Top 10 Worst Cookbooks
September 12, 2012 | Lists
The art of preparing a meal has become a thing of the past. Who among us not collecting on a bogus personal injury claim, has the time to seek out the various ingredients needed to prepare a proper meal, not to mention wade through the esoterica in cookbooks? Yet somehow, cooking shows and books have surged in popularity and have spread across the expanding cable universe like a grease inferno at a fireworks factory cook-off.
Most of us are happy enough to sit with a heaping bowl of something microwaved back to life and watch shows like Master Chef or the Next Food Network Star (the previous one is somewhere shoving a hotdog cart around Wrigley Field). But there are those who go beyond scouring grocery store aisles for the boxed item with the fewest preparation directions.
Through cookbooks you can learn the secrets of the world’s top chefs, without actually having to work in a kitchen, which is hell. Cookbook authorship, however, is not the sole domain of Paula Deen or that fat guy with a head that looks like a 14-pound squash. No, anybody can write a cookbook. Here are 10 that we’ve found that show how painfully true a statement that is.
This first book, is enough to cause even your most indiscriminate eater to pause mid-gorge and go on a monk-like regimen of fasting and coffee enemas. While there is undoubtedly something inspiring about seeing a chef make a gourmet Bouillabaisse out of shoe leather and good intentions, it’s even more inspiring when a cook book generates cheap puns that brighten the day of badger-eyed copy-editors the world over, “Men may get testy at Cooking with Balls book” “On The Ball”, and our favorite, from The UK’s Sun “This dish may contain nuts”.
The fuss surrounds a Serbian chef who published an e-book documenting his favorite recipes for cooking up the family pride of all manner of species; stallions, ostriches, bulls, and possibly even tree squirrels were subjected to the unkindest cut of all.
The author, who is the male animals’ least favorite visitor at the local zoo, says that all “All testicles can be eaten,” while being generous enough to add, “Except human, of course.” (Don’t tell that to the New Guinea “ball cutter” fish).
Hate your teeth? An alternative to this cookbook would be to stick your face in the sugar jar and lick away until you pass out or somebody pulls you away.
Remember that childhood friend was always jealous of you for being able to guzzle colas while he was sipping potato water and eating Melba toast? Well apparently his mother was wrong about Coke being able to dissolve a nail or a T-bone steak overnight. That’s an urban legend, but that a nail won’t disappear overnight in a glass of it is about the only positive thing that can be said of the effects of Coca-Cola.
But for those who spit in the eye of such things as keeping calories out of the stratosphere and also for those with excellent dental plans, this tome offers recipes such as Chocolate Coke Cake and microwave French Onion Soup (presumably with Coke). A Reviewer on Food.com said of one dish, “the bland taste of this rice dish was a great disappointment for me.” (That something other than disappointment, or perhaps indigestion, would be felt after consuming something called “Coca Cola Rice” is surprising).
Wonder Bread is aptly named as it has many people wondering why anyone would want to eat something that looks like drywall, with the consistency of a pet’s chew-toy that can be squeezed in half like an accordion and has the nutritional value of a sock.
How many variations of PB and J can there be?
You’ll never think of Sweetened Tomato and Wonder Casserole the same way again, if that’s possible.
These works all include otherworldly themes, unearthly locales and phantasmagorical characters, but what they really have in common, at least as far as the recipes are concerned: is a “serves one” portion size, as articulating any interest whatsoever in the above is akin to nose-hair curling BO when it comes to attracting a significant other (or at least a significant other who is not the mother the monthly rent check is made out to). They are for fanboys, a breed best exemplified by The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy character, and people so far into the alternate reality provided by these franchises that they show an interest in exactly how an elf would season a plate of ribs.
Regional Cooking from Middle Earth has an Amazon product description that is, well, of Tolkien length. It offers gems like “Mince meat pie is nicknamed for the Balrog because that’s probably what would go through your mind that you might become if you ran into him in the Mines of Moria”.
The Star Trek Cookbook meanwhile, asks whether a Bajoran or a Klingon would have any diet restrictions, references which if made in a bar, would have your interlocutor reaching for the mace in her purse.
Just like children’s books, these days it seems that just about anyone with a keyboard, a finger on each hand or a sufficiently pointy nose is penning a cookbook. Even the phrase “made easy” stands in direction opposition to the oxymoron preceding it.
If you hosted a dinner party, casually leaving out an autographed copy of a Larry Flynt biography on the coffee table would be less damning to your character. Bouncing electromagnetic waves off food has been abandoned by every chef not featured on Kitchen Nightmares or currently serving 7-10 for manslaughter and requesting kitchen detail solely for knife access.
As it says in the Amazon write-up, the author’s name is ‘synononymous (sic) with Indian Cooking’. We couldn’t agree more.
“Dining by the Stars” may suggest rubbing elbows with say Al Pacino and Will Smith before you’re whisked away by bodyguards, but the subtitle reveals it’s about astrology.
As we know, astrology is that ancient superstition adopted by people who insist sharing a birthday with someone means sharing their personality traits as well, something known to be complete and total bullshit even back in Cicero’s time (When the Romans were slaughtered by Hannibal’s troops at Cannae in 216 CE, Cicero asked, “Did all the Romans who fell…have the same horoscope? Yet all had one and the same end.”)
Dining by the Stars classifies each sign of the zodiac, and listed for the reader are “dominant foods and condiments with which each is associated,” so that when your moon is in Uranus, a delightful basil pesto mustard can spice up that cosmic space chicken.
Time Magazine, meanwhile, dubbed the author of Cooking with Astrology “Astrology’s most skillful public protagonist”, which reminds us of the eminence bestowed on Moe’s Tavern – “home of the world’s smallest large-screen TV”.
Schopenhauer once remarked, “If pigeons flew around already roasted, people would die of boredom or else hang themselves”, a remark that has yet to be adopted as the official slogan for the Food Network.
While there is much joy inherent in having produced something yourself, even if it is roasting a pigeon, (a beast those of us who live in high rise apartment buildings were sad to see fall out of favor as an entrée), no good can come out of preparing any repast using a product that would have some opting for starvation instead if the circumstances arose.
To the uninitiated, i.e., people with functioning taste-buds, the stuff is processed pork and so widespread, pun definitely intended, that it is even sold in a halal version permissible under Islamic law. The law it does violate though, is of good taste.
The 1996 BBC documentary “The Burger & the King: The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley” grossed out its viewers with tales of 100,000 calories the King consumed daily in the period leading up to his death, a figure the British Nutrition Foundation described in the film as “impossibly appalling” (an Asian elephant gets around on less).
Much of this came in the form of “Fool’s Gold” sandwiches, an – to borrow a phrase – “impossibly appalling” concoction containing a jar of strawberry jam, a jar of peanut butter, and a pound of fried bacon. (Editor’s Note: Merely reading that last sentence means you have just ingested 1,000 calories.)
So when a carbon-based grease conduit such as the King of Rock and Roll passes away due to what the coroner described in that BBC documentary as “a terminal event on the commode”, what would make more sense than releasing a series of books celebrating a lifestyle that Mario Batali or Orson Welles would have lost their own gigantic appetites just thinking about? Elvis’s mug — though rarely that of the “elephant in lingerie” years — has appeared on the covers of numerous cookbooks. Such titles include: “Are You Hungry Tonight,” “Fit For a King: The Elvis Presley Cookbook”,” and “You Did Not Want to Do Elvis’ Laundry after He Started Eating Fool’s Gold Sandwiches: A Maid’s Tale” (the last one is merely rumored).
Marmite, a British spread that resembles hot asphalt except that it doesn’t smell as good, has thankfully yet to find a home in cupboards on these shores—even cockroaches are put off by the stuff. According to the description, The Marmite Cookbook is chalk full of “Hilarious Marmite-related anecdotes”, which ranks somewhere slightly above “Droll orphanage fire wordplay.”
3. The What Would Jesus Eat Cookbook
A bizarre mixture of religious pandering (the S’s in Jesus’ name translate nicely into dollar signs as those who have found the right mix of piety and profit know) and the strangely popular theory that we somehow ate better 2,000 years ago when food preparation techniques consisted of some guy with lice wiping off a piece of fish on his filthy robe and handing it to you and everyone had the life expectancy of a cat.
The book is based on the notion that with heavily processed food not resembling anything remotely like food (see various items on this very list), that we would all be much better off eating the way people did in simpler, more plague-y times.
While the idea that people should up the veggies and decrease the fried lard products in their diets is generally accepted among those who can fit through their front doors, even the most devout Christians would likely balk at a diet actually observed in New Testament times, one that was equal parts starvation, intestinal parasites, and a grave before your 45th birthday.
Would’ve been preferable as Tito Puente’s Cooking with a Salsa Thriller.
Dorothea Puente rented out rooms – both in a boarding house and in a home she owned – throughout the 1960s through to the 1980s. She was known to keep a clean house, buy the good stuff when it came to the toilet paper, and above all she was a tremendous cook.
According to the product description of her book, one of her former tenants said that “Every meal she made was like a Thanksgiving dinner,” and much like after a Thanksgiving dinner, some of her tenants would fall asleep once the meal was complete. But these were not cranberry-debauched holiday slumbers; they were the kind from which you never wake up, i.e. death. Dorothea poisoned – or is alleged to have poisoned – at least nine people, and those are mostly just the ones dug up from her front yard.
While in prison, Dorothea began corresponding with an, ahem, journalist, telling him her life story and sending him her favorite recipes – sans poison we believe. The results were compiled in a collection that could only be surpassed if the Jeffrey Dahmer estate releases a posthumous tome containing his thoughts on proper refrigeration techniques.
Need a little something to snack on while you watch the financial markets collapse?
Who could this book appeal to? Those in the post-average life expectancy demographic perhaps, though they are unlikely to hold fond memories of times when the pet rabbit went into the supper pot – and they would certainly know the value of a dollar too well to sink 20 of them into the purchase of this book. Not surprisingly, the recipes in this one are pretty basic – pickled fish, meatballs, government gruel (well, we’re not sure about that one but the other two were mentioned in reviews of the book) etc.
The author decided not go with thematically named dishes such as Boxcar Rapist Ron’s Oil-Drum Top Surprise, and “That which is handed to you by a scraggly looking man with the fingers cut out of his gloves.”
An Amazon reviewer writes: “Many of the recipes don’t look appealing but it contains a lot of interesting facts about lifestyles in the 30s.” So, don’t look to this for recommendations on things to eat, but if you want to relive the highlights of one of the darkest periods in modern history, then this is the book for you. A new edition featuring “Sub-prime mortgage cheese melt,” and “Ben Bernake Baba Ganoush” may soon be in the offing.
Dishonorable Mention: Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner
Another book turning the page back to misery and asking the question: “But, like, were they eating anything good?” From its pages: “On the evening of April 14, 1912, few of the diners in the Titanic a la carte restaurant noticed that the vibrations of the ship’s engines had noticeably increased over the last few hours…”
Since the definitive ‘Light Snack Hors d’œuvres Aboard the Hindenburg’ has yet to be penned, you can go down with your own ship if your cooking doesn’t pass muster as the band plays on.