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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.)

"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."


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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Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]


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