This critical appraisal of sickening photographs culled from fogyish kitchen publications is a thematic sequel to Lileks' earlier The Gallery of Regrettable Food, though its selections are, incredibly, yet more repellent and bewildering than those of the anterior volume. Vile aspics, soufflés of concrete density, inedible whitebread perversions of ethnic dishes and abominable admixtures of beef, vegetables and fruit, reworked and brutalized with abusive afflatus into hitherto unimaginable "meals" are wryly described, pondered and likened to all manner of vomit, construction materials, excrement and refuse, and not one of these comparisons is at all implausible. Those few dishes featured herein that may not have triggered the gag reflexes of adventuresome feeders nonetheless appear unpalatable by dint of abhorrent photography - the hideous oversaturated hues and squalid resolution of these pictures might well render the finest comestibles as foul to the eye as the worst.
Written with his usual snide bombast, Lileks' inspired scenarios and relational jibes target not only food but appurtenances thereof prominent in underdeveloped culinary cultures of modern yore. One chapter titled All Hail the Miraculous Magic Cold Box showcases advertisements for massive, potentially hazardous refrigerators, some of which were experimental models to which the consuming public was thankfully never subjected. Another, From the Cookbook Library: Selected Volumes of Fear and Loathing, exhibits not only more repulsive photos of horrid dishes but also: printed advice of mind-boggling inanity; portions of How To Take a Trick a Day, in which youthful Clark Gable, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are purported to recommend meals chiefly comprised of General Mills' famed pre-mixture; godawful excerpted recipes for squirrel pie, roast and fried beaver, scotch heart patties, simmered, sautéed and broiled brains and the immortal meal of the processed macabre - head cheese. Though not so stomach-churning, How To Drive Off Your Husband with Lousy Cooking is at least as horrific as amusing, supplementing its titular instruction with photos and text from 51 Ways to a Man's Heart, another dreadful grayscale survey of horrible eats (Soup From Chicken Feet being the most egregious of these) that surely dissolved a few marital relations decades prior to Lileks' appended scheming. Even worse, Chunder From Down Under exposes the dread terror of Cookery in Colour, an overview of Australian postwar cuisine, and another appalling photographic travesty that may drive even the most fervent consumers of bacon and seafood to undernourishing veganism. Concluding chapter End on a (Sickeningly) Sweet Note will give all readers pause, if only to marvel at early causes of widespread glycemic disorders and wonder just how prominent the use of hallucinogens in polite society may have been prior to their countercultural popularity. Only the book's pleasantly vibrant color design, imitation period typefaces and the drollery that they supplement can inhibit the nausea that its subjects will almost certainly provoke.
Having read this, I'll never again hear or read the phrase, "an exciting new recipe" without shuddering.
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About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan (rbuchanan)
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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