So, I see you’re here for the Second Batch.
Now we know you love to eat books. Don’t deny it. I saw you drooling and licking some of the cookbooks from the First Batch. Oh, you don’t actually eat the books, you just like to make and eat the food from the books?
Alrighty then, dig in:
THE LOUISA MAY ALCOTT COOKBOOK, compiled by Gretchen Anderson, pictures by Karen Milone (Little, Brown, 1985). How I love this little book; it contains 28 recipes grouped with scenes from Little Women and Little Men. What is especially notable is that the recipes were initially researched, tested, and compiled by Ms. Anderson when she was just nine years old! She did this for a school project, combining her love for Alcott’s books with her favorite hobby, cooking. So, we start out with the famous Christmas morning scene, where the March girls decide to take their breakfast to a poor family. To authentically recreate this, you might try Buckwheat Cakes, Muffins, or Farina Gruel. Or, remember when Marmee was sick in bed with a cold and the girls fixed her breakfast? They made an Omelet with Baking Powder Biscuits.
Now, if you’re like Jo, with the best of intentions, but a disaster in the kitchen, you’ll need more practice (with the Fire Department on alert). But if she could make Molasses Candy, so can you. The recipes from Little Men are solid, traditional American fare, such as Gingerbread, Steak and Potatoes, and Apple Pie. Can’t go wrong with those, and all the recipes are rated for level of difficulty. A word about Karen Milone’s pen-and-ink drawings: brilliant! Aside from book scenes, she’s diagrammed some of the cooking techniques — little eggs cracked in bowls! Little rolling pins! Squee!
PETER RABBIT’S NATURAL FOODS COOKBOOK, by Arnold Dobrin (Frederick Warne, 1977). Of all the literary cookbooks I own, I’ve used this one the most. It contains 33 simple recipes, with an emphasis on using fresh, unprocessed, whole foods for: Breakfast and Breads, Sandwiches, Vegetables, Salads, Soups and Desserts. Lots of light dishes made of fruit and veggies — not for carnivores (what do you expect, Peter was a vegetarian)! I like the use of honey rather than refined sugar, and yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise. My favorite is Fierce Bad Rabbit’s Carrot-Raisin Salad, but there’s also goodies like Squirrel Nutkin’s Banana-Nut Loaf, Old Mrs. Rabbit’s Hearty Vegetable Soup, and Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail’s Fresh Blueberry Cobbler. No quotes or excerpts are included, but the 7″ x 7-1/2″ treasure is adorned with Potter’s lovely illustrations throughout.
PETER RABBIT’S COOKERY BOOK, compiled by Anne Emerson (Frederick Warne, 1980). Twenty-one more recipes, mostly for teas and light lunches, such as Hunca Munca’s Rice Pudding and Pigling Bland’s Porridge.
THE PETER RABBIT AND FRIENDS COOK BOOK by Naia Bray-Moffatt (Frederick Warne, 1994). Fifteen recipes, including gems like Samuel Whiskers’ Roly-Poly Sausages and Peter Rabbit’s Party Carrot Cake.
THE POOH COOK BOOK by Katie Stewart, pictures by Ernest Shepard (Methuen, 1971). A honey of a collection containing 58 recipes for all the bear essentials: Smackerels, Elevenses, Teas, Picnics and Expositions, Lunches and Suppers, Desserts, Parties, and Christmas, plus Hot and Cold Drinks. Honey is the favored ingredient, of course, and for bears of very little brain, the easiest recipes are marked with an asterisk. Start with Cinnamon Toast and work your way up to Honey Spice Cake and Spaghetti Supper. If you get stuck, peruse the Pooh quotes and nibble on the pen-and-ink doodles.
THE REDWALL COOKBOOK by Brian Jacques, pictures by Christopher Denise (Philomel, 2005). What an absolute treasure this book is! You don’t need to be a Redwall fan to love this collection of three dozen recipes, grouped by the four seasons. The recipes of each section are tied together with a charming new tale featuring familiar Redwall characters, such as Friar Hugo, Pansy, and other adorable Dibbuns, scurrying about the kitchen preparing micey faves like Honeybaked Apples, Hare’s Pawspring Vegetable Soup, and Afternoon Tea Scones with Strawberry Jam and Cream. Since Mr. Jacques originally wrote the series for children of a blind school, he is in the habit of describing everything in lavish sensory detail, especially all the food! The full color acrylic and charcoal illustrations are gorgeous — rich, endearing, engaging, and of course, totally delish. Be sure to “serve warm with a generous helping of storytelling magic.”
ROALD DAHL’S REVOLTING RECIPES, compiled by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, with photographs by Jan Baldwin (Viking, 1994). “Nose bags on!” “Grub’s up!” Prepare to be totally disgusted! Dang, but this cookbook is a lot of fun — the only one so far with actual photographs of the finished recipes, embellished with classic Quentin Blake quirky drawings.
Or would it have been better not to feast our eyes on such gag-worthy specialties as Snozzcumbers, Mosquitoes’ Toes and Wampfish Roes Most Delicately Fried, or Wormy Spaghetti? You get the picture. Everything here is totally Dahlian. Where else could you find a recipe for Lickable Wallpaper or Candy-Coated Pencils for Sucking in Class? No, I haven’t actually tried any of these; just reading the ingredients and seeing the pictures is a feast in itself. But reviewers have unanimously rated the recipes as surprisingly delectable, tasting much better than they sound. I will have to try Hair Toffee to Make Hair Grow on Bald Men for Len!
ROALD DAHL’S EVEN MORE REVOLTING RECIPES, compiled by Lori-Ann Newman, pictures by Quentin Blake, photos by Jan Baldwin (Viking, 2001). Who could resist another big helping of the same? I am especially interested in A Plate of Soil with Engine Oil and Hot Noodles Made from Poodles on a Slice of Garden Hose.
ONCE UPON A RECIPE by Karen Greene (New Hope Press, 1987). This classic perfectly blends great content (healthy recipes), visual appeal (hand tinted antique woodblock prints), and loads of extras that both inform and inspire (book quotes, tips for preparation and serving, and sample menus). The author’s intent was for each page to stir a different dream, and the result is enchanting. Prepare to enter the magical place where food and imagination meet.
Turn to “Morning Glory,” where you can experience Shakespeare’s Breakfast Sandwiches or Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s Pineapple Right-Side-Up Muffins. When you’re ready, go to “Bunches of Lunches,” for Rumpelstiltskin’s Pillows and Runaway Bunny’s Custard. The Supper Club menu features Curiouser & Curiouser Casserole and Thumbelina Burgers. Don’t worry. Before the day is done, indulge in a “Sweet Dream” — perhaps Baloo’s Mint Brownies or Selfish Giant Cookies. Also included are “Snacks and Sips,” Very Nutritious Verses, and The Natural Pantry — a wonderful primer about the key ingredients in the recipes, such as Maple Granules, Soy Milk, and Whole Grain Baking Mixes. With its nod to whole foods, this cookbook, when first published in 1987, was definitely ahead of its time.
And with that, I’m off to do some holiday baking. Hope you’ll check out these cookbooks, eat two Christmas cookies, and call me in the morning.
P.S. Do you know of any other good literary cookbooks? I’m always looking to add to my collection!!