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Some pretty darn easy targets

  • Jul 22, 2002
You gotta wonder who ever believed some of the monstrosities featured in this book were appetizing. I mean, I understand why the simplicity and undoubted uniqueness of many of these recipes would appeal to housewives of the 1950s and 60s, trying to find some way to liven up their suburban ramblers come dinnertime. But still, Mary Margaret McBride's Link Loaf (p. 70), the Veal Ring Salad (p. 138), and the whole Cooking With Ketchup section (pp. 101-8) are just plain revolting. There are no two ways about it.

Still, there's no arguing about taste ... and I guess that applies as much to book reviews as to cooking. This book is entertaining (and disturbing) enough, but seldom did I find it really, really funny. The premise is pretty clear: find a photo of a disgusting piece of food and make self-consciously funny comments about it. Vary that by sometimes excerpting old cookbook or recipe copy, and then make self-consciously funny comments about that, too. Sure is cool to live in the sophisticated and ironic *now* instead of the dull and conformist *then*. It's a very MST3K approach to entertainment -- but as much as I dearly love MST, I'm not convinced the approach works equally well on every possible medium or subject.

Many reviews have pointed to the author's web site, where a great deal of funny material resides (I've been there too). For some reason, it seems to work better there.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
Ranked #362
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


Adult/High School-Ketchup Pistachio Cake. Meat Pie with Meat Crust. Baked Peppers with Creamy Marshmallow Sauce. Daring readers will come face to face with these and worse in this excellent book that's bursting with photographs, recipes, and bits of text and "tips" taken from mainstream American cookbooks of the 1940s-70s, when "the only spice permitted in excess [was] fat." Fascinating and valuable in their own right as cultural artifacts of the era, the entries are irresistible when accompanied by Lileks's hilarious running commentary. Jell-O gets its own chapter, and deservedly so; other sections include "Horrors from the Briny Deep" and "Cooking for a MAN: Tested Recipes to Please HIM!" YAs already familiar with the author's popular Web site "The Institute of Official Cheer" (www.lileks.com) will be thrilled to see that the book is just as wonderfully designed as the site. Those encountering Lileks for the first time are in for an even bigger treat than the "foamy prune whip with cherry gel" found within.

Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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ISBN-10: 0609607820
ISBN-13: 978-0609607824
Author: James Lileks
Genre: Entertainment, Cooking, Food & Wine
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
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