Originally reported by John Lehndorff in the Rocky Mountain News:
Recently, while cleaning out my garage, I happily rediscovered a slew of books I’d totally forgotten about. I have everything from a huge roster of Colorado cookbooks and more books about pie than you can imagine to sentimental keepers like my late mom’s falling-apart copy of Betty Crocker.
But while searching those boxes, I realized that the cookbooks I prize most are the oddball ones that make me smile, cringe or sigh because they’re nostalgic, gross, kitschy or hilarious – on purpose or unintentionally. Some of these special cookbooks are so edgy I can’t even publish their names.
Here are a few favorites from my collection:
* Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine (Simon & Shuster, 1989 and 2008), by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller: The name says it all. I like the fact that, instead of cooking time, the recipes include the mileage required to cook a particular dish.
* In the Kitchen With Miss Piggy (Time Life Books, 1996), by Jim Henson Productions: The vision of porcine pulchritude coerced celebrity friends into sharing recipes. Included: Clint Eastwood (Spaghetti Western), Charles Kuralt (Sour Cream Biscuits), Lauren Bacall (Spinach and Sesame Salad) and Barbara Bush (Baked Bologna Roll).
* The Celebrity Cookbook (Price/Stern/Sloan, 1966): A charming collection edited by Dinah Shore and featuring recipes from Jacqueline Kennedy, Peter Falk, Natalie Wood, Lady Bird Johnson, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall and Yehudi Menuhin. Star baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax sent his regrets, noting that he didn’t know how to cook.
* Jack and Mary’s Jell-O Recipe Book (General Foods, 1937): Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone’s NBC radio show was sponsored by Jell-O and featured the Jell-O Orchestra. This pamphlet features cartoon drawings and evocative, gelatin-based recipes such as Creamy Fig Pudding, Pineapple Pie, Jellied Waldorf Salad, Spiced Relish and Chicken Salad Mold. In the same vein is What Mrs. Dewey Did With the New Jell-O (1933).
* Hawaii’s Spam Cookbook (Bess Press, 1987), by Ann Kondo Corum: This paperback features recipes using various canned protein sources. Yummy-sounding dishes include Spam Fu Young, Eggplant and Spam Tempura, and my personal favorite, Spam sushi. More challenging are the Sardine and Tofu Souffle and Vienna Sausage Pupus.
* Elvis in Hollywood: Recipes Fit for a King (Rutledge Hill, 1994), by Elizabeth McKeon: A fan-friendly, memorabilia- filled volume proves that Elvis ate the same way in L.A. that he did in Memphis. Recipes include Bacon and Egg Salad, Chocolate Doughnuts, Country Fried Steak, Lemon Coconut Cake and the famous Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches.
* Biker Billy’s Roadhouse Cookbook (Lyons, 2009), by Bill Hufnagle: The newest addition to my collection features recipes from roadside restaurants, including one for 57 Classic Coney Hot Dog Sauce that calls for “20 pounds hamburger meat (the fattier, the better).”
* Eat Drink and Be Kinky (Simon & Shuster, 1999), by Mike McGovern: Kinky Friedman fronts a band, the Texas Jewboys, writes novels and once ran for governor of Texas. Appealing recipes includes Downtown Judy’s Tortilla Soup With Chile Puree and Ratso’s White Castle Omelet.
* The Down Home Trailer Park Cookbook (Writers Club Press, 2000), by Ruby Ann Boxcar: The tongue-in-cheek author who claims to live part time in Commerce City offers recipes for Sweet and Sour Wienies, Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory Biscuits, and Billy Ray Cyrus Tribute Mashed Potato Cake.
* Can You Take the Heat? The WWF Is Cooking (ReganBooks, 2000), by Jim J.R. Ross: Who doesn’t need recipes from the World Wrestling Federation? Includes The Rock’s Smack-A-Roni Salad and Stone Cold’s Stomp a Mud Hole in Your Steaks and Ribs Simmering Sauce.
* The Star Trek Cookbook (Pocket Books, 1999), by Ethan Phillips and William J. Birnes: The cookbook no true Trekkie should be without features non-replicator recipes for Seven of Nine Steamed Chadre Kab (“You will assimilate it”), Ferengi Spore Pie, and Klingon Bloodwine. Check out the Top Ten Borg Recipes, including Borg on a Bun.
* The Endangered Species Cookbook Ten Speed, 1993), by Buck Peterson: A thoroughly politically incorrect parody with tips for making Roast Whooping Crane and Bald Eagle a la King.
* Critter Cuisine (Longstreet, 1992), by Mary Ann Clayton: In a similar vein, a stomach-churning parody cookbook with recipes for Batburgers, Beetle Salad and Tadpole Consomme.
* Road Kill Gore-met Cooking (Quade International, 1991), by Richard Marcou: Finally, a guide for cooking what you run over, such as Chili Con Carnage.
* To Grill a Mockingbird (and Other Tasty Titles), by Ruth Young and Mitchell Rose (Penguin paperback, 1985): A tiny, fun paperback for English majors filled with punny recipe names such as Moby Duck, Lady Chatterley’s Liver, and Lord of the Onion Rings.
* The Book of Ramen (Turtleback Books, 1993), by Ron Konzak: This serious volume from the last recession features recipes for Ramen Meat Loaf, Chinese Cold Ramen Salad and even Ramen on a Stick.
* Cookin’ Up the Blues (McIllhenny Co., 1993): A corporate cookbook from the Tabasco folks, this features notable musicians’ dishes, including Stuffed Crawfish Bread (Irma Thomas) and Seafood Okra Gumbo (Buddy Guy).
Recognize the foodie authors on a first-name basis? Those mentioned at the beginning of this feature: Julia Child, Betty Crocker, Fannie Farmer, Mollie Katzen, Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, Mrs. Beeton, Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck, James Beard and Rick Bayless.
John Lehndorff is a Boulder, Co.-based food trend researcher, food writer and consultant. He is a former newspaper food editor and restaurant critic, author of a restaurant guide book, and executive director of the American Pie Council. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit: www.JohnLehndorff.com.