Back in March, I made a post about some of the nerdy cookbooks we have in our collection here at VPL. Since then, we’ve added more, and there were options that I just didn’t mention the first time around. The last time around, I highlighted some books that did a little of everything and a couple that focused on gaming. This time I’ve ended up with two based on shows and one on… kind of a show? More of a personality. But before I launch into the full three-course meal, let’s start with some hours-d’oeuvres, the books that either didn’t make it to me in time or that I just feel need a quick mention.
First up, the one that didn’t make it: Heroes’ Feast, the official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook. Would I have wanted to make some halfling dishes? Maybe find out what Dragonborn eat? Or try some cuisine eaten by Drow in the Underdark? Whatever I would have made would likely spice up a game night. If you’re a D&D fan, throw a hold on this and roll your percentile dice to see what recipe you should cook from it.
Up next, a different kind of nerdery: The Jane Austen Cookbook. Jane Austen and food? Sure. Why not? Apparently, this book is a collection of recipes that were actually eaten by the Austen family, though modernized for current culinary standards.
Today’s third option is The Little Library Cookbook, recipes from The Little Library Café blog. If you’ve ever read a book and wanted to try a recipe from it, then check out this cookbook or browse the blog and see if Kate Young has brought the fictional into reality. Before we get on with things, I just want to give a shout-out here to a favourite book of mine: The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s as weird and wonderful as you might expect from Neil Gaiman, but I bring it up here because the descriptions of food will make your mouth water. And in the back of the book, there’s an interview where he gives the recipe for lemon pancakes. I haven’t tried them yet, but I will. Pancakes are awesome.
On to the appetizer proper! Okay. Why does this exist? Bob Ross was a painter, not a chef. And I don’t think he ever painted food1. His paintings are scattered throughout the book, but the paintings of the food that accompany most recipes are done by Nicholas Hankins, a “Bob Ross Certified Instructor,” which is not something I knew was a thing until I started researching for this post. His videos show him painting, so he’s obviously not the mastermind behind this strange extra-genre jaunt for the late, great Ross. The author is listed as Robb Pearlman, who, looking at the books he’s written, would likely enjoy my nerdy ramblings. Look at these titles: Body by Starfleet, Rick and Morty Book of Gadgets and Inventions, The Office – a Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary. Did Pearlman write the recipes or just edit the book? There’s no indication of that anywhere, but the recipes themselves look like fairly simple comfort fare. Exactly what you’d want from a Bob Ross-themed cookbook. There’s rarely more than a short paragraph of instructions, and quotes from Ross are sprinkled throughout. Most of the names are pretty amusing, too; Nothing to it Pot Roast, Good Thoughts Pork, and my favourite Happy Little Tree and Cheddar Soup, in which broccoli makes up the happy little trees. I didn’t cook from it, but if you’re looking for a laid-back meal, this book might have something for you.
Our main course is a book for a show I’ve never watched, though I’ve been told I’d enjoy it. Tastes Like Schitt: The Unofficial Shitt’s Creek Cookbook. I’ll admit, the name caught my attention as it sat on our new nonfiction display here at the branch. One recipe’s name has me curious about the story behind it: Mall Pretzels with Shame Sauce. I enjoy baking, I enjoy pretzels, and I’ve never made them before, so why not try them? And then I realized that it calls for yeasted dough. My current living arrangements make that not the best idea, so I scrapped that, and then my 3rd book came in, and I saw something I just had to try, so I didn’t make anything that tastes like Schitt. Though There’s a Dead Guy in Room Four-Cheese Macaroni is an amusing title as well. Beyond just the titles, there’s some good stuff in here. The pretzels may have been twisty and complicated to make2, but there are plenty of simpler items as well. Like Budd’s Bourbon BBQ Sauce that has whiskey in it and apparently pairs well with more whiskey. The Schitt Family Cheese Ball looks pretty good too, and doesn’t sound like it would taste the way the book describes itself.
I’m a baker, so of course, dessert is the course I put the most effort into and have the most investment in. It’s also the course I cooked for, though what I made is really more of an appetizer disguised as a dessert, but more on that later. We have Nickelodeon Avatar the Last Airbender the Official Cookbook: Recipes From the Four Nations, in our collection. I adore the show, and as food comes up pretty often in it, they had a great starting point for making a pretty solid cookbook. And that’s exactly what they did. Some things are standard fare for the culture the nation was loosely based on, like the Earth Kingdom Freedom Fighters Roast Pork Belly, which looks like a Chinese-style crispy-skinned pork belly and was almost the recipe I tried making for this post because that sounds absolutely delicious. I ended up settling on something that’s definitely show-inspired, but more on that later. The book is split into five sections, one for each of the four nations and one for the Jasmine Dragon Tea Shop. Each recipe is accompanied by a blurb from a character, written specifically for the book and sometimes expanding on the lore of the show. If you’re an AtLA fan and have a modicum of cooking skill, you owe it to yourself to borrow this one.
Speaking of expanding on the lore of the show, the first thing I did when opening the book was to flip to the index and see what recipes there were for cabbage. If you’ve seen the show, you know exactly why I did that. And one of the recipes caught my eye for being just plain weird: Cabbage Cookies. I wouldn’t have made them, but the blurb from the Cabbage Merchant implied that this recipe is the reason that he had the funds to found Cabbage Corp between AtLA and the Legend of Korra. I was not expecting something this odd sounding to be touted as that delicious, so of course, I had to try them. What follows are the pictures I took along the way, with my thoughts at the time of taking them.
These took a while, and after I tried one, my thoughts at the time were this: I’m glad I tried them, but I don’t think I’ll ever make them again. Then my fiancée and her visiting mother arrived home. Apparently, I need to keep this recipe in my repertoire because they’re the favourite thing I’ve made for her. And I make crème brûlée! To each their own, I suppose. I brought them to work, and my co-workers were equally divided. I had at least one person ask for the recipe, while others felt the same as I did. If you want to try them for yourself, borrow the book, or check out the blog post from the recipe’s creator here.
And that’s the end of our meal for today. Tune in next month for… Honestly, I have no idea. I’m getting married between this post and that one, so maybe I’ll try something romantic? It’s not really my area of expertise, but it’s possible I could come up with something.
1 Maybe there was an animal or two at some point? But that’s pre-food, not food, so the point stands. Unless people eat trees and bushes? I mean that directly, not fruit coming from the tree or bush. Did he ever paint lettuce? Is this my longest footnote yet? This book inspires a lot of questions.
2 Whoever could have guessed that, right?