15 Strange and Awesome Cookbooks

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Beyond Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain and even Alton Brown exists a culinary world limited only by human imagination and gag reflex. Here we explore some lesser known but very intriguing cookbooks.

1. Giggle Water

This self-published recipe book told its 1928 readers how to make delightful, Prohibition-flaunting giggle drinks, including “Eleven Famous Cocktails of The Most Exclusive Club in New York.” Drinks such as The Bronx, The Astor, The Bacardi, The Clover, and The Dry Martini were among the recipes. The book recently sold from AbeBooks for £1,200.

2. Cookin’ with Coolio

This may very well be as much a piece of performance art as it is a cookbook. Coolio promises that his Crazy Pollo Salad "easily serves 4 crazy motherf****ers" and introduces readers to his own take on classic foreign dishes, such as Ghettalian (ghetto Italian). Reviewers rate it high for its recipes and even higher for being funny.

3. Odd Bits

Throughout most of history and in many parts of the world today, a person would have to be crazy to throw out perfectly edible pieces of animals just because they weren’t prime cuts. Odd Bits puts modern zest in ancient and impoverished diets with recipes on how to cook ears, feet, hearts, lungs, gizzards, kidneys, brains, testicles, intestines, and more.

4. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

It can’t be all lickable Snozzberries and edible flower teacups in Roald Dahl’s world. Revolting Recipes, written by Dahl’s wife Felicity, offers up both dismal fare such as Mr. Twit's Beard Food (mashed potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, and cocktail weenies) and some which is more promising, like Eatable Marshmallow Pillows. Perfect for especially strange children.

5. Fifty Shades of Chicken

“I want you to see this. Then you’ll know everything. It’s a cookbook,” he says, and opens to some recipes, with color photos. “I want to prepare you, very much.” There’s pulling, jerking, stuffing, trussing. Fifty preparations. This book is available on Kindle, to offer privacy for the discreet chef.

6. Forme of Cury

Read the recipes of Richard II’s personal chef in this 600-year-old cookbook. Or try to, anyway. They’re written in Middle English. “Nym kedys and chekenys and hew hem in morsellys and seth hem in almand mylk or in kyne mylke grynd gyngyner galingale and cast therto and boyle it and serve it forthe.” Once you figure that out, you’re in for some good pottage.

7. Special Effects Cookbook

Published in 1992, this still locatable family-fun cookbook promises “Easy to create recipes for food that Smokes, Erupts, Moves, Sings, Glows, Talks, Cracks, Pops, and Swims!” A great way to sneak science into your children’s pastries.

8. The Gay Cookbook

Written in 1965, Lou Rand Hogan (creator of the first gay detective, called The Gay Detective, also in 1965) is proud and loud in a time where it was dangerous to be so. He delights in the single entendre (“Chapter Seven. What to do with a Tough Piece of Meat.”) and embraces all the negativity directed at gays of the day with a fierce acceptance: “So we’ll offer here a sort of nonsensical cookbook for the androgynous (don’t bother to look it up, Maude. It means 'limp-wristed')." A whole new take on the 1960s.

9. TV Suppers

It’s so refreshing to see what most families consider their shameful secret given the dignity of 1960s elegance. Eating on the floor while watching game shows does not make you less of a person.

10. The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook

Bates knows the apocalypse, or “The Great Change,” is coming, but he’s not bummed. In fact, in a way it’s something to look forward to, a chance to rebuild a proper society from the ashes of the oil-dependent, chemically treated, artificial wasteland we live in now. Besides recipes for homegrown food, he also includes information on food storage, waste disposal, and rebuilding civilization.

11. The Pyromaniac’s Cookbook

You will be amazed how much food and drink can be improved by setting it on fire.

12. The “Why I’m Such a Fat Bastard” Recipe Book

A cookbook for all who believe Truth is Beauty. Buster is really sick of Kindle diet books. So he made his own Kindle book, showing how to make British desserts. It’s filled with butter and cream and sugar and even some bad language for good measure.

13. Official Star Trek Cooking Manual

Today there's an updated publication of Star Trek cookery, and there have been endless unofficial imitators, but this was the first and the official. Printed in 1978, when the franchise was still sacred to a relatively small number of Trekkers, this is for true academy-trained cadets only. Mr. Scott’s Scot’s Broth. Dr. McCoy’s Cornbread. Romulan stew. They’re all here. (Bonus: Compiled by a woman named “Piccard.” That’s got to mean something.)

14. The Lucretia Borgia Cookbook

A trendier cookbook featuring the favorite recipes of dead celebrities is currently in publication. But TLBC came first (1971). It is based on the idea that “the same good taste that enables one to paint fraudulent masterpieces incongruously carries over into the blending of white sauce. As students of both history and psychology, we should therefore have been prepared for an accidental discovery made during our research into foods of antiquity: notoriously sinister people ate more interesting, and frequently better, food than did most of their counterparts.”

15. Cooking Apicius

The Apicius is an even more ancient cookbook than the Forme of Cury, dating from around the 4th century. It’s a collection of recipes intended to be cooked for wealthy Romans of the era. Grainger translates the recipes and attempts to make them feasible for a modern cook while still retaining the taste of antiquity. It might mean a little rotting fish paste here and there, but if it was good enough for Caesar it’s good enough for you.

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November 15, 2013 - 1:15am
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