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Not Your Momma's Cookbooks (Part 2)

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For someone who doesn't like to cook (and who rarely cooks), I sure own a lot of cookbooks; I love seeing all the different foods that can be made. In my ventures through the cookbook aisles, I've noticed some with less-than-typical main ingredients, cooking methods, and themes. This weekend, I'm sharing with you a sampling of the most unusual—in one way or another—cookbooks out there.

Tonight: special themes and science-y goodness

Special Themes

Harry Potter
More than 150 foods mentioned in the Harry Potter books are included in The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, from Treacle Tart and Pumpkin Pasties to "Hagrid's Bath Buns." (I've never read the books—gasp!—so I'm hoping that last one isn't as gross as it sounds.)

Vampires
"The Complete Vampire Lover's Cookbook," Love at First Bite, includes 300 "suckulent" recipes from Blood Orange Mimosas to Coffin Cake. Real vampires will be disappointed to discover that none of the recipes call for real blood. (If you're looking for a little more oomph, try to track down a copy of The Dracula Cookbook of Blood, which features blood-filled recipes from around the world.)

Grossing Out Your Guests
There's a variety of cookbooks with the aim of creating edible concoctions that resemble gross things, but Gross-Out Cakes takes the, um, cake with its recipe for "Kitty Litter Cake."

Star Trek
In the official Star Trek Cookbook, "Neelix," the chef of the U.S.S. Voyager, guides readers through the preparation of intergalactic delights featured in all the Star Trek series and movies.

Star Wars
The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes went over so well that they published a second official cookbook, The Star Wars Cookbook II: Darth Malt and More Galactic Recipes. Both feature recipes that are Star Wars-shaped or inspired, rather than foods found in the movies.

Astronauts' Food
Written by NASA's former "director of space foods" and an astronaut trainer, The Astronaut's Cookbook provides home chefs with recipes for food usually eaten quite far from home. Sadly, the directions stop at the point of "ready to eat," and don't instruct on the freezing and dehydrating process, but the tidbits of space food history more than make up for the "ordinary" appearance of the food.

Last Meals
Two cookbooks feature recipes for "last meals"—what someone would eat if it were to be their last meal ever. My Last Supper includes the recipes for 50 famed chefs' "final" meals, alongside interviews and portraits (the nearly-nude of Anthony Bourdain, who wrote the foreword, being perhaps the most notable). Last Suppers features last meal recipes for an assortment of celebrities, organized by their fields (music, politics, sports, etc.).

Cooking for Sex
Perhaps due to the belief that cooking for or with someone is an intimate act, there are a fair number of cookbooks with recipes intended to lead to pleasure in bed. On one end of the spectrum are tomes like The New InterCourses, full of recipes featuring aphrodisiacs and photos of artfully semi-nude women, while the other end of the spectrum holds Cook to Bang, a "misogynistic," "off-putting," and chauvinistic (according to Publishers Weekly) cookbook designed to help men "cook an amazing meal and bring out their date's inner slut."

Science-y

Edible Experiments
Most cookbooks of "edible science experiments" include basic kid-oriented projects, such as homemade play dough and "Why does popcorn pop?" The Hungry Scientist Handbook is geared toward older home scientists, with recipes for alcoholic drinks and a caramel bikini. (There are still some cool but kid-friendly projects, like an LED lollipop.)

The Science Behind Food
Both Cooking for Geeks and Ideas in Food focus on the chemistry and biology in cooking. The former promises "Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food," while the latter offers "Great Recipes and Why They Work," including a Grilled Potato Ice Cream.

Come back tomorrow evening for part three, featuring cookbooks with unique layouts and design. And if you haven't read part one yet, with strange ingredients, unusual cooking methods, and unlikely author-chefs, check it out now.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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