaphorical last supper, or connect with and comfort the bereaved living, this is an excellent compendium to have at your disposal.
The Decadent Cookbook: Recipes of Obsession and Excess Vegans, vegetarians, those with a sensitive nature, and those for whom good taste is paramount–I entreat you to avert your eyes. The Decadent Cookbook, brimming with delightfully appalling recipes inspired by the likes of Caligula and Marquis de Sade, is a deliciously depraved literary treat geared toward the most wicked and jaded palettes. Despite such chapters as”Blood, the Vital Ingredient” or “I Can Recommend the Poodle,” there are actually some recipes in here that shouldn’t cause too much in the way of trauma to one’s psyche: though no doubt you’ll take a pass on the Flamingo Stew, the Crimson Tart calls only for blood oranges to achieve its sanguine decadence,the Lady’s Thighs are made with minced lamb, the worst you’ll find in the Mock Hedgehog are chicken livers, and the Chancellors Buttocks are but a fancy pudding with nary a bum cheek harmed in the making. A droll and luxuriously theatrical little book, I recommended you leave it on the table for your unassuming dinner guests to fret over, right before you serve up an extravagantly mysterious feast.
Death & Co. Classic Modern Cocktails I’ll admit, this last inclusion on the list is a bit of a cheat. There’s nothing especially grim or creepy about Death & Co.’s collection of innovative and much sought-after cocktail recipes. It’s a gorgeous book with lavish photographs, colorful essays and anecdotes, and vast portions dedicated to the art, science, technique, and philosophy of mixology–and a luxe cover that has it’s own macabre charm and won’t look at all out of place on your spooky shelf. And let’s be real, here…when preparing a recipe inspired by a cannibalistic serial killer, you may require some liquid courage whilst wielding your own carving knife; when the melancholic gaze of the squid you cooked in its own ink haunts you late at night, you might seek out a soothing libation to lull you into forgetful slumber, and no doubt you could certainly use a sophisticated apertif or an elegant martini to wash the taste of poodle from your mouth.
Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook The majority of this booklet is devoted to culinary-related cartoons with peculiar recipes peppered about the pages, willy-nilly. Reindeer rice curry, anyone?
The Dark Shadows Cookbook This little paperback, published in 1970, is very much a product of its time, and the disappointing recipes reflect that. I suppose I have it on my shelf for the novelty appeal, not the recipes for clam-pourri(??) and broiled peaches with cottage cheese (although the enormously cheesy introduction, referencing all of the show’s fiendish characters, is kind of fun.)
Son of the Martini Cookbook OK, I only have this one for the Edward Gorey illustrations, and I’m pretty sure it has less than ten recipes it it.